Following the Government’s announcement that 1,200 soldiers have been placed on 24-hour standby to assist with flooding this winter, the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) has responded in support of the news, while highlighting the essential role of UK Fire and Rescue Services.
Last winter’s floods in Cumbria and Lancashire impacted upon thousands of families, with many being evacuated, homes severely damage and more than 60,000 properties being without power, due to the flooding of a power station.
The Fire and Rescue Service makes the largest contribution to the national flood response capability, with more than 100 powered rescue boat teams and 36 non-powered rescue boat teams immediately available for deployment.
CFOA is committed to working alongside the police, ambulance service, the military and other partners to ensure the best possible response is delivered to communities when affected by wide area flooding.
During Storm Desmond last Christmas and Storm Gertrude at the beginning of 2016, Fire and Rescue Services from across the UK worked tirelessly to assist.
This was part of a national response, coordinated by CFOA’s national resilience arrangements. This means teams can be quickly mobilised nationally to assist with equipment, rescue teams and expertise.
Fire and Rescue Services across the UK worked together to deliver a co-ordinated response to the widespread flooding with high volume pumps and other specialist equipment being mobilised, alongside personnel trained to deal with the flooding caused by the severe weather.
This included the deployment of fire appliances, teams, high volume pumps, wading teams, swift water rescue trained firefighters on powered rescue boats, tactical advisers, logistical support and standard fire pumps.
High volume pumps are capable of moving up to 7,000 litres of water per minute, while powered boats crewed by swift water rescue trained firefighters and wading teams are essential in helping to rescue people and ensuring vital supplies can be delivered.
These numbers are supplemented by almost every fire appliance in the UK; with firefighters trained and equipped to provide as a minimum an initial rescue capability. This response can be sustained over an extended period of time.
The National Resilience Assurance Team (NRAT), supported by lead CFOA officers, coordinates the national response and provides vital support to government.
Dan Stephens, CFOA National Resilience Strategic Lead, said: “All of the emergency services work together closely around the clock to assist people at times of flooding. Being able to mobilise our national assets quickly and effectively is an essential part of our national resilience response; the public need to have confidence that the emergency services can – and will – respond quickly when they need us.
Both Storm Desmond and Gertrude highlighted how essential an efficient national response is for the UK and Fire and Rescue Services play a leading role in delivering this. The government must ensure national resilience assets are not understated, to ensure CFOA can continue to coordinate a national response and continue to offer this level of response as and when required.”
CFOA believes the way forward in delivering an efficient, resilient and cost effective national response to major flooding events should be based on a clear statement of duties, with Fire and Rescue Services playing a leading role. In addition it is critical that the government continues to properly and fully fund National Resilience Assets to ensure they are always available to emergencies such as this.
Highly experienced Fire and Rescue Service strategic and tactical advisers support affected areas and strategic and tactical coordination groups to resolve incidents as has been consistently demonstrated since the Cumbria floods in 2005.
The Fire and Rescue Service also coordinates a national response to wide area flooding on behalf of DEFRA through a well-established and highly effective National Coordination and Advisory Framework