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Major flooding test highlights need to be prepared

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Residents and businesses throughout Herefordshire, Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Worcestershire are now being encouraged to check their own preparations for flooding, following the successful Exercise Watermark test.

Many local agencies took part in the dramatic role-playing scenario that was designed to test the systems and processes that respond to floods. The exercise gave the teams a chance to test their cross-boundary arrangements and their links with the Government's 'COBRA' emergency committee, while also providing experience of working with the Welsh Assembly in case a flood occurred on both sides of the border.

A special strategic group was set up at West Mercia Police's Hindlip headquarters with personnel from the police, fire and rescue services, the Environment Agency, Worcestershire County Council, Herefordshire Council, Shropshire Council, Telford & Wrekin Council and representatives for Worcestershire's six district councils, among others.

The agencies' plans were been put under severe pressure during the exercise and early signs showed they stood up well to some serious incidents. The teams now await a report that will assess their plans' performance and identify learning points to further improve the response.

All of the organisations are working together to encourage their local communities and businesses to prepare for future flooding, because one in six properties across England and Wales is at risk. They are urging local people to register for Floodline Warnings Direct via the Environment Agency's website, make a flood plan and think about installing Kitemarked flood defence products at home and at work.

Exercise Watermark is a Defra-led project, delivered by the Environment Agency. It is a multi-agency exercise, with the Environment Agency being one of many organisations involved. The aim of Exercise Watermark is to conduct a wide ranging and publicly engaging exercise that tests the arrangements across England and Wales to respond to all aspects of severe, wide-area flooding.

The national exercise is taking place between Friday, March 4 and Friday, March 11, with the West Mercia region involved mostly on Tuesday, March 8. The exercise is testing all aspects of severe, wide area flooding across England and Wales and involves a number of related severe weather conditions, such as flooding from the sea, rivers, surface water and reservoirs.

Eamonn Croft of West Mercia Local Resilience Forum, speaking on behalf of the multi-agency partners, said: "Exercise Watermark is taking place throughout the country across a number of days, so we'll only know how successful everyone's plans and arrangements have been when we analyse the overall response. However, the experience in West Mercia was clearly a very effective test and I was impressed by the commitment and dedication shown by everyone involved. It has highlighted the fact that being prepared is the most successful way to respond to the risk of flooding and I hope that local people and businesses will follow this example and take action to protect themselves and their properties."

Anyone who wants to find out if their property is at risk or who wants to sign up for
Floodline Warnings Direct should visit www.environment-agency.gov.uk
or call Floodline on 0845 988 1188.

More information about Exercise Watermark is available at www.exercisewatermark.co.uk