Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Annex A


Urgent Recommendations
Outline of activity to support the Recommendation

REC 1—The Review recommends that more frequent and systematic monitoring of groundwater levels at times of high risk should be undertaken by the Environment agency, which should begin as soon as possible to predict and mitigate further serious ground water flooding from this winter onwards. The Environment Agency has a long-term initiative to develop its groundwater flooding capabilities, to take forward the Making Space for Water (MSFW) programme and prepare to implement the EU Floods Directive. In response to this urgent recommendation, the Agency is pursuing a number of additional short-term actions:
1.  The Environment Agency has completed two national groundwater level scenario forecasting exercises—one in October 2007 to assess risks at the start of winter, and the second in February 2008 to re-assess the situation after the heavy January rains. These were extended analyses, compared to those undertaken routinely by the Agency for Southern England, so as also to include the chalk aquifers of Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, thus covering all major chalk aquifers in England. The most recent analysis found that overall levels in the south and east are likely to be higher than average for the time of the year, but neither unusual nor likely to present any major concerns. The Environment Agency is considering the scope to undertake such national forecasting on a more regular or systematic basis.
2.  Associated with this forecasting, the Environment Agency is looking at a more systematic approach to warning key stakeholders and increasing public awareness—this is ahead of the longer-term consideration under MSFW of a consistent groundwater flood warning service.
  
REC 2—The Review recommends that the environment Agency, supported by local authorities and water companies, should urgently identify areas at highest risk from surface water flooding where known, inform Local Resilience Forums and take steps to identify remaining high risk areas over the coming months. The Environment Agency does not presently have responsibilities in relation to surface water flooding, but is keen to take this on as part of the expected Strategic Overview role. In response to this urgent recommendation, the Agency is taking a number of actions in the short-term:
1.  The Agency will meet with Local Resilience Forums to share knowledge of historic surface water flooding.

2.  The Agency is determining what information is required from Local Authorities, Water Companies, etc on historical surface water flooding and will then write to them requesting the information. Once collated the Agency will provide the information to Local Resilience Forums to allow a multi-agency risk assessment of surface water flooding.

3.  The Agency is looking to put a simple mapping system in place by around August 2008 for the initial identification of locations at high risk of surface water flooding. This is aimed at providing indicative information to Local Resilience Forums in the interim period before more comprehensive surface water flood mapping is developed to implement the Floods Directive.
  
REC 3—The Review recommends that the Environment Agency should urgently develop and implement a clear policy on the use of temporary and demountable defences. The Environment Agency policy on the use of demountable defences is in place. Policy of the use of temporary defences will be consulted at the April Regional Flood Defence Committee meetings and with external partners. [Note—demountables use fixed foundations in specific locations; temporary defences are entirely mobile without fixings.]
  
REC 4—The Review recommends that all Local Resilience Forums urgently review their current local arrangements for water rescue to consider whether they are adequate in light of the summer's events and their local community risk registers. CCS/Defra have written to Local Resilience Forum Chairs asking them to review their arrangements locally to consider whether they are adequate, in light of the guidance issued in the recent Chief Fire Officers' Association Circular on how they should assess adequacy, and to advise Defra/CCS on this by 20 March.
  
REC 5—The Review recommends that all Local Resilience Forums should undertake an urgent review of designated rest centres and other major facilities to ensure either that they have the necessary levels of resilience to enable them to be used in the response to flooding and other major emergencies, or that alternative arrangements are put in place. CCS/Defra have written to Local Resilience Forum Chairs asking them to review their arrangements locally to consider whether they are adequate and to advise Defra/CCS on this by 20 March.
  
REC 6—The Review recommends that the Cabinet Office, with other departments, should urgently consider the costs, benefits and feasibility of establishing arrangements for the urgent acquisition of supplies during a major emergency, including the use of call-off contracts or the creation of national or regional stockpiles of equipment and consumables. The CCS have commissioned a study to scope the problem (ie establish what arrangements may be required in future for the urgent acquisition of supplies in an emergency, what supplies may be involved, and what options there are for addressing any significant problems that are identified) which will report in March.
  
REC 7—The Review recommends that that the Department of Health guidance clarifying the role and accountabilities of organisations involved in providing scientific and technical advice during a major incident should be implemented as soon as possible and understood by Gold Commanders. DoH issued in December 2007 a revised NHS Strategic Command Arrangements guidance which updates roles and responsibilities for NHS organisations during major incidents. It specifically clarifies the role of the Strategic Health Authority as the principal healthcare system manager during a crisis. DoH is continuing to work closely with CCS to develop further STAC guidance at the local, regional and national level, including clarifying the roles of central advice and that of other health agencies.
  
REC 8—The Review recommends that the guidance currently under preparation by Cabinet Office to provide local responders with advice on the definition and identification of vulnerable people and on planning to support them in an emergency should be issued urgently. CCS guidance on the identification of vulnerable groups issued to local responders on 3 March.
  
REC 9—The Review recommends that, in order to effectively fulfil its Lead Department role for flood risk management and emergency response, Defra needs to urgently develop and share a national flood emergency framework. Defra has completed a current review of its Lead Government Department Plan to take account of the Pitt Interim Report findings and reissued this in January 2008. This provides a basis for developing a flood emergency framework for England. Feedback and recommendations in the final report from Sir Michael Pitt in June 08 will be incorporated into the national Framework with a view to finalising the output in the Autumn. Work can then begin on a planning a national exercise that will test key components of the arrangements set out in the Framework and the Defra Lead Department Plan.
  
REC 10—The Review recommends that Category 1 responders should be urgently provided with a detailed assessment of critical infrastructure in their areas to enable them to assess its vulnerability to flooding. More than one agency/department is involved but they will work together as a matter of urgency to find secure ways of sharing the relevant information with the key Category 1 responders. CCS will co-ordinate this process, and expect to write to LRF Chairs in March, outlining standardised procedures for sharing this information.
  
REC 11—The Review recommends that the Environment Agency should work urgently with telecommunications companies, consulting the Information Commissioner as necessary to facilitate the roll-out of "opt-out" telephone flood warning schemes to all homes and businesses liable to flooding, including homes with ex-directory numbers. Environment Agency are keen for take-up of their flood warning services to be increased and will pursue this recommendation. Obtaining all telephone numbers of those at risk of flooding is complicated, and the Environment Agency is working closely with the Office of the Information Commissioner, the Ministery of Justice and the Electoral Commission to understand how this recommendation could be taken forward.
  
REC 12—The Review recommends that Local Resilience Forums urgently develop plans to enhance flood warnings through "door-knocking" by local authorities based on an assessment of the post code areas likely to flood. CCS/Defra have written to Local Resilience Forum Chairs asking them whether they have developed plans to review their flood warning systems in this way, and to advise Defra/CCS on this by 20 March.
  
REC 13—The Review recommends that that Local Resilience Forums urgently make arrangements to involve local media representatives in the local preparedness and response to support their public information role. CCS/Defra have written to Local Resilience Forum Chairs asking them whether they have developed plans to incolve local media in this way, and to advise Defra/CCS on this by 20 March.
  
REC 14—The Review recommends that members of the public make up a flood kit—including personal documents, insurance policy, emergency contact numbers (including local council, emergency services and Floodline—0845 988 1188), torch, battery or wind-up radio, mobile phone, rubber gloves, wet wipes or antibacterial hand gel, first aid kit and blankets. The Environment Agency run annual public awareness campaigns. They have already updated their three advice leaflets on flood awareness which pick up the issues highlighted in this recommendation and have issued guidance to its Regions to promote these leaflets with the LRFs to use as the one point of flood advice for the public. The Environment Agency is considering further action and will take this forward in March/April 2008.
  
REC 15—The Review recommends that members of the public increase their personal state of readiness and resilience to floods by following the Environment Agency's practical advice, where appropriate, as summarised below: The Environment Agency run annual public awareness campaigns. They have already updated their three advice leaflets on flood awareness which pick up the issues highlighted in this recommendation and have issued guidance to its Regions to promote these leaflets with the LRFs to use as the one point of flood advice for the public. The Environment Agency is considering further action and will take this forward in March/April 2008.





 
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