The UK’s largest-ever national emergency response exercise has awarded a major contract to design, deliver and evaluate the project.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) awarded the contract to a Capita Symonds-led team, comprising VectorCommand, Halcrow and Scott Wilson.
Sponsored by DEFRA and the Welsh Assembly government, the eight-day exercise is scheduled to be held in March next year. Codenamed ‘Watermark’, the aim is to test the emergency response to a major flood scenario across several regions of the UK by agencies such as the police, fire, coastguard, ambulance and local authority services.
The exercise will also include the highest levels of government as a COBRA (Cabinet Office Briefing Room) event, and will involve emergency command centres across the UK.
“Flooding will always be with us and even in these difficult times, it is important that we test our ability to respond to severe weather”
The team’s work on the project will involve developing the storyline for the event, which will be based on an eight-day severe storm causing devastating surface water, river and coastal flooding. This involves the live running of 50 command centres across the UK, supplying them with simulated information to build hundreds of scenarios that will unfold throughout the event.
They will also develop this information, which will involve collating vast amounts of individual phone calls, SMS, faxes and emails from members of the public and SOS calls.
The team is working with DEFRA and the Environment Agency to develop the event’s specific details to create realistic flood conditions, based on a vast array of telemetry data providing rainfall amounts, river levels and flood forecasts.
The team will support the Environment Agency in the management of the event itself, running a central government command centre in the south of England.
The event will be widely publicised across the media. Exercise Watermark project executive Peter Midgeley said: “Flooding will always be with us and even in these difficult times, it is important that we test our ability to respond to severe weather.
Watermark is an exciting and ambitious project which will set a new standard for national exercising”.