Exercise to test responses to flood emergencies

Trial will begin next month.

A large-scale emergency flood exercise will take place across England and Wales to test national and regional responses to severe flooding from rivers, the sea, reservoirs, groundwater and surface water.

Exercise Watermark will bring together government bodies, big business, and local communities to trial responses to a range of scenarios which could occur during a flood emergency.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman will use a visit to the Flood Forecasting Centre in Farringdon to announce plans for the exercise.

“Climate change means that flooding will be unavoidable in the future so we must take steps now to analyse the risk and plan ahead. The Flood Forecasting Centre is vital in providing the evidence, but we must ensure that we act on it,” said Mrs Spelman.

“Exercise Watermark will be a real test of our ability to deal with a range of flooding issues such as burst riverbanks, surface water flooding and reservoir failure. This is just one example of the important work that Defra and its agencies are doing to help local communities improve their resilience in a ‘big society’ approach to flooding.”

Beginning with a pilot event next month, Exercise Watermark will then go live across England and Wales from March 4 next year1. More than 3,500 emergency responders and numerous community groups have already signed up to the country’s largest national multi-agency flooding exercise.

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In the South West region, Devon, Cornwall and Isle of Scilly Local Resilience Forum will be playing alongside the Environment Agency and its partner organisations, Police, Fire, Health, Local Authorities, Western Power, South West Water, Met Office and Military liaisons. Three other LRFs, Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole; Wiltshire and Swindon; and Avon and Somerset, several local communities, including a local school, will also be taking part.

Organisations that will be taking part include 31 Local Resilience Forums, hospitals, the Ministry of Defence, Network Rail and the Flood Forecasting Centre. Companies including Vodafone, EDF Energy and the Bank of England have all signed up to test their business continuity arrangements as part of the exercise.

Lord Chris Smith, Environment Agency Chairman, said: “Exercise Watermark will test all aspects of severe flooding across England and Wales, making it one of the biggest ever emergency exercises. The effects of flooding can be devastating so it is essential that we are all prepared to deal with flood risk.

“We are encouraged by the number and range of people and organisations that are already taking part, including businesses and community groups, and would urge others to sign up by visiting www.exercisewatermark.co.uk.”

In addition to the central national exercise, local exercises and activities will take place simultaneously all over England and Wales, involving local people, schools and other community groups.