Environment Agency and emergency services 'properly prepared' for extreme flooding in Sussex

The Environment Agency has been working with local authorities, the emergency services and volunteer-led organisations to ensure it is “properly prepared” for an extreme weather event this winter.
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Preparations took the form of two exercises – one tactical, and the other strategic – over the last month. Organisers hope the exercises will allow a variety of agencies to work together in the event of a large-scale, major flooding incident over Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Operation Deluge took place on Thorney Island, in West Sussex, on September 12, and saw more than 160 people from a variety of agencies working together to build an 800-metre temporary flood barrier, in order to test how quickly it could be assembled. They also practiced constructing high-volume pumps to remove flood water.

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A second, strategic exercise – dubbed Exercise Inundation – took place on October 5, in parts of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. During the exercise, 400 participants worked together to plan a worst-case scenario emergency response to the highest tide on record and the most amount of rain in 24 hours hit the South Coast.

Emergency services practice putting up temporary flood barriers.Emergency services practice putting up temporary flood barriers.
Emergency services practice putting up temporary flood barriers.

Claire Francis, Flood and Coastal Risk Manager from the Environment Agency said:

“Sea levels are projected to rise by over one metre in the south of England over this century, and with more frequent powerful storms also predicted, the risk of coastal erosion and flooding is increasing.

“It’s very important that we regularly test our emergency response arrangements. Although we continue to build and maintain flood defences we cannot protect everywhere against every eventuality and extreme. We therefore need to ensure that we’re prepared and that all our staff, and those in partner organisations, are ready to respond to extreme weather events and widespread flooding”.

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Assistant Chief Constable Rob France, chair of the Strategic Coordinating Group, added:

“Exercises like this give us a really good opportunity to bring all the different agencies together to test our plans for major and critical incidents and make sure they are fit for purpose. By regularly reviewing the multi-agency arrangements we have in place, we can make sure we are properly prepared to respond when needed.”