Government launches Flood Action Week and new warning codes

In the same week that new, easier to understand flood warning codes are introduced for England and Wales, ‘Flood Action Week’ aims to educate and prepare people for a growing risk.

More than five million people live in flood-risk areas in England and Wales and in the last two years 25 have died as a result of them, said the Environment Agency whose Flood Action Week ran from 11 – 17 September, coinciding with the introduction of new flood warning codes and Wales.

From 12 September, the yellow, amber and red colour coded warnings have been replaced by four new flood codes: Flood Watch, Flood Warning, Severe Flood Warning, and All Clear, after research and liaison with the public showed that the codes are clearer and more easily understood.

For its second Flood Action Week, the Environment Agency (EA) launched a national advertising campaign on television and radio to inform the public of preventative steps to be taken against floods. In addition, all properties identified as being most at risk in England and Wales received mailed advice on these steps, such as taking out adequate insurance, protecting vital documents, and clearly marking gas and electricity switches so that supplies can be turned off if a flood is forecast.

“Awareness is increasing gradually, but still only one person in twenty makes any kind of preparation for a flood, and more than a third of people at risk don’t know whether their insurance will cover them,” said EA Chairman Sir John Harman. “Last year, only one in eight people who were flooded had experienced a flood before.”

A children’s comic informing readers about how flooding happens and about the Agency’s role in monitoring river levels and issuing flood warnings was also launched during the week, along with a flooding ‘scoreboard’ in Cardiff city centre reminding the public that floods can happen to anyone living near a river or the sea.

The Action Week was backed up by the EA’s telephone Floodline (0845 988 1188), giving 24 hour details of all flood warnings in force and providing callers with advice on protecting property. The EA says that since its launch last October, Floodline has received nearly 90,000 calls.

The campaign was launched alongside warnings from the EA that floods present an increasing risk across the UK. “Flood risk is now a fact of daily life in England and Wales. Looking at recent history, reports of flooding are now on average nearly twice as frequent as they were one hundred years ago,” Harman said.

The last major UK floods were in June when one thousand properties were flooded in Yorkshire and County Durham, resulting in estimated damage of £12 million in insurance terms alone.

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