«Case study, survey, diary and interview research on FCRM volunteering Report – SC120013/R3 We are the Environment Agency. We protect and improve ...»
‘There is a network of experts taking notice. It’s a bit more than the eyes and ears of the community – there’s a lot more understanding and reasoning going on. You know some rainfall events will have more of an impact than others. We know our catchments much better now and I think that is spreading out to other people as well’ (PSB Community Flood Group).
The ability to listen to others and learn was considered important by the Environment
‘I am able to advise on issues relating to flood risk management; but I’m also there to listen as well and that is one of the key things for me with the forum and it’s also an opportunity for us to have a communication route with all the various parties who are involved in community flood resilience and to learn as well’ (Environment Agency).
Decision making Day-to-day decisions are made by the treasurer (volunteer chair of PSB Community Flood Group) and secretary (member of Cornwall Council) of CCFF. Important issues Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering are discussed by the management board with the CCFF chair having a casting vote.
So far there have been no critical divergent issues and the management board resolves things through discussion.
Cornwall Council wanted the CCFF chair to be an elected councillor rather than one of its employees. A council representative suggested it was better if the Council was not
seen as the figurehead:
‘CCFF facilitates dialogue between the community and the partners. It makes things personal as they all are on first name terms, have exchanged phone numbers and so on. The unity across the members has given the forum power and the employment of the project manager through pathfinder has given new impetuous to the forum’ (Cornwall Council representative).
He suggested that CCFF is a useful way of facilitating dialogue between the community and partner organisations. The Pathfinder project has also given it new impetus. The project steering group includes four CCFF members and so the link between the two is very strong.
CCFF is considering whether others need to be included on the management board
• South West Regional Flood and Coastal Committee
• Devon and Cornwall Police
• more proactive volunteers from different community flood groups who could be given a specific role, for example managing the website Masters students from Exeter University are looking at this for CCFF (see Evidence section below). CCFF is also debating whether it should focus exclusively on flooding or whether it should also look at wider community emergency planning.
According to Tuckman (1965), groups move through different stages of development from ‘forming’, ‘storming’, ‘norming’ to ‘performing’. CCFF has moved through the ‘forming’ stage during which team building and the formation of the team takes place. It is now at a ‘storming’ stage where different ideas compete for consideration as CCFF develops. The ‘norming’ stage will be when it has decided on its main goals and direction, while the ‘performing’ stage is characterised by high performance and motivated and knowledgeable members. The Pathfinder project was won just as CCFF was finding its feet and deciding on its governance structure.
Although the Environment Agency would like to engage with all communities in Cornwall, capacity dictates that it focuses its efforts on high risk areas within the county and uses a community priority approach. There are 200 communities at high risk and
Environment Agency decides whether to:
• send in a member of staff to work with a community and help them develop a flood plan
• point a community to information and advice and suggest it joins CCFF and links in with other communities.
The Environment Agency is interested in the creation of community hubs where a town with an active town council could act as a hub, and support and work with those from nearby villages to share information and expertise.
56 Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering The role of the flood warden There seems to be agreement that further clarity is needed on the role of the flood warden before, during and after a flood event. This will be a crucial part of the training being developed as part of the Pathfinder project. Resolving this uncertainty about what is expected of a flood warden is important if further volunteers are to be recruited.
The boundary of the role can potentially be difficult to clarify, as those with little time can carry out minimal activities while those who want to do more can grow their role – as illustrated by the example of the chair of the PSB Community Flood Group.
Flood wardens mentioned that developing the flood plans had given them confidence.
However, when they started developing flood plans they described feeling ‘quite exposed’ and not really being aware of what was needed and what they had let themselves in for in terms of both the time and effort that would be needed to create a plan. This feeling originally prompted the creation of CCFF so that communities could learn from others without ‘re-inventing the wheel’ (PSB chair).
Engagement with key organisations All the flood wardens and their groups felt that engagement with flood risk authorities was essential. The PSB chair outlined how Environment Agency community engagement staff had given them a ‘huge amount of input and support’, as well as some of the Cornwall Council staff, in providing flood maps and guidance on the risks of flooding. He felt that it was vital that communities created their own flood plans rather than these being imposed on them. However, it was important to have a key person in the community to take this forward and to get support from organisations to do this.
Getting community members involved The Mevagissey flood wardens talked about apathy within the community to take action and a strong feeling from some community members that institutions and organisations should take control and action. One flood warden described how people in the community said ‘they’ (meaning the authorities) should do something such as providing sandbags. There is also the tension that some have lived with flooding for decades( ‘it’s a way of life’).
Insurance, risk and responsibility Insurance cover for flood wardens is an issue. Lostwithiel Flood Watch group encountered a problem when the town council’s insurance company requested some proof of the competency of flood wardens. The company would not insure the flood wardens and so the town council could not enact the community flood plan. CCFF has worked closely with the insurer to develop the community toolkit and a package of training. Training will be delivered by Volunteer Cornwall supported by the Environment Agency and Devon and Cornwall Constabulary (via the Pathfinder and Awards For All projects) to satisfy these types of requirements from insurers.
Insurance is an issue of much discussion for CCFF as other community flood groups do not seem to have been refused insurance in the same way as Lostwithiel.
Tregrehan flood wardens do not seem to be covered by insurance; the chair there calls the group a ‘self help’ group.
The chair of PSB Community Flood Group has worked with another leading municipal insurer to help develop an insurance policy dedicated to community flood groups.
Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering Community volunteers are covered for public liability through a separate standalone policy without the need to go through the town or parish council’s insurance. This solution is attractive to councils that do not want volunteers on their policy but are happy to pay for separate cover. This is another example of an initiative being developed in one community and shared with others through CCFF.
One flood warden chair talked about managing flood wardens so that risks were not
taken. However, this does lead to pressure for chairs who sometimes worry:
‘if people are supplied with flood jackets they might take too many risks’ (Lostwithiel Flood Watch Group).
All the chairs of the flood watch groups had concerns about flood wardens potentially putting themselves at risk, remarking that some people seemed to have a ‘gung-ho’ attitude and would want to jump into the water to rescue anyone in trouble. Managing this is not an easy task, as some people seem to think the role of the flood warden is to save others.
Understanding the flood problem and flood warnings Tregrehan Flood Group has had a problem with surface water flooding and the ponding of water in fields. The chair said there was uncertainty about where the water is coming from. He feels that more assistance from the Environment Agency would be useful to understand this, as he feels that his organisation should have more knowledge of what is happening in the catchment – though the Environment Agency has resolved a blocked culvert.
For some there can be confusion about what the different levels of flood alerts and warnings mean. This was not an issue for the flood wardens interviewed but it was acknowledged by some in CCFF that the system could confuse some people. It can
take time to understand this:
‘When I started three years ago, I had no idea what a flood alert or warning was and how the Environment Agency structure works. Then we had the pilot alert system and that gave us better understanding of the catchment.
Now we are looking at a project with South West Water for £20,000 to get our own rain and river level gauges so we can look at information in real time and get that out to the community’ (PSB Community Flood Group).
Openness and transparency One flood warden talked about wanting the Environment Agency to be open and honest about when it does not have the budget or capacity to help a community.
One challenge is to maintain motivation and engagement of flood wardens:
‘If the problem goes away people forget about it and it’s ‘only because the town had other flood incidents that kept it high on the list’ (Lostwithiel Flood Watch Group).
Maintaining and managing the flow of people who become flood wardens within a community group and then move on to others things with someone else potentially taking their place can be challenging. One flood warden who was chair of a community flood group was concerned that people in the community would get bored, so he tried to actively keep the flow of information and updates going. He outlined that his keenness to motivate the flood wardens in the group and involve them in decision making so that they could feel ‘empowered and competent’.
58 Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering One flood warden described having the community flood group through the town council was both ‘a curse and a blessing’. Although the group was able to gain insurance through the town council, the group had to follow certain procedures and he felt did not have as much freedom as if it was independent.
Recognition and reimbursement Volunteer Cornwall runs annual awards for volunteers. CCFF may consider having a volunteer award in the future. Members of the management board have also suggested that town or parish councils might want to recognise their volunteers in a formal way. At present there is informal recognition of flood wardens, but it is not clear to what extent the flood wardens who were not chairs of their group feel they gain acknowledgment of the efforts they put in to their volunteering.
Reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses does not appear to be common. Volunteer Cornwall stated that good practice in volunteering means people should not be out of pocket. Some flood wardens are not spending anything as they can walk rather than drive to monitor their local water levels.
There is potential for flood groups to gain some funds from CCFF for printing leaflets.
Guidance and support Training for flood wardens is being developed through the Pathfinder project with close input from CCFF. Training will involve two three-hour sessions and will be provided by Volunteer Cornwall. The course will be AQA accredited for those want to gain a qualification; others can undertake the training but not take a test if they do not feel the
need for accreditation. This is seen as very important in terms of:
• enabling flood wardens to gain insurance and to manage responsibility and risk
• promote health and safety
• highlight the role of the flood warden before, during and after a flood event The training package was piloted in selected communities in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset throughout January and February 2014.
A modular approach was adopted for the training to allow other emergencies to be included if needed, as some of the issues are generic across emergencies. There will be opportunities for those who want to do more such as flood warden co-ordinators to take on more responsibility and training to fulfil these roles.
In Cornwall, modules were taught by Volunteer Cornwall, Devon and Cornwall Police, and the Environment Agency. Volunteer Cornwall is also working with town and parish councils within Cornwall to understand how they can better work with local people.
In Devon and Somerset, the training sessions were led by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service instead of Volunteer Cornwall.
CCFF is keen to encourage people with the right skills to get involved. It was thought that providing training could encourage younger people to get involved as they would have something to add to their CV.
The county now has a joint template for community emergency plans and flood plans, with the flood plan forming an appendix of the emergency plan. The integration of the two plans is to try to assist communities and to simplify processes.
Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering Evidence The University of Exeter has been studied the CCFF through one of its masters courses on social enterprise. A survey has been made of parish councils involved in CCFF and those who are not. The study looked at how CCFF manages risk and meets the needs of the people who have joined it and how it should be marketed as it goes forward. The students also considered whether the CCFF should focus on flooding exclusively or wider community emergency planning and whether it should become a charity or a company limited by guarantee.