henlytractor It is four years since the major floods hit South Warwickshire on Friday 20 July 2007 and emergency services want to make sure we are prepared if this should ever happen again. One in six properties in the UK is at risk of flooding and this is just one of the many emergencies that Warwickshire's multi-agencies prepare for under the banner of 'Warwickshire Prepared'. 

Graeme Smith, Chief Fire Officer for Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service and the newly elected chair of a multi-agency group called Warwickshire Local Resilience Forum, explains: "The Warwickshire Local Resilience Forum consists of all agencies involved with emergency responses in our communities which includes colleagues from Health, Police, Environment Agency, county, district and borough councils to name but a few. 

"It is our purpose to try and warn and prepare local communities of any risks that they might be exposed to. For South Warwickshire, flooding is an obvious area that we want to raise, particularly as the anniversary of the floods in July 2007 is now in sight."
One of the ways that local people can help be prepared is by logging on to the website which gives the latest news and guides on how people can deal with an emergency and includes some great hints and tips so that people can be organised and know what best actions to take if that emergency strikes. 

Graeme adds: "Emergencies usually occur with little or no warning and can happen at anytime and anywhere and can affect basic services and result in a loss of power, gas, water and telephones. 

"Floods, fires and explosions could also threaten or damage your property.  In extreme cases an emergency can lead to people being evacuated from their homes.
"If you have to evacuate your home you need to know what to have at hand."

The 2007 floods:  Responding to the crisis
Floods hit on July 20 with the Leam, Avon, Stour, Arrow and Alne rivers rising rapidly and then bursting their banks in many places across the middle and south of the county.
Emergency planning teams from the county council, Warwick and Stratford-on-Avon District Councils, Police and the Fire and Ambulance services met early on Friday morning, declaring the flooding a major emergency later that same day.
The scale of the flooding brought almost surreal memories for those who witnessed it.  Andy McDiarmaid, a sustainability officer with the county council remembers it as one of the stranger nights in his life.

"I was getting home okay on the Friday but when I reached Henley, I could get no further.  I ended up in the last available hotel room, sharing it with three people on my floor but even more surreal was the sight of a teenager surfing down the High Street!"
Staff from a wide range of services worked together through the night and beyond to aid the county's residents with other staff joining as the week-end progressed.
In the 48 hours from the emergency starting on the Friday the emergency centre took 400 calls, the Fire and Rescue Service took 500 calls and the Police took a further 400 calls.
County Highways dealt with more than 60 road closures, flood warning signs, debris on main roads and inspect of key bridges. Adult services worked to ensure the safety of vulnerable people, and this included evacuating residents from one care home.
Fire rest centres were set up in various areas of Stratford and Warwick Districts for stranded members of the public and food and drinks were made available at very short notice.
The last day of term was put on hold as the majority of Warwickshire's schools closed early as the impact of the rising waters became apparent.  Transport arrangements were quickly put in place to get pupils home safely.
Transporting stranded children had to be arranged quickly and sometimes with admirable improvisation.  Susie Jordan, school secretary of Wootton Wawen C of E Primary School remembers the actions of the school's head teacher of the time, Mike Cocker. She recalls: "Mr Cocker was like a modern day St Christopher.  He put a five year old boy on his shoulders and carried him in thigh-deep water over to where his mother was waiting."
Schools rallied round with Stratford, Henley in Arden and Shipston High Schools all setting up as temporary rest centres.  Nearly 20% of the county's schools were damaged in one way or another by the floods, with surveyors and contractors carrying out repairs during the summer of 2007.


Posted: 11.09, 28.7.11, rachael.haydon@pavpub.com