River Avon in Bath A series of free Flood Warden Training have taken place in Somerset involving the Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service and the Environment Agency.

The training encourages and supports communities to use local resources and knowledge to help themselves during an emergency in a way that complements the local emergency services. This includes having a Flood Plan that responds to a flood as well as the recovery. Phil Shere (Flood Resilience Team Leader, EA) explained: “Flooding is a community problem; Flood Wardens know their community and they know their plans.

“We can’t be everywhere so they are very important as our first point of contact when we or the Fire Service turn up to a flooding to tell us what is happening. Because they have written their Flood Plan, they’ll know the houses most at risk, which might have elderly people in who need to be rescued. They are all volunteers working for the good of the community, experts with their eyes on the ground.”

This is a huge benefit to the Fire Service and Environment Agency during a flooding incident as flood wardens provide detailed local knowledge and information about the area and the people within it. This involves identifying vulnerable individuals, relaying information to the local community (warning of potential flood areas and where to avoid), providing information on health and wellbeing, which could involve door to door delivery.

Flood Wardens also have a current understanding of the flood risk within their area; this includes the knock-on effect of new buildings, roads, farming and land changes. They also keep an eye out for blocked watercourses culverts and drains that could restrict water flow during a flood situation.

The training sessions offered the opportunity for volunteers to network and gain from each other’s experience. Cheddar Parish Council has a Flood Plan, as part of their emergency plan and a Flood Emergency Equipment Store, based at Cheddar Fire Station.

The Flood Emergency Equipment Store houses a range of shovels, signage for flooding, road closures, sand bags, sand bag fill-in devices as well as the sand itself in ton bags.  Andy Bosley from Cheddar Parish Council said: “This evening has highlighted everything I need to know. We’ve had a few close incidents occurring when we’ve seen the river Yeo coming up. So we almost pulled the Flood Plan into action, but then within a half an hour the river sank back down. It’s important that we have something in place rather than the headless chicken routine if anything were to happen.

“In the plan we have identified the rest centres where we would evacuate people if we needed to.  After tonight, I can report back and see if there any improvements that we might need to be make. The information on the surface flooding information was new and we will now be identifying the roads that are affected.”

Philip Laramy, from Blue Anchor Bay in Minehead, vice chairman of the parish council found the training put things into perspective. Philip explained: “It’s about having the right mind set and planning ahead, so if flooding were to happen we would know what action to take.

“I’ve have been elected to help the community and coming to this event means I’m updated on the latest flood information. I’m clear on what my responsibilities are and I can go back to my council and fully update them as well as share the information packs.

“The environment agencies has recently seen our Flood Risk plan and have confirmed it is a good one. We just hope us having a Flood Risk plan has a knock on effect within other communities and they are inspired to follow suit.”

Matt Herdman, National Resilience Watch Manager, concluded: “It’s been great to see the level of enthusiasm within communities to attend these events.  Community spirit is certainly alive and well. We are working hard to help communities stay safe and create a situation where communities can work effectively with all responding agencies during emergencies.  The work going on within local towns and villages benefits both the community and responders before, during and after flood events.”