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12 October 2010, 00:00
As the 10th anniversary of one of Kent’s worst flooding events approaches, Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) and the Environment Agency have launched a partnership promoting the role which both the emergency services and residents can play in managing future challenges.
Around 750 premises across the county were affected during October 2000 when the flood levels in some areas were the highest on record. In a bid to address future severe weather events, a three year partnership will see KFRS and the Environment Agency working closer together than ever before.
KFRS Assistant Director for Operations Sean Bone-Knell said: “With more torrential rain and floods hitting parts of Britain, phrases like ‘severe weather warning’ and ‘flood watch alert’ are becoming all too familiar.
Hear his interview with Heart
“The likelihood of flooding is increasing and those who have already been affected by this know it causes months of worry and thousands of pounds worth of damage. We welcome this new partnership as both services are committed to ensuring the best levels of safety in Kent and so it makes sense for us to pool our resources together to get the message across: “We’re prepared, are you?”
With training and support from the Environment Agency, KFRS will help to reach residents across the county with crucial advice on how they can check their flood risk and what they can do to help protect themselves and their property from the threat of flooding.
Community safety officers will give guidance during their visits to people who are vulnerable to the threat of flooding in their homes and through its education programme, which reaches over 80,000 primary and secondary school pupils, KFRS will now teach young people about the threat of flooding alongside issues such as arson and road safety.
As part of visits to commercial premises, technical fire safety staff will also be issuing flood advice leaflets for businesses which range from guidance on subscribing to flood warnings to investing in local property flood protection devices and moving expensive equipment to less vulnerable parts of the premises. Businesses are also urged to incorporate specific flood contingency elements in business continuity plans to minimise disruption and improve speed of recovery.
Tim Connell, Environment Agency Area Incident Manager said: “Flooding can affect everyone and we all have a part to play in being prepared. Knowing your risks and planning ahead can help to reduce the damage that flooding can cause.”
As well as focusing its efforts on prevention and protection, KFRS has also invested in improved water rescue equipment and training. The equipment enables KFRS to deal with any eventuality, from a driver stranded in a car on a flooded road to helping someone evacuate someone with disabilities from a flooded home.
Sean Bone-Knell added: “You may never have experienced a flood and may be living miles away from a floodplain, but extreme weather can strike anywhere and with very short notice. While our staff have considerable experience in dealing with a multitude of different emergencies and disasters, it’s important that everyone is prepared in the lead up to a severe flooding event and its aftermath. Issues like the loss of power, loss of public transport and evacuation of anyone who may be trapped affects individuals, communities and the emergency services.”
Although KFRS is prepared for a major incident, there is still a misconception that firefighters will attend every flood-related 999 call. These incidents are dealt with on an individual basis, depending on the caller's circumstances and vulnerability. KFRS will often send an officer to assess the situation first and they will, if necessary, ask for a fire crew and appliance to be sent.
And while the Environment Agency’s Floodline Warnings Direct service can provide advance warning of flooding from rivers and the sea and local authorities may provide assistance, the person who can do most to help is you.
Here are some steps you can take:
• Sign up for free flood warnings by calling Floodline on 0845 988 118
• make a flood kit of essential items (e.g. copies of your home insurance documents, a torch, waterproof clothing, blankets, prescription medication, bottled water and non-perishable foods, baby food and contact numbers)
• check your insurance cover for flood
• make a list of important contact numbers (see www.environment-agency.gov.uk for who can help in the event of a flood)
• agree where you will go and how to reach each other
• know how to turn off your gas, electricity and water mains supplies
• find a safe place for important or sentimental items to safety and think about other items you may need to move (pets, furniture, your car).