Headlines: October 1st, 2010

A major exercise is to take place to test national and regional readiness to deal with severe flooding from rivers, the sea, reservoirs, groundwater and surface water. It will begin with a pilot next month and be rolled out ‘live’ across England and Wales next spring.

Called Exercise Watermark it will bring together government bodies, local communities and some big businesses to test responses to a range of scenarios which might happen during floods. After the November pilot the exercise will run from March 4th to 11th next year and involve more than 3,500 emergency responders and other groups who have already signed up to what will be the country’s largest national multi-agency flooding exercise.

In addition to the national exercise simultaneous activities will take place involving local people, schools and community groups. In one example, Sutton-on-Sea in Lincolnshire will be evacuated with residents being transported to a processing centre for an overnight stay before returning to their homes.

The Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, said the exercise would be a real test of the country’s ability to deal with a range of problems such as burst riverbanks, surface water flooding and reservoir failure. Organisations taking part will include 31 Local Resilience Forums, hospitals, the Ministry of Defence, Network Rail and the Flood Forecasting Centre as well as companies including Vodafone, EDF Energy and the Bank of England. The chairman of the Environment Agency, Lord Chris Smith, said he was encouraged by the number and range of people and organisations that had already agreed to take part. Others can sign up at www.exercisewatermark.co.uk