A 2015 survey found that globally firefighters are the most trusted profession worldwide. The fire service provides a vital role during flood events, rescuing members of the public, who may be trapped in their homes, pumping out flooded properties, and recovering stranded vehicles.
However, many would not require this assistance, if they had been better prepared prior to a flood. And such preparation could help free up emergency services resources for others.
Extreme rainfall and flooding More frequent
Extreme rainfall and flooding events are now occurring with increasing regularity and severity, as the impacts of climate change become more apparent. Due to the growing frequency of devastating flood events, there is now much greater acknowledgement and appreciation of the increasing risks.
There is also more urgency and willingness from individuals, businesses, and within both the public and private sector, to take greater responsibility for understanding and managing flood risk.
Improvement in flood risk mapping and warnings
Many home and business owners are unaware that they may be at the risk of flooding
The flood risk sector has come a long way, within the last 15-20 years, with improvements in flood risk mapping, warnings, and flood risk management schemes. However, there is still room for improvement.
Many home and business owners are unaware that they may be at the risk of flooding. This lack of awareness means that thousands of homes and properties are not prepared for flooding. It is, typically, these individuals that are at the greatest danger, during a flood and are more likely to require assistance from the emergency services, for evacuation, rescue, or recovery.
A spokesperson for the London Fire Brigade said, “Last year, I attended an incident, where a car had driven into a flooded underpass. We had to rescue all the occupants from their vehicle. This could have easily been avoided, if they had just chosen to find another route.”
Increase in flood awareness
Flood awareness is increasing, but to continue this trend, there is a need for a collective effort from all parties across the flood risk sector, including the emergency services. A particular area of weakness within the sector is leadership.
The Pitt Review, released following the 2007 floods, endeavored to create greater clarity around response to flooding. Although, many aspects have improved considerably, there still remains ambiguity about, which agency has responsibility for the co-ordination of flood response.
Assessing and managing flood risk
Responsibilities for assessing and managing flood risk are split between the Environment Agency (EA) and local council authorities, referred to as Lead Local Flood Authorities, depending on the size of a water course and the nature of the flooding.
Alongside this, responsibility is split further, as sewer flooding is managed by the local water authorities. This can obviously become confusing for those outside of the profession, who are seeking guidance and advice, so as to better understand their flood risks, and to protect themselves and their property.
Importance of informing the public on flood risks
As well as clearer sign-posting to the relevant authority, all professions that deal with and manage flood risk need to be using interactions with the public, as an opportunity to inform and educate.
While the ABI (Association of British Insurers) states that any flood surveyors should be Chartered Surveyors or Civil Engineers, this is not enforced and nor is there an easily accessible register, in order to find such professionals. There is a distinct lack of ‘trusted voices’ within the sector.
Protecting people and property
The fire service can have a crucial role in advising home and business owners, about their flood risks
Given the absence of clear guidance and leadership, across the flood risk sector, the fire service can have a crucial role in advising home and business owners, about their flood risks. Ultimately, the objective for all the emergency services personnel is the same, as every flood risk professional, which is to protect people and property.
The trust that is rightly afforded to the fire service provides an ideal opportunity to offer reliable guidance and advice, ensuring that people and property can be protected from the impacts of flooding.
Sufficient staffing of fire and rescue services
As a result of government cuts, 11,000 firefighter posts have been lost in the United Kingdom, since 2010. While firefighters have always rescued people from floods, the services need to be properly resourced with sufficient staff, so as to deal with increasing flood risk.
As a trusted voice, we believe this should include sufficient funding, so as to help raise awareness of flood risk to the public. Currently, 67% of people do not know their flood risk.