«Case study, survey, diary and interview research on FCRM volunteering Report – SC120013/R3 We are the Environment Agency. We protect and improve ...»
This was submitted to Ofwat and led to the reallocation of substantial funding (£1.8 million) for infrastructure improvements in the area. The PSB chair has also given presentations at Defra, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and Cabinet Office Community resilience workshops held in May 2013. The PSB Community Flood Group and the Mevagissey Flood Watch Group 6 are being used as a case study by the Cabinet Office of communities using Facebook to build community resilience.
The group has links with other community groups in its area such as the Plymouth Brethren, Friends of Par beach and Par Community Association (PCA). The PCA produces a newsletter to which the flood group contributes.
The PSB chair spends a considerable amount of time on the group and as treasurer of the CCFF management board. He has cancelled social events and trips away to make sure he is available during flood alerts. He is now working towards restructuring the PSB group so that the co-ordinators take more responsibility and to split the flood wardens into specific groups based on location. This is because, when flooding occurs, parts of the community can be cut off from other parts.
Mevagissey Flood Watch Group The group has grown to about 20 flood wardens who will help out in an emergency.
However, there is a small core of flood wardens who are more active in being prepared. The chair described how there had been 50 flood warnings for the community in the previous year and that they want to ensure that ‘people don’t panic’, so part of their role is to reassure the community.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oLXbgB08C4&noredirect=1 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Par-and-St-Blazey-Community-FloodGroup/217055685009564 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mevagissey-Flood-Watch/144832092264487 Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering The group’s objectives are to protect and help the community to respond to flooding.
Now that the group has a flood plan, it does not meet or spend time discussing the plan but takes action when necessary. The flood plan is comprehensive and, like the PSB plan, has been endorsed by Cornwall Council and the Environment Agency.
Tregrehan Flood Group The group started in 2011 after the village had problems with surface water flooding and pooling in fields. At present the chair is trying to understand where the water is coming from and would like more assistance in this from the Environment Agency.
Joint action by flood groups PSB and Mevagissey flood groups are both participating in a pilot flood alert scheme established by the Environment Agency. Alerts are issued via the chairs if certain water levels are reached. A three-level system is in place and, if level 3 is reached, the community may only have a couple of hours warning of an imminent flood. The pilot is giving the groups more confidence and enables direct conversation with the
‘We have the right telephone numbers and if we are in trouble can ring the flood warning duty officer. Since the pilot started we have gone through all the three levels. The thing we are grappling with is the number of alerts. We try to manage the situation so they don’t over burden members of the public and raise levels of concern and don’t get it to a point where we are crying wolf and people become complacent’ (PSB Community Flood Group chair).
Alerts received from the pilot alert scheme are issued through PSB’s Facebook page which, at the time of writing, had more than 650 ‘likes’. The actual Facebook audience is much greater than this and, when a severe flood warning was issued via the PSB Facebook page on 3 January 2013, it was viewed by 9,400 people locally. In addition, the PSB chair has the contact numbers of 100 local residents stored on his phone who do not use social media and prefer to receive the localised flood alerts as text messages.
PSB, Lostwithiel and Mevagissey flood groups all launched their flood plans at the same time to publicise what they had done and to mark the first anniversary of the 2010 flooding. One flood warden described how there was a lot of people from the press at the anniversary and there was pressure on the groups to get their flood plans ready in time, although it did provide a focus for them.
Motivations of volunteering Motivations included not wanting to let the community or your neighbours down. One flood warden chair talked about ‘feeling as though I couldn’t not get involved … you can’t turn your back on it’. He also suggested that, because his group is a member of the CCFF, this is a good way to motivate communities that are at risk. When they developed a plan and got funding for defences that was also a motivation. He also described the ‘busy-ness’ carrying on after 2010 as Cornwall had further flood incidents and this has also motivated continuation of voluntary action. Another flood warden has a similar view ‘I wouldn’t be comfortable not doing something’.
Valuing the village or town where they live was also a strong motivation to get involved.
For others using skills they had from their working life could also mean they felt comfortable getting involved, though some of the very active flood wardens did not realise how much time would be needed such as ‘6-8 months of solid work’ to create a community flood plan. For one flood warden being analytical and using these skills was a motivation.
52 Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering CCFF is clear that people can get involved in volunteering in a variety of ways and that being a flood warden is not the only role. Some people might agree to take in those who have been flooded, while others will agree to take care of people’s pets. Some felt
that use of social media could assist in motivation by connecting people:
‘People tend to listen to and trust people they know. They have network of people we know and they influence us far more than government officials.
That is how social media works, you get connected with like-minded people. That’s how we work as social creatures’ (Volunteer Cornwall).
Benefits of volunteering Benefits to the individual Benefits identified included social capital benefits of working in a team and discussing issues with like-minded people. One flood warden chair talked about gaining benefits from other people putting forward ideas and bringing different skills to the group.
Another described the benefits of living in a close knit community and how, after getting flooded and with a kitchen out of action, being invited by others in the community for dinner for many weeks.
Benefits to the community Benefits to the community were described by flood wardens as people becoming more aware of the risks and understanding that flooding will occur again in the future.
Members of communities can also become better informed by flood wardens encouraging them to sign up for flood warnings and by flood wardens managing expectations. For example, one flood warden described how people had rung him up for sandbags but have stopped now they realise that is not something that the town council supplies.
The chair of the PSB Community Flood Group talked about the importance of being a
trusted source of information and support within the community:
‘In our community we have a lot of people who are less mobile and do not have family or friends living nearby. It is really useful to them to be able to come to me and ask whatever they want. I have been asked about problems with rising insurance costs, how to receive flood warnings, what they can do to protect property, where to get sandbags, blocked drains and problems with flooding from private land. After the floods I was asked by some people to be at meetings with their insurers and builders to make sure things were done right. I even get calls from people looking to move to the area wanting to know if the property they are looking at is likely to flood.
I may not always have the answer, but I always know who to put them in touch with’.
The PSB chair described the community receiving thousands of pounds in investment to upgrade pumps, replace or upgrade culverts and drains. The community is experiencing less impact of flooding due to this investment.
The skills and knowledge gained by the flood wardens in the past few years give them a much greater understanding of when flooding might be a problem in their local area.
This can be invaluable in reassuring community members and helping to maintain
calm. As one flood warden put it:
‘In 2010 we had no idea it was going to happen, it was catastrophic’ (Mevagissey Flood Watch Group).
Another flood warden illustrated how they can help the emergency services:
Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering ‘In the last flood we had there was only 4–5 of us [flood wardens] here. The rest were away and the police were under pressure as well and all their vehicles were down at Truro. So they came into the village and said: “do you need any help, you look like you have it under control”. We said: “if we need you, we will give you a call”. So they could go off and do what they needed elsewhere, knowing they had someone on the ground to report’ (Mevagissey Flood Watch Group).
The PSB chair added:
‘In November and December of 2012 we had extensive flooding across Cornwall after prolonged rainfall. I received calls direct from Silver Command in the middle of the night asking what the situation was like on the ground. I was able to roll out of bed, drive around the area and call back to say everything was clear, no flooding. It meant Cornwall Council and the emergency services could allocate resources to where they were really needed. They trusted my information and I was their eyes and ears’.
CCFF can also provide benefit to communities:
‘The great thing about the CCFF is that they give continuity to community plans, as they are part of a bigger whole working with people and updating people and giving advice and that support keeps the plans live’ (Environment Agency).
The Property Level Protection Grant Scheme funded by Defra from 2009 to 2011 provided over £500,000 to Cornwall to protect individual houses. Communities had to produce flood plans to gain access to the funding, but benefited from this investment.
‘Flood wardens, and the chairs of the individual flood groups in particular, played a key role during the grant process by acting as a link between Cornwall Council and the individual householders. Volunteers used their local knowledge to help to distribute letters and contact home owners directly on behalf of the council and to also feedback any issues or concerns. This all helped to speed up the process and get information to those who needed it’ (PSB chair).
For the Environment Agency having active flood wardens embedded in a community is
‘If the other people in your community accept that there is a flood risk and are saying we are going to do something about it and we want to help you, you also then get a better understanding of the flood risk and realise that your community is doing something about it around you. You may then either want to get involved or realise there is a support structure within your community as well’ (Environment Agency).
Benefits to the flood groups The pilot flood alert scheme in which PSB and Mevagissey flood groups are participating has given them greater confidence in warning their communities about flooding. Since the flooding in 2010 the flood wardens described the authorities such as Cornwall Council and Environment Agency as becoming much more proactive. The PSB chair is now working with South West Water and a hydrometric company to install a tipping bucket rain gauge and to do some modelling to provide even more information to the group and wider community.
The flood groups working together, sharing knowledge, information and support was seen as beneficial, as well as the efforts of some key people who are particularly
active. Speaking of PSB chair, Lostwithiel Flood Watch Group said:
54 Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering ‘He is brilliant. If it wasn’t for him they [Lostwithiel flood watch group] would not have got as far as they have. He [PSB chair] wasn’t flooded in 2010, yet he puts in all this time and doesn’t get paid and also runs his own business’.
The floods of 2012 acted as a test for some of the community flood plans that had been created. For example, Lostwithiel Flood Watch Group was able to test its plan in these floods and has since changed what it does; it has also helped to clarify the role of the flood warden. CCFF can help provide advice and support, to provide continuity to community flood plans and to ensure groups keep flood plans live.
Benefits to organisations CCFF has brought together organisations that were not as connected as they could
‘The linkage between the statutory organisations and the town and parish councils and the people in the community who are key – I would single this out as the one thing the forum has done that was not happening before’ (Pathfinder project manager).
Sharing lessons across Cornwall was also seen as a major benefit of CCFF:
‘But there has been a willingness to engage and to look at different ways of doing things and to learn together’ (Volunteer Cornwall).
The Environment Agency can also bring a national perspective to CCFF as a national body.
The Environment Agency can gain much benefit from what a community can offer in terms of reducing flood risk as flood wardens can get messages out to people and can empower them.
‘The community can provide real time live information … and flood wardens in the community can help people to accept flood risk and identify what they are going to do about it’ (Environment Agency).
Not only do the proactive flood wardens act as the ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground for
the Environment Agency and other organisations: