How prepared is the UK for flash floods?
From flash flooding in London and West Yorkshire, overflowing rivers, reservoir emergency and North Sea Tidal Surge a series of exercise across the UK this week will examine the countries readiness in the face of an increased risk of floods.
One in six properties in England and Wales is at risk of flooding. Flash flooding in various parts of the UK in particular Cumbria and Devon and Cornwall caused thousands of pounds worth of damage and loss of life in 2007 and 2009. In his review of the 2007 floods, Sir Michael Pitt recommended testing the UK's readiness for such natural emergencies. Climate Change increases the risk of extreme weather conditions, compounded with rising sea levels it suggests flooding will be an increased part of the UK's environmental challenges. This has led to the development of Exercise Watermark.
The week long exercise sees sees ten government agencies come together to test emergency response of water companies, emergency services, hospitals and schools. It is also targeting communities to raise awareness and encourage individuals to consider how they would react in a flood scenario. Live activities will include the evacuation of coastal communities and a floodwater rescue by the RAF.
Environment Minister Richard Benyon says, "Communities can make a real difference to the success of the response to an emergency, such as by sharing their local knowledge with emergency services or assisting the vulnerable. Those who have spent time preparing for emergencies are better able to cope and recover more quickly."
In addition to the exercises, DEFRA has announced grants £820,000 designed to fund flood rescue equipment and training.
"In the event of a large-scale flood, it is important that we can call upon manpower and equipment from a wide range of emergency services and voluntary groups. The grants allocated today will help to pay for vital flood rescue training and assets such as rescue boats that will be readily available wherever they are needed."
Exercise Watermark continues until 11 March.