10,000 people took part in Britain’s biggest ever civil emergency exercise, Exercise Watermark, last March to test the country’s response to floods. The Exercise Watermark report published today shows that emergency services in areas at risk of flooding are well prepared to keep people safe in a major flood.
Defra has awarded £2.5 million in grants to improve emergency responses to floods in the last eighteen months. These are being used to:
• triple the number of boat rescue teams, by April 2012;
• provide specialist flood rescue training for emergency responders, including local flood rescue volunteers in flood-risk areas; and
• provide vital new equipment such as vehicles, outboard motors and diving equipment.
Flooding Minister, Richard Benyon said:
“We are more prepared than ever to protect peoples’ lives, homes and businesses from the devastating effects of floods. Staging Exercise Watermark was a true test of how we react to flooding and keep people safe and, while there are lessons to be learnt, I’m pleased to say, it is a test we all came through.
“The Government has given £2.5 million to councils and emergency services over the last eighteen months to increase the number of expert flood rescue teams and allow them to buy important equipment. As a result, they are more prepared than ever before to keep people safe when the time comes that they need to act.”
The Exercise Watermark report says that communities that took part feel more informed about the risk of flooding since the exercise and many are now better prepared as a result.
Government is already working with communities and local authorities to take forward 36 of the report’s recommendations that will further improve flood response and emergency arrangements in England and Wales. Defra and the Welsh Government will provide a formal response to these recommendations in March 2012.
Environment Agency Chairman, Lord Chris Smith said:
“As a result of this exercise England and Wales is better prepared for flooding, and the lessons learned will help to protect lives and homes in the future.
“One in six properties in England and Wales is at risk of flooding. Making sure we are prepared to respond quickly in an emergency is vital in reducing the risks to people and their homes.
“The Environment Agency would urge everyone to find out if their home is at risk of flooding by visiting the Environment Agency website at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/flood.”
The Exercise Watermark report has been compiled from the feedback of those who planned and participated in the exercise.
Three external reports will be presented to Defra and Welsh Government; a summary for communities, an exercise planning report and the Exercise Watermark Report including 36 recommendations to government and emergency responders. Defra and Welsh Government will provide a response to these in March 2012.
The Exercise Watermark Report identified 11 key recommendations and a further 25 recommendations to further improve flood response and emergency arrangements in England and Wales. Much work has already started at the community, local and government levels to make improvement to arrangements.
The Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service received £250,000, which was match funded by their County Council. This allowed them to purchase flood rescue boats and vehicles.
Exercise Watermark involved ten government departments, 34 local resilience forums, emergency responders, water and energy companies, hospitals and schools.
Some of the local exercises included the evacuation of coastal communities in Lincolnshire, live floodwater rescues by the RAF from rooftops and submerged vehicles, and a variety of flood awareness raising activities. The Government’s crisis response committee, COBR, also met as part of the exercise.