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Suffolk agencies stage water rescue to prepare for flooding

Members of the Suffolk Resilience Forum participated in a flood exercise yesterday, which saw a rescue from Alton Water and an Ipswich church become a Rest Centre for evacuees’.


FloodEx is a training exercise designed to test the preparedness of local agencies in responding to flooding in acknowledgement that at least one in six people in the UK is at risk from floods. 


Agencies from across Suffolk held a day of live play activity yesterday (Thursday, 17 November), with Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) ‘rescuing’ college students from Alton Water, a reservoir on the Shotley peninsula managed by Anglian Water. 


The rescue mission involved power boats, a drone, and UNIMOG all-terrain and 4×4 vehicles. Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue and the Salvation Army also lent their support to SFRS crews, demonstrating the continued commitment of Suffolk partners to work together to protect the county’s residents.


Once rescued, students were transported to Hope Church in Ipswich, used as a Rest Centre for the exercise. The students played the role of people evacuated from their homes due to flooding, and Ipswich Borough Council, supported by Suffolk’s Joint Emergency Planning Unit, was tasked with recording their details and ensuring their safety and wellbeing. 


Other activity included a simulated rail incident due to flooding, attended by Network Rail, the British Transport Police and other emergency services.  


Additional incident management training for Suffolk Resilience Forum members happened at Landmark House and included mock flooding in parts of Suffolk for agencies to respond to.


Stephen Baker, Chair of the Suffolk Resilience Forum, commented on FloodEx: 

“The potential for a flood of some sort, either coastal or inland, is a constant threat in Suffolk. The county experienced severe floods in 2017 and a tidal surge in 2013, resulting in the evacuation of properties in Lowestoft and surrounding areas, and of course the floods of 1953 are still in living memory for some residents.


“Thanks to the quick actions of Suffolk Resilience Forum members, working together, many lives have been saved from floods and victims given appropriate support. Training exercises such as FloodEx ensure that we continue to do all we can to protect people, homes, and businesses from whatever challenges our county may face. 


“Whilst we are fortunate enough to have some flooding mitigation in place, including barriers in areas more prone to tidal surges, a flood can wreak terrible long-term damage and we encourage Suffolk residents to still do all they can to prepare. 


“Signing up for the Environment Agency’s Flood Alerts is an ideal way to stay informed about flood risk in your area, and useful advice on what to do in a flood or other emergency is available on our website”


The Lowestoft Flood Risk Management Project has been set up to help with flood defences in the town and is in the process of implementing tidal flood walls and a 40m mitre flood gate, the second largest in the UK, to protect more than 1,500 homes and 825 businesses. 


A £67.4 million tidal barrier for Ipswich was officially opened in February 2019 and offers protection to more than 1,600 homes and 400 businesses in and around the town. 

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