Press release

Volunteers needed to help protect St Thomas residents from floods

An Exeter community group is looking for volunteers to help protect local people from flooding.

St Thomas Community Emergency Group aims to have a flood warden in every street to help warn and support vulnerable residents in the event of a flood.

The group is currently working on a community emergency plan with the Environment Agency. It is also helping businesses in St Thomas and Marsh Barton prepare for floods. Currently only a handful people have come forward as volunteers, but the group needs more.

Flood warden training will take place on Saturday 12 March, at Exeter Fire Station, Dane’s Castle.

The enhancement of Exeter’s flood defences means that the likelihood of flooding has reduced. However, should a flood occur the impact in St Thomas would be high. During March and April the group will practice their emergency response in St Thomas. They will be joined by the Environment Agency and Devon Fire and Rescue service who will provide training and support.

Jane Fletcher-Peters, flood resilience adviser for the Environment Agency, said:

Exeter St Thomas is at a very high risk of flash flooding from surface water. Following a period of sustained, intense rainfall, there’s potential for deep, fast flowing surface water to flood St Thomas. This type of flooding can happen suddenly with little warning. This is due to the speed at which the surface water would run off the steep valley sides to the west of St Thomas.

Although this type of flooding is very rare, the consequences can be quite severe. Deep, fast flowing water has a lot of force.

Surface water flooding happens when rainwater does not drain away. Either through the normal drainage systems or soak into the ground. It lies on or flows over the ground instead, before it enters a watercourse or drain. It’s associated with intense rainfall events.

It happens when rainwater falls at a faster rate than the ground can absorb it rather than because a watercourse has overtopped its banks. Water flows across the land and puddles and ponds. This means that surface water flooding can happen many miles from a river. Often in places that people wouldn’t expect. It happens simply because there’s nowhere for the rain to go.

Dave Hubbard, Coordinator for the St Thomas Community Emergency Group, said:

When complete, the improvements to the Exeter flood defence scheme will reduce flood risk to large parts of St Thomas from the River Exe, however, the risk of surface water flooding will remain. Extreme flash floods from surface water are rare, but it’s important for the community to be aware, take action and be prepared. We need more active members and flood wardens.

To join the group email or call and ask for Devon and Cornwall Flood Resilience Team on 03708 506 506. Follow us on Twitter @EnvagencySW.

Note to editors:

Exeter St Thomas is one of 52 communities in the South West at a very high risk of flash flooding.

How can I prepare for flooding?

View the Environment Agency’s flood map to check if your home or businesses is at risk of flooding. Learn how to protect your home, family and possessions, using the 3 steps to safety:

  1. be aware - you are likely to have little or no warning
  2. never risk your life - do not walk or drive through flood water
  3. get to safety - understand where to go if you get caught in a flash flood

Step 1 - be aware

People generally underestimate the risk to their safety. Flash flooding happens very suddenly:

  • it may flood before emergency services arrive
  • rivers may flood to heights above defences
  • watch for signs that a river or stream is about to flood. It may be fast flowing. Its water may be discoloured and contain debris
  • listen for weather warnings on the radio and TV

Step 2 - never risk your life

Most injuries and deaths caused during a flash flood happen when people try to cross a watercourse on foot or in a vehicle. Never underestimate the danger of water:

  • it only takes 15cm (6 inches) of fast flowing water to knock over an adult
  • there may be hidden dangers in the water including rubble, vegetation and exposed drains
  • it only takes 60cm (2 feet) of water to lift and sweep away a 4x4 car or small lorry

Step 3 - get to safety

Attempting to leave the area may not necessarily be the best thing to do in a flash flood. If you know where to move to in a flash flood you are more likely to stay safe.

  • if possible move to a higher storey
  • stay where you are and wait for instructions from the emergency services
  • if you are considering evacuation, think about how close you are to the flooding and if you can move without walking or driving through flood water
  • identify safe routes away from the likely location of flash flooding

If you are in a vulnerable place or get caught outside:

  • seek shelter in the nearest two-storey (or higher) building or go to higher ground
  • call 999 if you are trapped

Acting now and planning what you would do in the event of a flood could minimise the potential damage and distress that flooding causes.