Flooding: government plans high-water test

3rd February 2011

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March will see government departments, agencies, emergency services, businesses and communities in England and Wales participating in one of the biggest emergency exercises ever to be staged in the UK.

Exercise Watermark, taking place on 4–11 March, will test the country’s response to groundwater, surface water, reservoir, river and coastal flooding.

The exercise, which is being planned by the Environment Agency on behalf of Defra and the Welsh Assembly, will test everyone involved in responding to a fl ood emergency, ranging from fi re and rescue services rescuing vulnerable people to planners and decision-makers monitoring rainfall and river levels.

“The exercise will put the decision making, partnership working and communications ability of everyone involved in fl ood response under the spotlight,” says Peter Midgley, the agency’s exercise director.

Exercise Watermark will be split into national, regional and local activities and will test a range of flooding scenarios. Local Resilience Forums (LRF) will focus on specific flooding events.

Surface water and rapid-response catchment fl ooding will involve London LRFs, West Yorkshire LRF and Devon & Cornwall LRF, for example, while there will be a major failing reservoir incident within the Derbyshire LRF.

Boots is one of a number of businesses participating in the exercise to test their business continuity plans.

The agency is keen to encourage more businesses to sign up to the website, make a flood plan, and practise it during the exercise.

Staging a national flood exercise was one of the 92 recommendations made by the Pitt review of the summer floods in 2007.

About 8,000 business premises were flooded in places such as Tewkesbury, Hull, Gloucester and Oxford, and there were 35,000 associated insurance claims made.

The cost to business was estimated at nearly £750 million, while the cost of business disruption was put at £160 million.

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