Monday, 1 November 2010


PROBLEM: Limited funding for permanent flood alleviation schemes means we will either have to wait many years for them to be implemented or they might not ever happen. Consequently - people / businesses / infrastructure will be flooded.

SOLUTION: Make use of BSI Kitemarked, long proven, innovative, temporary flood barriers with a long lifespan / low life cost instead of:
  • sandbags
  • permanent schemes which are unlikely to happen in the near future
  • doing nothing

PROBLEM: No funding for Local Authorities to provide manpower to deploy these temporary products.

SOLUTION: Let manufacturers provide training for communities, business owners, hospital/school staff etc in how to deploy these temporary barriers, for best practice. In business parks, staff from different companies could work together for a common cause. This would include Health & Safety aspects, lifting techniques and any site specific issues.

PROBLEM: With regards to Health & Safety - how can we allow members of the public to deploy a flood barrier?

Well, how can we allow members of the public to do the following:
  • Handle heavy, often polluted sandbags which, frankly, we all know do not provide the most effective protection and quite often burst?
  • Wade through flood water because nothing was done in the first place or because the sandbags didn’t hold back the water?
SOLUTION: Let manufacturers provide relevant H&S training. If in doubt, if your risk aversity really presents a problem for you, let said members of the public sign an agreement where they say they are aware of any risks - once they have been trained by the manufacturer. Belt and braces.

PROBLEM: Even if communities and various groups were to consent to being involved, there is not enough lead time. Much of the flooding is of a flashy nature and it would take too long to deploy a barrier.
Besides - there are logistic issues, as lorries must be provided and these can get stuck in traffic or hindered by flooded roads.
  • With improved warnings, not least through the new Flood Forecasting Centre, it should still be possible to react. Most barriers are quick and easy to deploy. Some barriers can also be deployed in water so help can be at hand even if you get there slightly late.
  • For known flooding ‘hot spots’, make sure the barriers are stored and kept locally - on site if possible. Provide locked containers, complete with pumps - ready to go, with easy-to-understand, laminated copies of the manuals - for anyone who needs to use it.
  • Make agreements with local contractors to keep the barriers in their locked yards.
  • Some barriers can be stored by neighbours, in garages.
  • Businesses might have their own storage solutions.

PROBLEM: Due to surface water flooding, drainage issues etc we cannot always predict where floods might occur, so providing temporary flood barriers still does not solve the problem. Plus - what about access to any local barrier storage? What if the person responsible is away when the flooding occurs?

SOLUTION: Introduce voluntary, local/regional ‘FLOOD BRIGADES’ across the UK, in a ‘retained Fire Brigade/RNLI’ style.

Firstly, these could consist of just about anyone who would like to help - maybe based upon any existing flood wardens,ex emergency staff, neighbours or existing communities. The idea would be to make better use of the ad hoc, Dunkirk spirited ‘workforce’ which normally would spend time filling and carrying sandbags, by diverting their energy into something more productive and useful instead. The volunteers would be recruited beforehand. Like retained firemen, they would drop their day job when called upon.

Local people know the area, know the first signs of flooding, which roads to avoid, where vulnerable people live etc.

They can make a real difference - initially.

Secondly, make sure these ‘brigades’ have access to nearby depots of BSI Kitemarked, long proven, innovative, temporary flood barriers of various kind. Different products serve different purposes. With training, provided by the manufacturers of the different types of temporary products, the Flood Brigade could be ready to provide a solution to local areas where no other flood protection can be given.

As for availability - there would have to be a rota amongst the local brigade, to guarantee that someone is in the ‘chair’ 24hrs. The practicalities with regards to access would be decided amongst the local group.


In an ideal world, flood protection would always be provided, by the Council, for every community, resident or business.

Sadly, this is not the case. Therefore, we must make sure alternative strategies are in place locally and that people are given the chance to do what they can in flood emergencies.

We must look at new, innovative, quirky ways of making the most of the situation.

Where permanent solutions are not viable for aesthetic or economic reasons, we must make more use of temporary flood products. However - as there is an abundance of these on the market, only BSI Kitemarked products with a long, proven record should be considered. Their life span is an important factor if they are going to be used repeatedly, decade after decade, for future generations. We must look at how much money they are likely to save during floods and compare this to the total cost for the length of their acclaimed lifespan. In other words - life cost aspects should be crucial.

Any group of people can come together and be trained by the manufacturer in using these products. On a more positive note - this might even have positive social effects in certain communities. As there would have to be planning meetings and training sessions (in the local pub?) and so on - people would have to get out, come together and become engaged. People who work together for a common cause normally stick together, especially if the alternative is a flooded home!

On a national level, the introduction of a network of local, voluntary ‘Flood Brigades’ across the UK could make a great difference. By combining voluntary work by various types of communities (residents, business staff, hospital staff, infrastructure staff etc) and scattered depots, filled with temporary flood products - help could be at hand a lot quicker.

Looking back at the 2007 flooding in England, which cost UK plc £3 billion - local Flood Brigades would be a good investment in human resources.


  1. Really interesting idea around the introduction of a 'Flood Brigade', especially in light of recent spending cuts for local authorities & flood protection.

    Do you think it would be an easy idea to implement logistically? Would need Governement backing?

    Surface water flooding and drainage routes can be mapped and predicted pretty accurately now. It is possible to model the degree of surface water flood risk at indiviudal household level for a large extent of the UK. This data could help to predict high risk areas and prepare accordingly.

    Interesting post - thanks Britt.

  2. WOw the ideal world! Well as I live and work in Worcestershire I see first hand the devastation of flooding. If local and national government could use such defenses then the infrastructure would change dramatically