Transforming Resilience – The Next Chapter

On 10th and 11th September Phil Emonson, Head of Flood Resilience, will be attending the annual Study Day and Networking event of the Emergency Planning Society (EPS) in Telford. Phil shares his thoughts on last year and where we are now – one year on.

Last year’s event saw reflections on the Salisbury nerve agent attack as well as the Grenfell tragedy and London Bridge terror attack.  The theme then was ‘Build Back, Better’, and at the time I commented on how this simple message to help build resilience in our communities is pertinent to those whose lives and homes have been devasted by flooding. You can read the previous blog post here

So where are we now one year on?

The Environment Agency (EA) have launched two new supplier frameworks, specifically focused on building resilience.  The Property Flood Resilience (PFR) framework provides a means through which homeowners, who perhaps aren’t eligible for inclusion in traditional flood protection schemes on technical or cost-benefit grounds, can benefit from a package of measures aimed at limiting flood water ingress, providing peace of mind and potential insurance benefits.  The final piece of the resilience jigsaw here, is that in order to provide a sustainable scheme, one which has delivered on creating and embedding a sense of resilience for the community, is that PFR should be provided in conjunction with local flood warden schemes and local flood emergency plans.  The new PFR framework can be accessed by all Risk Management Authorities in the UK, and if we’re to help improve preparedness in our at-risk communities it’s vital that this is fully embraced as an effective part of the flood risk management tool kit.  The framework will also help drive up standards of flood risk surveys, protection products and installation, demonstrating fitness for purpose and providing peace of mind for residents.

The last year has also seen the launch of the EA’s new Incident Management Training and Exercising framework with specific supplier lots for training, exercising and business continuity.  This framework will help the EA’s cohort of responding duty officers and support staff train and exercise more consistently and more regularly, thereby driving up competencies and capacity as part of a structured programme.

JBA has secured a place on Lot 1 (flood risk assessment survey) of the PFR framework, and with our JBA 4 Resilience consortium suppliers on both Lot 1 (training) and Lot 2 (exercising) of the Incident Management framework.

The last year has also seen a number of notable flood incidents which have demanded effective multi-agency responses and partnership working.  In June, over 500 homes in Wainfleet, Lincolnshire, were evacuated after heavy rain caused a breach in the flood bank of the River Steeping.  RAF helicopters were called on to help with emergency repairs, and an independent review has now been commissioned by Lincolnshire County Council.  Misery, distress and heart-break will have been felt by all of those whose homes were flooded, and who are still putting their lives back together long after the TV cameras left.  Let’s hope they, and those involved with repair to the flood bank, can use this terrible experience to think about future resilience, and Build Back, Better.

More recently it was the evacuation of thousands of people in Whaley Bridge, downstream of the damaged Todbrook reservoir that hit the headlines.  Again, a very swift and effective response from the emergency services and Local Resilience Forum, together with support from the RAF to provide emergency repair to the dam wall, helped in what were very worrying times.  It was also JBA’s world-leading team of reservoir flood modellers who were able to support strategic decision making with a suite of breach scenario inundation mapping.  Another independent review has been commissioned, and permanent repairs are expected to take a couple of years.  Again, let’s plan to Build Back, Better.

Transforming resilience – the next chapter

So, the theme for this year’s Study Day is ‘Transforming Resilience – the Next Chapter’, and so I ask myself what the next chapter might be titled.  Given the events of the previous year, I wonder whether this next chapter for the coming year in flood resilience industry could be ‘Normalising a resilient mindset’.

For example, all of our public buildings are required legally to have fire emergency plans in place.  There are 5.2 million properties at risk of flooding in the UK, that’s one in every six, but I wonder how many of these have flood evacuation plans, safe access and egress routes mapped out, and emergency grab bags? Ownership of risk is a fascinating subject, but by understanding and accepting one’s own risk, it’s easier to then put such plans in place.  It’s the role of practitioners, responders and regulators, to reach out through schools, communities and workplaces and to normalise the conversation around flooding.  Campaigns like #30Days30Ways are excellent examples of this.  We also need to see training and exercising opportunities for our responding staff being planned, designed and delivered in a manner which truly considers legacy, with a focus on knowledge retention within teams and organisations, as well as with defined learning pathways aligned to personal development.

New professional working group for Flood Resilience

The next chapter for the EPS also includes a new Professional Working Group for Flood Resilience, which I have the honour of chairing.  Very exciting times lie ahead with this, as it’s a genuine opportunity for the first time to all those operating within the flood incident management community to have a forum to share ideas, best practice, discuss and respond to legislation, and to provide industry representation.

Want to know more?

I’ll be keen to talk to anyone about this at the event, or if you aren’t attending and wish to contribute please email Phil Emonson directly here.

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