Work together to prepare for flooding

“By working together we can better prepare for flooding and support communities.” That is the message from the Environment Agency in the East of England.

With one in six properties now at risk from flooding, being prepared is ever more important. As winter takes hold people are being encouraged to work together to check their flood risk and create flood resilience plans to protect themselves and others.

“Communities at risk of flooding work best when they work together,” said Rob Bakewell, Environment Agency flood and coastal risk management team leader.

“With floods now the number one natural hazard facing the UK, it has never been a better time for people to get together for mutual support.”

As the Environment Agency national flood campaign enters its fifth week he said: “We’re working with councils, businesses and communities to involve them in flood protection and build more schemes through partnership funding but we cannot prevent flooding entirely so it is vitally important that people help protect themselves.”

The experience of one group which created a plan was that ‘working with various organisations has over exceeded our expectations’.

Roger Parkinson from Buckingham said that as a result of the community coming together and sharing information, blocked drains had been cleared and a blockage in the river removed, all helping to lower the risk of flooding.

“The Environment Agency helped us with a general town and personal flood plan, marketing assistance and use of the flood trailer, plus being able to use the Agency name opened many doors,” he said.

He recommended getting advice from the National Flood Forum on 01743-741725 and endorsement from the Agency to gain acceptance by the local council and be represented on various planning groups and neighbourhood development plans.

Download a complete community flood plan at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/flood

Mr Parkinson’s top ten advice for starting a new group:

1) Decide and record a vision for the group. All actions and projects can then be measured. Keep a log of successes measured against the vision.

2) Review the generic Town and Personal Flood Plan and customise for your area. Every town and cause of flooding are different. Learn about the potential causes of flooding in your area.

3) Organise volunteers early so vulnerable people who are identified can be paired up with volunteers. Builds trust.

4) Fully understand the aspirations of the various organisations you will be working with.

5) Understand the workings of your Town Council, District Council, County Council, Emergency Services and any local groups then find a coach in these organisations. When you’re in the loop you will become aware and able to influence many situations you had not envisaged, ie planning on flood plains, government grants etc.

6) Become active in your local government.

7) Understand you have a wider audience than just people who have flooded. There are people who are concerned they may be flooded.

8) Set up an annual event to have people check their flood defences, they know how to fit them and that the defences are functional. Test the flood plans.

9) Remember it is local people who have to take actions to increase flood resilience, don’t wait for someone else to do it.

10) If you are in a flood risk zone and you were not flooded, you were lucky, one day you will be flooded and damage will be reduced by being prepared.

Since the start of May the Environment Agency has sent over 100,000 warnings directly to households and businesses to allow them time to prepare and protect themselves from flooding.

Paul Mustow, Head of Flood Incident Management at the Environment Agency said: “The Environment Agency and Met Office are constantly working to improve their flood forecasting and early warning systems and we are improving flood defences to protect communities. However the most important step people can take in protecting themselves from the worst impacts of flooding is to find out if they are at risk, and sign up to the Environment Agency’s free flood warnings service.

“As winter approaches we’d encourage everyone to take this one step to help protect themselves from what is recognised as one of the country’s major natural hazards.”

The Agency has released a flooding flash mob video online to increase awareness and encourage people to sign up to receive Environment Agency flood warnings by email, text or a message to a landline or mobile phone.

To view the video, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpjaR8HcXJc