«Case study, survey, diary and interview research on FCRM volunteering Report – SC120013/R3 We are the Environment Agency. We protect and improve ...»
2013 was the 60th anniversary of the 1953 floods which were called ‘one of the worst peace time disasters in Britain’. The flood hit Lincolnshire badly on the east coast and Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering 43 people were killed in the area (BBC 2003). Easter floods in 1998 also affected large parts of the area with stationary heavy rain and rivers such as the Nene that runs through Peterborough overflowed their banks (Met Office 2012). Severe floods occurred in June 2007 due to a combination of heavy rainfall at the time of the flood, but also because of wet preceding months leading to saturated ground. Flooding in July 2012 caused disruption to the East Coast train line, closed roads and flooded properties (BBC 2012).
The recent storm in October 2013, called ‘St Jude’, saw winds of 44 knots in Lincolnshire (ITV 2013). In December 2013, a tidal surge hit the east coast which has been called the most serious in 60 years. It led to flooding in places like Boston with over 200 hundred people being evacuated from their homes (BBC 2013). Further storms in December 2013 included heavy rain and strong winds in the area.
The Lincolnshire Flood Warden Scheme (LFWS) started approximately 20 years ago.
This is presented here as a case study of direct management of volunteering by the Environment Agency. However, volunteers are not always recruited specifically to the scheme. The scheme started because members of the public came forward wanting to undertake some action and act as eyes and ears on the ground.
Who gets involved in the LFWS and works in partnership?
The Environment Agency’s Flood Warning Service provides information for communities giving them advance notice of flooding from rivers and the sea via different media such as phone, text and email.
Ownership and administration of the LFWS rests mainly with the Environment Agency in partnership with local authorities. The Environment Agency works closely in the LFWS with the emergency planning departments at Lincolnshire County Council (LCC).
They are in contact a couple of times a week and meet frequently. The Environment Agency also works with district councils such as Fenland District Council, though this is not on the same frequency as with LCC.
Objectives set out for flood wardens by Environment Agency and LCC are for them to:
• assist with the completion of the parish/town council community emergency and flood plan
• encourage households in the community to have personal emergency and flood plans in place and to sign up to Floodline When someone approaches a parish council about becoming a flood warden, the Environment Agency sends out information and forms such as a health declaration form and potential volunteers are asked to indicate how many hours volunteering they can do. Coastal flood wardens come directly under LCC’s banner and are sent different forms to complete. In the past, Criminal Record Bureau (now called the Disclosure and Barring Service) checks were also carried out.
The Environment Agency does not directly recruit flood wardens. If it is approached by individuals who want to get involved, they are referred them back to their parish council/town council. However, the Environment Agency undertakes to train flood wardens, in partnership with the local authorities, and provides a manual and toolkit.
• what being a flood warden involves
• the types of activities they should consider/undertake as a flood warden after liaising with their parish/town council 36 Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering
• how they can find out more information This information is sent out once someone has been appointed by their parish/town council as a flood warden.
Environment Agency staff would like to engage with parishes individually but there is not the staff capacity to be able to be more proactive at present. An Environment
Agency Flood Resilience Officer (FRO) highlighted this issue:
‘Flood wardens are an excellent resource, but how can we encourage them more without greater capacity?’ The North Level Internal Drainage Board (IDB) and Welland IDB have both worked with the Environment Agency and lead local flood authorities on flooding awareness and education seminars/workshops. For example, they participated in a Flood Fair in Peterborough organised by Peterborough City Council (PCC) and two of the local flood wardens in the area, providing information about the role of IDBs and what they do.
The IDBs do not work directly with volunteers, but they have talked about what they do at seminars attended by flood wardens. Understanding the roles of IDBs and which rivers and watercourses they are responsible for is important for flood wardens.
An LCC press release put in November 2013 contained a quote from the Ruskington flood warden on why he became a flood warden in order to encourage others to get involved to keep their communities safe from flooding.
The Lincolnshire Resilience Forum uses posters and coastal-specific flood awareness leaflets to encourage coastal communities to be prepared by creating a flood plan (Figure 4.26). The Forum is made up of organisations and agencies that have a role in an emergency situation including local authorities, the Environment Agency, health protection and emergency rescue (fire and police).
Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering Figure 4.26 Flooding campaign materials leaflets available from the Lincolnshire’s Resilience Forum web page Source: http://www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/lincolnshire-prepared/risks/were-prepared-forcoastal-flooding-are-you/117779.article The Fenland District Council interviewee described a recent flood group set up in Whittlesey; the person leading the group is very active and has recruited others to the group. He had gone out to talk to the group, the first time he had been involved in a flood group in his district.
A newsletter update on Whittlesey Washes South Barrier work was sent to flood wardens so they could tell others in their community about it. The Environment Agency continues to attend meetings and supply up-to-date information on the project and business partners update residents about it.
Profile of flood wardens interviewed Of the six flood wardens interviewed, one was female and the rest male. All but one were retired; one flood warden was in his thirties and the rest were in their late fifties to mid-seventies. All classed themselves as White British and none had a disability.
All the interviews for the case study took place before the tidal surge and storms that affected Lincolnshire in December 2013. Three of the flood wardens were in a group with a small number of other flood wardens, while the rest were the sole flood warden in their village or town. The flood wardens interviewed were based in Louth, North Somercotes, Ruskington, Greatford and Peterborough.
Flooding in the area and getting involved None of the six flood wardens interviewed had had their houses flooded, though three had experienced it ‘lapping at the doorstep’.
The Greatford flood warden stated that the village had experienced flooding four times in the previous 30 years, with some flood water entering a few garages on two of these occasions. The village suffers from occasional fluvial flooding. However, the flood warden stated that no Flood Warning had ever been received (at November 2013) in 38 Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering the village because the height of water in the nearby river to trigger consideration of a Flood Warning had been set too high (above the maximum height ever reached). This was rectified in February 2013 when a more realistic figure was set. When the previous flood warden wanted to step down, the interviewee said he was willing and interested in becoming involved. He reports to the parish council which ratified his appointment;
he is covered by the parish council’s indemnity insurance but is not a parish councillor.
Because of the way in which flooding occurs and the shallow depth of any flood water, the flood warden does not think it is necessary or appropriate to develop a formal flood plan for the village. He has discussed and agreed this with the parish council and the Environment Agency.
The two flood wardens in Peterborough experienced flooding surrounding their houses in the 1998 floods when the River Nene reached its highest level. They woke to find water surrounding their houses. One of the flood wardens was working abroad at that time. The other worked with the police and the council to let residents know what was going on. A blocked culvert had been part of the problem and one of the flood wardens was involved in designing a new outlet which has helped the situation.
The flood warden in Louth explained that the town was unique in Lincolnshire as it is a rapid response catchment and ‘can go from a normal state to a flood state in 2 hours’.
The town experienced flooding in 2007 and has had some near misses since then.
Another flood warden interviewee was at greater risk of coastal flooding and talked about the 1953 floods which everyone in her community knew about.
Another flood warden, who is a parish councillor, became a flood warden with three others when flooding occurred in their village in 2011.
Activities of the flood wardens The flood wardens have been involved in a range of activities. One flood warden in Louth was interviewed on TV when the St Jude storm was threatening the area in October 2013. This flood warden also uses Facebook and Twitter as a means to raise awareness and for people to be able to contact him. He said he had ‘600 followers on Facebook and 100 on Twitter’.
A crucial part of the activities of all the flood wardens who were interviewed was monitoring river/water levels in their local area. For one flood warden this involved taking numerous photographs and using these in reports he sent to the local parish council and the Environment Agency. Flood wardens are encouraged to acquire up-todate information to ensure that information placed on Facebook and Twitter is current.
Tracking and calibrating water levels was considered crucial by the flood wardens in Peterborough who got to know the high water points at two Environment Agency monitoring stations from the 1998 flooding and through taking their own measurements accurately near to where they live. They now understand how long any flood water might take to reach them. One of these two flood wardens stated he was ‘not as concerned as he used to be as he now understands what he needs to do and they have a complete profile [of the water] of their local area’. Now he knows ‘when to get worried’ and can pass that knowledge on to others.
Raising awareness was also considered an important activity and two flood wardens had been involved in helping to organise the Flood Fair in Peterborough for local residents in which Peterborough City Council, the Environment Agency and IDBs took part.
Another flood warden worked with the Environment Agency in revising down the height of the water needed to trigger a flood alert and flood warning in his village which has Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering never had a flood warning. He also worked with the Environment Agency in running a consultation in the village hall with local residents to raise awareness and to provide information to the local community.
The need to undertake activities can reduce over time. For example, one of the flood wardens described how his role was not as important as it was in the past as infrastructure that had been put in place was effectively reducing the chance of flooding.
Motivations of flood volunteering One of the flood wardens, now retired, said that when he was working he would not have been able to be a flood warden as he would not have had the time. Another flood warden that who was still working felt that people who were flood wardens and who were also working were under an ‘incredible amount of stress’. He wondered why others who were not working did not get involved; he thought apathy was widespread.
He was motivated by two other flood wardens he worked with in his area. He argued
‘when the pain goes away you don’t treat the pain anymore you forget about it, so it [the flooding] doesn’t always stay in people’s minds’.
Motivations for getting involved included ‘not wanting to get my feet wet’; another person had had water lapping at their doorstep and after being invited to a seminar on flooding he decided to get involved, while the female flood warden felt that she had the skills both organisational and practical from her work experience in the Army that she could apply to the role of flood warden.
All the flood wardens interviewed seemed to be motivated as well by an interest in understanding more about the technical details of flooding.
Benefits of flood volunteering Individual benefits included a personal interest for those who were at risk from flooding in their properties. An increase in knowledge and understanding about flood issues in their areas and what water levels need to get to before they become concerned about the risk to their area was also important.
A retired female flood warden felt that getting involved helped to give her ‘a sense of purpose and meaning’. She suggested that one of the dangers of getting older is ‘feeling you don’t matter anymore’; being a flood warden helps her fulfil a role that has meaning for her.
For the Greatford flood warden it is:
‘Something that needs doing for the village. Technically it’s interesting, and it is good to work with the Environment Agency. I have learnt a lot and feel that it is well worth doing while there is the opportunity to drive things forward and reduce the risk of future flood events’.
Another flood warden carries out some monitoring but also enjoys access to the latest thinking on flooding issues from the Environment Agency.