Environment Agency and partners practise for extreme storm event

Environment Agency staff enlist colleagues from other agencies to help build a flood barrier
Environment Agency staff enlist colleagues from other agencies to help build a flood barrier

The Environment Agency, along with the emergency services, local authorities and voluntary organisations, has been preparing its tactical and strategic response to an extreme weather event this winter.

This took the form of 2 exercises, 1 tactical and 1 strategic, over the last month, carried out to train and prepare staff from a range of organisations to work together during widespread flooding across Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Claire Francis, a flood and coastal risk manager from the Environment Agency, said: 

“Sea levels are projected to rise by over 1 metre in the south of England this century, and with more frequent and powerful storms also predicted, the risk of coastal erosion and flooding is increasing.

“It’s very important that we regularly test our emergency response arrangements. Although we continue to build and maintain flood defences, we cannot protect everywhere against every eventuality and extreme. We therefore need to ensure that we’re prepared and that all our staff, and those in partner organisations, are ready to respond to extreme weather events and widespread flooding.”

Assistant Chief Constable Rob France, of Thames Valley Police and chair of the exercise’s strategic coordinating group, said: 

“Exercises like this give us a really good opportunity to bring all the different agencies together to test our plans for major and critical incidents and make sure they are fit for purpose. By regularly reviewing the multi-agency arrangements, we have in place, we can make sure we are properly prepared to respond when needed.”

Exercise Deluge took place on Thorney Island, in West Sussex, on 12 September. More than 160 people took part from multiple agencies. The exercise involved building an 800-metre temporary flood barrier to test how quickly it could be assembled, as well as practising putting together high-volume pumps to remove flood water.

The strategic part of the event was called Exercise Inundation. This took place on Wednesday 5 October in various locations in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. During this exercise, approximately 400 participants from multiple agencies worked together to plan the emergency response if the highest tide on record and the highest amount of rain in 24 hours was to hit the South Coast.

Both exercises were a huge success and demonstrated the Environment Agency and partners’ abilities to respond to incidents 24 hours a day seven days a week.

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