“We need to recognise that there is a non-negligible chance that we will see further events (flooding) of a similar, or maybe even greater, scale over the next decade.” (Executive summary)
Sadly, awareness of the seriousness of flooding is very thin on the ground. Just 6-8% of people actually living with flood risk know they are vulnerable, a figure that has not changed much since 2014 according to the Environment Agency’s @johncurtinEA.
@wilshamconsult Keeping & raising awareness so people can prepare when it isn’t flooding is a real challenge JC
— John Curtin (@johncurtinEA) March 26, 2014
That was households. What about business? For small businesses that make up 99% of the UK economy, it turns out that SME’s ‘prefer’ to react rather than pro-actively engage in business continuity and business preparedness as discussed recently during @TheFloodExpo . Dr Jessica Lamond (CFCR UWE) showed that, sadly, SMEs are not pro-active (despite this making a lot of business sense), taking active steps only after having been flooded – twice! Even after measures are taken, actual preparedness is just at 60%. These are stark figures.
— EVAQ8 Emergency Kits (@EVAQ8_news) October 13, 2016
— GM Prepared (@GM_prepared) October 12, 2016
In September the @cabinetofficeuk with @DefraGovUK under the leadership of @andrealeadsom and with input from @uksciencechief published the National Flood Resilience Review. It charts the immense work undertaken by @EnvAgency and @metoffice in the wake of the devastating 2015/16 floods, lessons learnt and ways forward for better resilience nationwide.
For those of you who are time pressed or disinclined to read the full report, here are some key points important for household and business preparedness:
UK Flooding: money matters
- £2.3 billion will be spent over the next six years from 2015- 2021 to strengthen flood and coastal defences with a particular focus on better protecting 300,000 homes
- recovery packages handled by local authorities are currently in place for homes, businesses and farms in areas of Northern England affected by the 2015/6 floods
- Flood Re has been established to ensure that households can continue to obtain affordable flood insurance (schemes for small business are being discussed; source: FloodExpo)
— AIR Worldwide (@AIRWorldwide) August 10, 2016
— Flood Re (@floodre) October 18, 2016
UK Flooding: severe weather and more frequent, stronger storms
- the intensity of recent storms is unusual, but not unprecedented
- a comprehensive study of trends (1871-2010) shows a robust signal of increasing numbers of strong winter storms and with increasing intensity for the high latitude North Atlantic; further south over the mid-latitude North Atlantic (ie the path of the storms that affected the UK in winter 2013/14) signal are more complex. Although the number of strong winter storms has not increased since 1871, storm mean intensity has increased. Notably, for very strong storms, the mean intensity has increased significantly. However, results are not conclusive and there remains substantial scientific debate about the behaviour of the North Atlantic jet stream and the storms that form along it.
UK Flooding: extreme rain fall, extreme tidal scenarios, sea level rise
- rainfall depends on geography, the west receiving ten times more rain than the east of the UK; England and Wales is divided into six climate regions
- based on robust analysis, the Met Office concludes that winter monthly rainfall totals could plausibly be 20% higher than recent past extremes in some parts of the country and up to 30% higher than recent past extremes in other parts
- seasonal variability: winter flows have increased in upland, western catchments; autumn flows have increased in Central England and parts of Eastern Scotland. There is no apparent pattern of change in summer flows across the UK
- high winter flows have increased over the last 30 years and there has been an increase in the frequency and magnitude of flooding over the same period, particularly in the West and North. However, as with rainfall, longer records demonstrate that there are flood-rich and flood-poor periods in the hydrological record. Reconstruction of floods from sediment records suggests some very large floods in the 18th and 19th centuries
- sea level along the English Channel has already risen by about 12cm during the 20th century; this is over and above the increases associated with sinking of the southern part of the UK due to isostatic adjustment from the last Ice Age; this increases the risk of coastal flooding and tidal locking. A further overall 11-16cm of sea level rise is likely by 2030, relative to 1990
- the Environment Agency’s Extreme Flood Outlines (EFO) have been stress-tested and found to be a reliable way to identify areas at risk from extreme river and coastal flooding over the next ten years
- the risk of extreme river flows resulting in a severe flood are not unusual but the probability of this occurring is low
- the 2016 National Risk Assessment (confidential document) for the first time differentiates fluvial and surface water flood risk in place of a single ‘inland flood risk’, allowing a better targeted approach to planning and management (NRR Civil Emergencies)
Limitations of scientific models
- statistical analysis used to produce the report assumes that the probability of flooding has not changed significantly over time, for example because of changes in land use, climate change or other climatic variations
- interestingly climate change was not identified as a factor, so called ‘natural variability’ dominating extreme rainfall scenarios ; but there was consensus that the techniques used should be developed further to explore a fuller range of possible events
- the variable nature of regional/local weather and rainfall plus the complexities of terrain and catchments mean that any results are indicative only and cannot describe all settings
- the next set of UK Climate Projections due to be published in 2018 (UKCP18)
— Tyndall Centre (@TyndallCentre) September 12, 2016
UK flooding: critical national infrastructure and the private sector
We depend on a secure supply of services such as electricity, telecommunications, water, healthcare and transport. Many are delivered by the private sector. Government, sector regulators and industries are working together to ensure security of supply across the 13 CNI (critical national infrastructure) sectors (more, see CPNI). The loss of local services during the winter floods 2015/6 meant that, for the first time, individual sector-by-sector assets at risk from flooding were identified. The complex inter-dependencies between sectors continue to be investigated.
- 1640 potentially vulnerable national infrastructure asset sites serving a (pragmatically determined) population threshold range from 10,000 to 25,000 have been identified, most of which were deemed ‘defended’
- 530 key infrastructure sites around the country are currently vulnerable to flooding (again within the 10,000-25,000 threshold)
- infrastructure sectors are at different stages in the resilience building process, some have yet to complete their analysis. Losing electricity or hospitals are particularly acute ‘worst case’ scenarios impacting communities
- the electricity industry will invest £250 million (2015-2021) to protect the network against flooding; sites serving more than 10,000 people which are not protected against an extreme flood have been surveyed and have a plan in place to deploy temporary barriers if required and feasible
- work with the water industry to extend analysis to cover all relevant water assets (clean and waste) serving more than 10,000 people continues
- transport is vulnerable, investments are under way
- Network Rail is planning to spend £900 million over the next three years
- Highways England plans to invest £78 million over the next five years to reduce the risk of flooding on major roads, and a further £300 million as part of its Road Investment Strategy
- Gatwick Airport following flood-related disruption in December 2013, commissioned an independent review of its vulnerability to flooding and is allocating a further £10 million above and beyond the original £20 million investment in flood resilience over the next 2 years
- the Department for Transport promote closer working between ports and Local Resilience Forums to improve overall awareness of, and preparation for, severe flooding and port resilience groups are being set up along the East Coast
Still gotta eat. Electricity is off in flooded areas. pic.twitter.com/RzZFnmbriS
— Deplorable Cajun (@cajun032759) August 19, 2016
(thankfully health and safety is much stricter in the UK)
UK flooding: temporary flood defenses
Permanent flood defenses are clearly preferable to temporary defenses. In some instances, however, permanent solutions either do not offer value for money or cannot improve the situation before next winter. Therefore temporary defenses play an immediate role in strengthening the resilience of local infrastructure: temporary barriers do not provide the same level of protection as permanent defenses; failure rates typically are 20-30%, although this can be reduced by good advanced planning
- no type of temporary barrier is universally deployable in all situations, and generally they cannot withstand large wave action. All leak to a certain extent and therefore need to be supplemented by pumps (annex 8 illustrates a range of temporary flood defenses such as tube, filled container, frame barrier, flexible free standing and rigid free standing)
- once installed, successful ongoing deployment requires additional support including security against theft and vandalism as well as health and safety measures such as lighting and access maintenance to surrounding homes and businesses
- thorough site-specific pre-planning as well as the availability of sufficient numbers of trained staff or volunteers is critical to success (as are training exercises)
- engineered hard flood defenses can only ever be part the solution. Benefits of natural flood management has been seen ie in Pickering, North Yorkshire and Holnicote in Somerset. The Government’s future 25 year plan for the environment will look at strengthening the role of local partners, bringing them together to integrate flood management with water planning at a catchment level.
Even before sunrise, our teams were working hard to install a temporary flood barrier in #Wells #Norfolk for a training exercise yesterday pic.twitter.com/JMW7Lo52m8 — EnvAgencyAnglian (@EnvAgencyAnglia) October 19, 2016
UK flooding: improving incidence response
- £12.5 million are being invested through the Environment Agency in temporary flood barriers, mobile water pumps and incident command vehicles – stored in strategic locations across the country for fast response
- £0.75 million are being invested to provide maintenance grants to enable nationally deployable flood rescue teams to maintain their equipment
- a single register of national flood response assets will be kept up to date and will be viewable through ResilienceDirect; developing new capabilities in line with responders’ requirements.
- an operations centre will be established (as identified in the National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015) bringing together relevant organisations, including the armed forces
- Defra in collaboration with other government departments will establish a standard operating model for local responders and the Environment Agency will work with Local Resilience Forums to identify opportunities to embed good practice in their flood response plans
UK flooding: flood defense and urban development
- ultimate aim is to deliver flood defense levels for the Core Cities similar to that of London, Sheffield is the pilot project which, if successful will be broadened to the other core cities
The National Flood Resilience Review also contains interesting case studies in annex 4 which you may be interested to read especially if you are in or near to Carlisle, Calder Valley, Oxford, Exeter, Great Yarmouth, London (Teddington to Thames Barrier). References
- National Flood Resilience Review (Sept 2016)
- Flood Risk Assessment: Local Planning Authorities
- Flood Maps for Surface Water
- Flood Maps, Environment Agency
- UK Climate Projections (MetOffice, produced in 2009)
- BHATTACHARYA-MIS, N. & LAMOND, J. An investigation of patterns of response and recovery among flood affected businesses in the UK: Case study in Sheffield and Wakefield Flood Recovery Innovation and Response, 2014 Poznan, Poland. WIT Press.
Much excellent work continues across the country including the setting up of local Flood Action Groups, Community Resilience Projects (i.e NYLRF) and flood prevention excercises such as
However, it also pays to be better prepared.There is a lot that can be done. If your’re an individual start at our preparedness hub, if you’re a small business start at business preparedness. Addition: EFRA report, Future flood prevention; Second Report of Session 2016–17
Be prepared, not scared.
Have a good week.
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