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Flood response plans are being tested for flaws

A £1.8M, four day flood readiness exercise was this week expected to expose weaknesses in the UK’s flood response capability.

Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) officials said Exercise Watermark − which was underway as NCE went to press − was expected to reveal flaws.

“We won’t get everything right, we are honest about that and we will learn from our mistakes,” said environment minister Richard Benyon.

“We will almost certainly find there are gaps,” agreed Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith. “That’s the purpose of the exercise − to identify the gaps and fill them.”

The exercise began on Monday to test responses across England and Wales to a range of serious flood scenarios including surface water flooding, fluvial flooding, reservoir failure and coastal flooding.

“We won’t get everything right, we are honest about that and we will learn from our mistakes”

Richard Benyon

The event is working as a complex role play in real time between bodies including 10 government departments, 34 local resilience forums, emergency responders and utilities companies.

Details of the test scenarios have deliberately been kept secret from the key bodies, but the role play scenarios could escalate sufficiently to draw in the Cabinet Office.

Regional events will also include simulated rescues from vehicles trapped in flood water, the construction of sandbag walls and the installation of flood defence products to protect properties.

Water and energy companies will use the event to consider their sites’ resilience and to review their existing flood plans.

The exercise was one of the recommendations made by Sir Michael Pitt in his review of the summer 2007 floods.

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