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Control measure
Emergency response plans: Flooding

Control measure knowledge

Given the highly-developed status of weather and flood forecasting in the UK, some flooding can be predicted, in which case incidents should be managed as intelligence-led planned events.

Preparation and planning for flooding can reduce the impact, and response and recovery can be more effective and efficient. Emergency response plans for flooding should be developed with all Category 1 and Category 2 responders to ensure activities are carried out safely and effectively. As Category 2 responders, the companies delivering water and sewerage services should be involved in the development of emergency response plans for flooding.

There may also be other multi-agency flood plans developed for the region or area that should be considered.

The expected impact of a flood may dictate the level of multi-agency involvement. However, the key to success is a clear agreement that is tested through regular training, exercises and management systems. In particular there should be robust arrangements for resolving conflict and this is best achieved through a positive working relationship at operational and strategic levels.

Voluntary sector organisations

Voluntary sector organisations that may assist or provide information should be considered during planning phases, in addition to National Resilience assets. This could include community flood action groups, which may provide assistance to communities during floods.

Local emergency planning groups can assist with developing a suitable response with a wide range of voluntary sector organisations that are likely to attend flooding incidents. It is at this level that working arrangements are established and responders can develop an understanding of capabilities and how to engage effectively. Some Category 1 responders will already have well-established links with voluntary organisations, such as:

  • Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)
  • Mountain Rescue
  • Voluntary and charity ambulance services

For these partnerships, effective capability is well proven at local level. In some cases, the voluntary sector organisation may play a very significant role in other emergency response work and have specific capability that can enhance flood response.

Emergency planning groups

The Flood Risk Regulations, Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act and The Water Environment (Floods Directive) Regulations (Northern Ireland) require the assessment and management of flood risks to be carried out by a lead local flood authority in England, Wales and Scotland, and the department for infrastructure for Northern Ireland.

Emergency planning groups establish emergency plans for flooding, which can be referred to by many titles, including ‘flood risk plan’. A flood risk plan is a sub-plan of a local authority major emergency plan.

Emergency planning groups comprise:

  • Local resilience forums (LRFs) in England and Wales
  • Regional resilience partnerships (RRPs) in Scotland
  • Emergency preparedness groups (EPGs) in Northern Ireland

Flood risk plans

Flood risk plans should include an assessment of the flood risk, based on the combination of the probability of an event happening and the consequences if it occurs. The risk of flooding is dependent on there being:

  • A source of flooding, such as a river
  • A route for the floodwater to take, known as a pathway
  • Something that is affected by the flood, also known as a receptor, such as a housing estate

A flood risk plan typically includes:

  • Aim and objectives
  • Overview of flooding and specific risks
  • Information sources
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Response and implementation, covering:
    • Locations at risk
    • Triggers
    • Timescales
    • Resources and equipment
    • Places for safe evacuation
  • Recovery
  • Communication process
  • Contact lists of organisations, contractors and others

Flood risk plans should also consider the lead time needed to mobilise and deploy responders into an affected area before access routes, including roads and bridges, may become impassable or damaged by the floodwater.

Forecasting and flood mapping can indicate the areas likely to be affected, although the creation of flood defences and changes in the built environment may affect the outcome. Historical information, such as markers of water height and distributions, are useful indicators when establishing flood risk plans.

A flood risk plan should be established using the input of all organisations that may need to provide response or support in the event of a flood. The plan should benefit all emergency responders and help to ensure that activities are carried out safely and effectively. As flooding is often complex in nature, with many consequences, it may require a comprehensive and often sustained response from a wide range of organisations.

Reservoir flood plans

Reservoirs should have specialist flood plans, which can be considered by emergency planning groups and incorporated into the main flood risk plan.

Flood warnings

Planners need to decide in advance what they will do when they receive a flood warning. The Environment Agency publication, Flood warnings – What they are and what they do, explains the levels and advice for public and operational organisations.

Flood warnings are provided by the Flood Forecasting Centre (FFC) for England and Wales and the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service (SFFS) for Scotland. In Northern Ireland, the Met Office works with the Department for Infrastructure to raise awareness of weather events that may result in flooding impacts for people and property.

The FFC is responsible for arranging, with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), a National Flood Advisory Service teleconference. This is used to trigger escalation from a state of readiness, to one of taking action.

The Met Office’s Flood warnings guide explains how they work with the Environment Agency (EA), Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to constantly monitor rainfall, river levels, groundwater levels and sea conditions to forecast the possibility of flooding. There are three types of warning issued by them when flooding is forecast; flood alerts, flood warnings and severe flood warnings.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Consider joint training, exercising and management systems with all responders for a flood

  • Work with emergency planning groups, emergency responders and other organisations to co-ordinate a flood response

  • Establish methods to receive and communicate flood warnings

  • Develop methods to support action on receipt of a flood warning

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Consider flood risk plans when deploying personnel and resources

  • Be familiar with the roles and responsibilities of other organisations that may respond to a flood