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Urgent need for resources in flood response: Insights from the Fire Brigades Union and NAO Report

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Assessing the Flood Risk in England

The National Audit Office’s recent report on flooding resilience in England has shed light on a critical issue: the immense risk posed by flooding to properties and infrastructure.

It reveals that around 5.7 million properties are at risk of flooding. Key infrastructure elements like rail, water supply, and gas infrastructure are also under significant threat, with percentages of risk ranging up to 77% for rail infrastructure.

This risk is exacerbated by a lack of long-term planning, with no specific measures or targets for flood resilience set by the government​​​​.

Frontline firefighters: The unsung heroes

The Fire Brigades Union’s response to the report highlights the dire situation faced by firefighters, who are the frontline protectors against the ravages of flooding.

With recent extreme weather events like Storms Babet and Ciaran causing widespread flooding and damage, the role of firefighters has never been more critical.

Matt Wrack, the General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, emphasised the lack of a statutory duty for fire and rescue services in England to respond to floods, unlike in other parts of the UK.

Since 2010, the fire and rescue service has seen significant job losses and funding cuts, which hampers their ability to effectively respond to flood emergencies​​​​.

Financial constraints and inadequate preparedness

While the government has increased capital funding for flood defence, there is a disconnect between the allocation of funds and actual delivery of flood protection.

The National Audit Office highlights concerns about the underspending in the initial years of the programme and the risk of not achieving value for money.

The lack of a coherent long-term plan for flood resilience, coupled with the underfunding of maintenance for existing flood defences, puts additional pressure on emergency services like the fire and rescue teams​​.

Impact of flooding on emergency response times

Research from Loughborough University underscores the significant impact of flooding on the ability of emergency services to respond timely.

Flooding can impede access, increase traffic congestion, and thus delay response times.

In scenarios of significant flooding, the ability of ambulances to reach life-threatening incidents within the critical 7-minute window is drastically reduced.

This impact is felt unevenly across the country, with certain regions experiencing greater reductions in response times​​.

The growing challenge of flood response

Firefighters are increasingly becoming the first responders to flood events.

The Fire Brigades Union’s report ‘Inundated: The Lessons of Recent Flooding for the Fire and Rescue Service’ highlights the growing risks from climate change-induced flooding.

With the increasing frequency and severity of such events, firefighters are expected to be busier in the years ahead, responding to emergencies arising from sea, river, and surface water flooding​​.

30 facts and statistics about flooding and the UK property market

Flooding is an issue that firefighters have to deal with every year, and the number of cases is on the rise.

From urban areas that suffer from flash flooding to coastal spots that are hit by rising tides, rescuing people and securing homes and businesses is a key part of any firefighter’s job, despite sounding very far from it.

Unfortunately, the amount of people impacted by flooding is increasing, in part due to climate change, and also because of old drainage and poor planning.

This comprehensive guide from AVRillo discusses the impact that flooding is having in the UK, including on the property market for those in flood areas.

With climate-related damages costing 1.1% of UK GDP, this is a serious issue that everyone needs to be aware of, especially as this isn’t a concern that will go away any time soon.

Even if you’re not based in the UK, this guide is still a fascinating glimpse into the impact that flooding has on homes.

As firefighters, it’s important to understand the role you can play in helping the public stay safe and protect their homes in the event of this disaster.

Education is a crucial factor, as homeowners can protect their property with permeable driveways, raised steps, lightweight doors with rising butt hinges, non-return valves and more.

Read this expert guide today to find out more about protection against flooding, and get the word out to help the public stay safe.

IFSJ Comment

The insights from the Fire Brigades Union and the National Audit Office report bring to light the growing challenge of flood response in England.

The increasing frequency and severity of flooding, driven by climate change and other factors, place immense pressure on our emergency services, particularly the fire and rescue teams.

The lack of a statutory duty for these services to respond to floods in England, combined with significant resource constraints, raises serious concerns about preparedness and response capabilities.

It is clear that a more coordinated, well-funded approach is required to not only enhance flood defence infrastructure but also to ensure that emergency services are adequately equipped and supported to handle these increasingly common natural disasters.

This situation underscores the need for comprehensive planning and investment in flood resilience measures, not only as a matter of infrastructure development but also as a crucial aspect of community safety and emergency response preparedness.

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