Business continuity and disaster recoveryFlood protection call for utilities

Published 15 June 2008

Twelve months after the devastating U.K. floods a government agency says much more must be done to tackle the vulnerability of buildings such as power stations and hospitals to flooding

A national effort is needed to tackle the vulnerability of buildings such as power stations and hospitals to flooding, the U.K. Environment Agency has warned. Almost a year on from last summer’s devastating floods the agency said government, local authorities and utility companies still needed to work together to address the threat to critical infrastructure. The Environment Agency also urged people to take responsibility for protecting themselves and homes from flooding, signing up to warning schemes and taking steps to prepare — especially as floods may be come more common with climate change. It also said tha urgent action was required to sort out who is responsible for surface water flooding — the cause of much of the damage in parts of the country last summer after the wettest May to June on record. The Environment Agency said that in the twelve months since the widespread flooding in June and July 2007, it had completed 34 flood defenses to increase protection to more than 30,000 homes. Agency officials had inspected 5,300 miles of defences, and spent £5 million on repairing those which were damaged last summer including ones in Upton, Sedgeberrow and Grimsby. Some £125 million had been spent on investigations and maintenance on main rivers, including CCTV surveys on waterways in Gloucester to check for and clear blockages. A recently completed £14 million defense scheme in Nottingham will protect more than 5,600 properties, and a £13.1 million scheme now protects almost 1,000 properties in Carlisle, the agency said. An additional 73,000 people have signed up for its free flood warning service, but less than half of those who can receive the warnings are registered, the Environment Agency said.

A survey recently found that the vast majority of people living in areas hit by last year’s flooding believed there was nothing they could do to protect themselves from future events and had done nothing as a result. The severe flooding in south-west England, the Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside claimed the lives of 13 people, and left 48,000 homes and 7,000 businesses deluged with water. Around 350,000 residents in Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury lost their water supply for up to 17 days when a treatment works flooded. According to a report by the Environment Agency last December, the floods showed how vulnerable many roads, railways, power stations, water supplies and public services such as police stations and schools were. As well as participating in the national effort involving Government and local authorities, key utilities such as electricity and water needed to put protecting their critical infrastructure higher on the list of priorities in the face of climate change, the agency said.