Flooding action plans put to the test

REGIONAL flood plans have been put to the test as part of the nation’s biggest emergency exercise.

The Environment Agency organised a table-top exercise at Ponteland Police Headquarters on Monday to test emergency response capabilities and systems.

The event was led by the Northumbria Local Resilience Forum and involved a number of partners, including councils, police, Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, the North East Ambulance Service and the Army.

Members of the Morpeth Flood Action Group (MFAG) were also invited to attend.

The operation was part of national Exercise Watermark running this week, which aims to test procedures for flash flooding, overflowing rivers, collapsing reservoirs and tidal surges, as recommended in the Pitt Review following flooding in 2007.

North East Flood Incident Manager Richard Robinson said: “Our exercise was testing the Multi-Agency Flood Plan, which was developed as part of the Pitt recommendations.

“It was testing communications between all the organisations, how we request help from other areas, how we co-ordinate that help and how we try to implement the resources on the ground, making our flood response more effective across the region.

“At the moment we are evaluating the results of the exercise, but on the whole it showed that the Multi-Agency Flood Plan is effective.

“It was a table-top exercise, but we have to know that the plan is fit for purpose and it is very difficult to know that just by reading through the plan. This gave us an opportunity to test it robustly.

“It also helps us to be familiar with the plan so that when we have to use it in anger everyone knows what it involves.”

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MFAG Chairman Alan Bell was pleased to be invited along to the exercise, but still has concerns.

“It is good to know that they are taking this very seriously and are looking to improve the response in terms of flood events, but I am a little bit concerned that it is all very well having a table-top exercise, but in an event will the resources be there, bearing in mind the cut-backs in emergency services, Northumberland County Council and everywhere else?” he said.

“It is all very good on paper, but as we know, things never go as intended.

“Having said that, responding to flood events is as important as flood defences so it is good to be prepared.”

Morpeth’s volunteer flood wardens will stage their own table-top exercise on Saturday, March 26, with support from the county council and the Environment Agency.