New kit tested as part of major flood response exercise

The Environment Agency is testing new flood technology as part of a winter readiness training exercise involving 1,000 staff.

Environment Agency teams across England are training with new temporary flood barriers, pumps, vehicles, and drones as part of Exercise Certus, which reaches its climax today (Wednesday 12 October).

The exercise, which involves around 1,000 staff, is designed to test that the Environment Agency is ready to respond more rapidly and flexibly to future flooding following the Government’s National Flood Resilience Review (NFRR).

As well as new technology the Environment Agency has awarded a 1-year contract to Stobart Group to store, track, and transport its 40 kilometres of temporary barriers and other mobile equipment. The contract will include use of the Stobart Group’s network of resilience centres, distribution centres and extensive fleet of over 3,000 trucks.

Stobart Group will be working with the Environment Agency to provide a 24/7 logistics support service throughout the year assisting the Environment Agency before, during, and after flooding.

The Environment Agency has also reached a key ‘winter ready’ milestone with all those communities affected by flooding last winter now having the same level of flood protection they had before winter 2015/16.

This is a result of a £65m programme across the north of England, involving 20,000 inspections and around 650 repair projects, to restore flood defences or, as in the case of the Foss Barrier, significantly upgrade them.

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, said:

"I’ve seen for myself the devastating impact that flooding has on lives and livelihoods. Our staff have already put a huge amount of work into helping communities recover from last winter’s floods and reducing flood risk to thousands of homes.

"Now we are rising to the challenge of responding to flooding as extreme weather becomes more common: In Exercise Certus our teams have been training with new kit, including flood barriers, pumps, and vehicles so that we can respond more rapidly and flexibly.

"We welcome the contract with Stobart Group that will make us more resilient and improve our ability to get the right equipment to the right places at the right time – helping us to better-protect more communities more of the time.

"Our £65m repair programme means flood-affected communities will be protected again. Meanwhile, between January and June 2016, we completed over 120 schemes, better-protecting nearly 48,000 homes from flooding. But there is no such thing as 100% protection against flooding. It’s everyone’s responsibility to be prepared and in next month’s Flood Action Campaign we’ll call on everyone to play their part."

Floods Minister Thérèse Coffey said:

"This exercise proves we have the ability to move quickly to provide support around the country in the event of a flood this winter.

"Our £2.5 billion investment programme will better protect 300,000 properties against flooding for the long term and with new high volume pumps, four times as many temporary defences as last year, and the Environment Agency able to move rapidly to help protect homes and businesses, we’re better prepared than ever before."

Andrew Tinkler, Stobart Group Chief Executive Officer, said:

"Last year’s floods were devastating for many communities across the UK. I am very pleased to announce that Stobart Group will be providing support to the Environment Agency over the next 12 months and utilising our logistical expertise, skilled workforce and assets to deploy equipment as and when required."

Additional information

A part of Exercise Certus on 11-12 October ‘live’ exercises involving new equipment are happening across the Midlands, including at Nottingham and Lea Marston near Sutton Coldfield, and the South of England, including Shoreham-by-Sea. Staff are also playing in incident rooms (and remotely) responding to simulated flooding scenarios.

The NFRR awarded £12.5 million to the Environment Agency and £0.75million to the Fire and Rescue Services to help the country be better prepared for extreme flooding events. As a result the Environment Agency will have four times more temporary flood barrier compared to last winter. This additional 32km of barrier will be stored at key depots across England.

December 2015 was the wettest month on record for the UK since records began in 1910. Around 16,000 properties were affected in Cumbria, Northumberland, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Herefordshire. EA estimate flood defences protected 22,000 properties against flooding.