GUEST BLOG by Craig Woolhouse, Acting Director Incident Management and Resilience, at the Environment Agency.
Around one in six properties in the UK are at risk of flooding. That’s millions of people and businesses that can potentially be affected by adverse weather – something that as a country we are all too familiar with.
That’s why at the Environment Agency and for our colleagues at Natural Resources Wales one of our main goals is to protect as many people as we can from the impact of flooding, be that through physical defences, ‘slow the flow’ schemes or being able to respond even quicker.
We’re building more than 1,500 flood defence schemes over the next six years which will better protect 300,000 homes and businesses. But we also want to help communities to protect themselves by keeping them informed, allowing them to take action, prepare, and limit the impact of flooding as much as possible.
For more than a decade we’ve worked with Fujitsu to deliver our early flood warning system in England and Wales that warns around 1.2 million people, and now we’ve entered a new chapter of that relationship.
After a competitive tender process, Fujitsu were selected to develop the new system that will be even more resilient and responsive than before. The service we want to create will integrate flood warnings to a whole host of extra digital channels, with social media given a particular focus.
This means, when signing-up to receive warnings, people and emergency response partners can receive them through whichever channel they prefer – be that email, SMS, or through a push notification.
On top of this, with Fujitsu we’re building a new mobile app that will warn people on the move, based on their current location, rather than just being tied to an address. It means if you’re travelling through an area you can be kept completely up to date in real time with changes in the natural environment around you.
Working with Fujitsu, we’re developing a system from the ground-up; putting people at the heart of everything we build.
The Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales is doing this with a long-term view for greater automation and giving many more people greater choice over how they receive flood warnings.
In the future this will include even better use of telemetric data, data provided automatically and transmitted wirelessly from remote sensors and the internet of things (IoT) to create automated warnings. This will free up valuable staff time to focus on emergency response.
We’re involving communities and our own staff in the development of the flood warning system right from the get-go. This will be a new approach for us when working in collaboration with a supplier.
The bottom line is we want people to be as informed as possible. For people living in a flood risk area they will be able to receive warnings in a timely manner and be given a choice of how to receive them.
By giving people that choice, we hope people will be more responsive to taking action in the event of a flood warning. We are aiming to have it up and running by the end of this year.
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