Town flood plans put to the test

Residents were evacuated and Morpeth Town Hall was turned into an emergency reception centre on Tuesday evening.

But there was no panic as these measures were part of an exercise to test the town’s Community Agreement arrangements, which would come into effect in the event of another flood.

Flood Exercise at High Stanners, Morpeth showing Firefighter and evacuee with a Community Volunteer.'REF 0909149789

Flood Exercise at High Stanners, Morpeth showing Firefighter and evacuee with a Community Volunteer.'REF 0909149789

It has been developed by Morpeth Town Council in partnership with Northumberland County Council, the Environment Agency and local voluntary groups, including the Morpeth Flood Action group.

Representatives from these organisations, members of the public who have put themselves forward for the initiative and officers from Northumbria Police and the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service came together to practice a co-ordinated response to a flooding incident.

Householders in the High Stanners area agreed to be ‘rescued ’by fire fighters and taken to the Town Hall. The building was fitted out with beds and blankets and the residents were given refreshments.

The new gates along the riverside were closed as they would be in a flood situation.

The town council organised the Community Resilience Volunteers (CRVs) to practice their responsibilities in such an incident, which include knocking on doors and warning residents to evacuate their homes.

The organisations involved said afterwards that it was a successful exercise.

Alex Bennett, chief fire officer at Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service said: “This has been about working with the community volunteers to practice everything we would do in a real incident.

“We will be learning lessons from previous flooding incidents and seeing how we can integrate our work with the Environment Agency and the Community Agreement.

“This is a great use of our resources, such as the swift water rescue craft, command and control vehicles and fire fighters working on the ground with 4x4s and mini buses to evacuate residents.”

The CRVs have sub-divided the flood warning zones in Morpeth into eight sub-zones and it is proposed that each one will have a lead volunteer.

In a flooding situation, the lead volunteer for each sub-zone would feed into a single point of contact at the Town Hall, in turn liaising with key agencies.

The Community Agreement will dovetail with the plans of other responding organisations.

In the future, it is hoped that it can be expanded to include a variety of other incidents which may affect Morpeth, such as heavy snowfall.