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THE GREAT FLOOD DEBATE: PREVENTION OR MITIGATION?

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The Emergency Planning Society's flood & professional interest group has reviewed the recent emphasis that has righ...
The Emergency Planning Society's flood & professional interest group has reviewed the recent emphasis that has rightly been placed on the need to increase the amount of expenditure on building flood defences. It particularly noted that the Office of Science & Technology has indicated that flood defence spending needs to rise by£30m per year to£530m. It was following this report that the prime minister told business leaders and politicians the biggest long-term threat facing the world is climate change.

But if the threat of flooding is increasing at such a rate are we doing sufficient to prepare those who have to respond and help people whose lives are likely to be devastated in the aftermath of future floods?

'The Emergency Planning Society fully supports the need for more investment towards building flood defences,' said David Moses, chair of the Emergency Planning Society's flood & severe weather professional interest group, today. 'But we do not think enough resources are being released to fund the learning and preparation of those who have to respond during major emergencies.'

Whilst the need for improved emergency preparedness has been recognised in the Civil Contingencies Bill which is currently going through Parliament, Cabinet Office officials are insisting there is no need for additional funding for contingency planning at a local level. That is despite the Bill also covering preparedness against terrorism and no additional funding having been made available for this in the wake of the 11th September.

David Moses added that: 'If you put the additional requirements of planning to deal with a major terrorist attack on top of the need for better preparedness to respond to the emergencies we are likely to face as a result of climate change, a clear need emerges for emergency planning to be given a serious injection of funding. It also raises questions about the balance of expenditure between prevention and mitigation. If we are planning to spend some£530m on building flood defences that will only be effective in the long term, why is it that local authority emergency planners whose job it is to facilitate inter-agency emergency preparedness receive only a paltry£19m in government funding?'

Issued by David Moses , on behalf of the Emergency Planning Society's flood & severe weather professional interest group.

Notes

Biography

David Moses has been connected with Emergency Planning since 1975 and represented local government nationally in the negotiations that saw responsibility for issuing flood warnings being allocated to the Environment Agency. In addition to chairing the EPS Flood & Severe Weather Group he is also a member of the Environment Agency's theme advisory group, which advises the EA on research into flood detection, warnings and social issues.

He was previously the chairman of the National Steering Committee on Public Warning & Information and the driving force behind that group's formation. Following the publication of the committee's interim report he was awarded the OBE for that initiative and his services to Emergency Planning within the United Kingdom. Previously the USA Federal Institute of Emergency Management awarded him an honorary professorship of emergency management in recognition of his international standing.

He was previously hon secretary, vice-president and then president of the Chief Emergency Planning Officers' Society, one of the organisations that preceded the establishment of the Emergency Planning Society.

Background Information

Lack of a statutory framework & associated funding

Local authorities have a clearly identified r ole in helping communities and individuals to take action in advance of and then to support them during the aftermath of any flood or severe weather emergency. This is not currently a statutory responsibility without any specific government funding being allocated to this essential activity. A similar situation applies in general to the emergency services. Whilst they have responsibilities to save life there are no specific requirements for them to plan to inform or help people affected by weather related emergencies.

Recommendation 3.1 of The Environment Agency's review of the lessons learned from the Autumn 2000 floods states that: 'There is an urgent need to put flood emergency planning on a sound statutory and financial footing.'

Two years earlier The Bye Report into the Easter 1998 floods concluded in paragraph 6.9 that 'there were some serious failures, in all organisations, in relation to interfacing and co-operation.' One of the reasons given for this was 'local authority resources being insufficient for participating as pre-planned.'

Six years on from The Bye Report whilst the statutory framework can be seen on the horizon in the form of the Civil Contingencies Bill, the additional resources are nowhere in sight.

Impact on People

Fortunately very few lives are lost in the UK due to flooding or severe weather emergencies. Apart from bereavement, they can be the most devastating event that can happen to families. The psycho-social implications on both individuals, their communities and society as a whole has never been fully recognised.

Floods leave homes dirty and smelly with sewage often infiltrating damp courses and properties left uninhabitable for weeks or even months. Numerous families find themselves either inadequately or even uninsured, often having to deal with the shock of rebuilding their lives whilst trying to salvage whatever irreplaceable personal items such a photographs, videos and family archives that have been damaged by the flood waters.

The social costs in respect of the health issues arising from such stress has never been realistically calculated although recently research at establishments such as the Middlesex University's Flood Hazard Research Centre has begun to recognise this important issue.

Local authority social workers, health and other emergency services personnel will always do what they can to help in time of need. Public spending cutbacks have however stretched them to near breaking point dealing with routine issues. The quality of their response to flood or severe weather victims would be greatly enriched if they had a better understanding of the psycho-social impacts of such disasters. Providing such training and ensuring that contingency planning staff themselves fully understand the issues cannot be achieved on a shoe-string.

Impact on Businesses

It has been assessed that around half of all businesses experiencing a disaster and which have no effective plans for recovery fail within the following 12 months. To stay in business after disaster strikes requires careful pre-planning.

There are very few major organisations today who do not have some form of plan to deal with the consequences of an unwanted incident. However there are also very few smaller businesses which do have an effective plan.

Civil Contingencies Bill

The main driving force for this Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, is the need for greater civil resilience following the 11 September attack on the Twin Towers. It is however intended to place a statutory responsibilities on a number of local authorities, emergency services and other public/private bodies.

The Emergency Planing Society has argued strongly in favour of the need for a serious injection of government funds to enable an adequate level of emergency preparedness across the country. To date its representations have fallen on deaf ears.

Contacts:

Cabinet Civil Contingencies Secretariat

The Civil Contingencies Secretariat was s et up to enhance the resilience of the UK. Resilience is defined as the ability to handle disruptive challenges that can lead to or result in crisis.

www.ukresilience.gov.uk

Environment Agency

The Environment Agency's responsibilities include maintaining flood defences and issuing flood warnings

www.environment-agency.gov.uk/subjects/flood

Local Government Association

View the call for£17m increase in emergency planning funding here.

Met Office

For general Guidance on severe weather and flood warnings

www.meto.gov.uk/weather/europe/uk/warnings

To sample the Met Office's on-line education resource for teachers www.meto.gov.uk/education/curriculum/lesson_plans/flooding/index

CEH Wallingford

Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (formerly the Institute of Hydrology):

www.nerc-wallingford.ac.uk/ih/www/research/iresearch.html

Middlesex University Flood Hazard Research Centre

FHRC was set up in 1970 and has grown with national and international reputation, with contacts in many developed and developing countries around the world. The staff include geographers, economists, environmental scientists, social survey specialists, ecologists and risk analysts.

Recent research and consultancy has included work on behalf of: national and international bodies, government departments, research councils and local authorities (includes the EU, World Bank, ODA, Environment Agency (previously National Rivers Authority).

www.fhrc.mdx.ac.uk/contents.html

Dr Maureen Fordham,

Senior lecturer in disaster management, University of Northumbria, has researched thee impact of disasters on female and ethnic groups

E-mail: maureen.fordham@northumbria.ac.uk

Web: www.northumbria.ac.uk/ddc

Local Government Association

View the press release calling for£17m increase in emergency planning funding.

www.lga.gov.uk/PressRelease.a sp?lsection=0&id=-A781C457

National Flood Forum

An organisation formed by people who have firsthand experience of the stresses, disruption of life and the economic problems that come with being flooded www.floodforum.org.uk/

ABI

View the ABI's response to the ODPM consultation on Planning Policy Statement 1 (Creating Sustainable Communities) and other issues associated with insurance properties/businesses at risk of flooding

www.abi.org.uk/flooding

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