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Flood planning is an essential for UK business continuity managers

John Ball  AFBCI looks at  the UK National Flood Resilience Review from a business continuity manager’s perspective.

How wet can it get? That is the question that the National Flood Resilience Review has been considering since the report, that was commissioned in January 2016 after the UK winter floods, was published on the 12th of September. The 145 pages make a lengthy but interesting read, outlining some the work that has been going on with regard to flood defences so far.

The Environment Agency has developed an ‘extreme flood outlines’ map, which shows the expected reach of floods that are more extreme than those some of us faced this year. The report outlines the science that has been used to set these limits, which, it has to be said, are extreme circumstances.

Current work involves:

  • Establishment of a national infrastructure resilience council.
  • Temporary flood protection measures for some areas to be in place by Christmas 2016.
  • Road, rail and airport investment in flood resilience.
  • Protection of remote communities.
  • Identification of single points of failure – e.g. bridges that carry power and communications lines.
  • Acquisition of increased number of portable flood barriers.
  • Creation of a National Flood Response Asset Register – available via Resilience Direct.
  • Environment Agency to conduct a resilience exercise this autumn to test readiness to deploy new barrier assets, along with the Cabinet Office and Civil Contingencies Secretariat who will exercise their arrangements at the same time.
  • Core City Project: Sheffield will be the first to take part in this flood defence project, which if successful will be rolled out to our other major cities.
  • Autumn awareness campaign to be run by the Environment Agency about flooding.

The report also contains some detailed advice on warning and informing people about flooding and the language to be used in putting the information across.

It seems that much has been done in this area since January with a great deal more to come, which can only be good news especially to those that have been flooded in the past.

The review only covers river and coastal flooding measures, it does not cover surface water flooding, which will be separated from this group in the National Risk Assessment for 2016. This is unfortunate, as surface water flooding has caused its fair share of damage and disruption in large urban areas.

A great many business continuity disruptions continue to be caused by water, either too much and the kit stops working, or none at all and you have to send staff home. I have recently visited a new public sector building that housed its main computer servers in the basement with overhead service pipes running all over the place. These buildings are in our midst.

I think that this report is a timely reminder about flooding and presents us with the opportunity to carry out a bit of integrated emergency management practice:

  • Anticipate - What happens if it floods
  • Assess – The impact on your operations
  • Prevent – Is there anything you can do to prevent or reduce the risk?
  • Protect - If asset or activity is key, protect against disruption: business continuity planning
  • Respond – response phase
  • Recover -  recovery management.

All in all, I think that it’s fair to say we can expect it to be wet this winter, but it’s going to get wetter, so be prepared.

The author

John Ball, AFBCI, was the BCI European Continuity /Resilience Manager of the Year 2016.

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