Thousands won't get flood warning

THOUSANDS of people in one of Suffolk's lowest-lying seafront areas would not receive an early flood warning if a severe tidal surge happened, it was revealed today.

THOUSANDS of people in one of Suffolk's lowest-lying seafront areas would not receive an early flood warning if a severe tidal surge happened, it was revealed today.

As weathermen warn tonight of a fresh battering for the coast with winds of up to 70mph it has been revealed that less than one in five homes on Felixstowe's floodplain has signed up to the Floodline system to receive an automated call to give them up to 12 hours' notice of the danger of the sea sweeping through their streets.

More than 1,000 families were left unaware earlier this month as a surge sent water into seafront streets, flooded civic gardens, damaged the prom, and smashed beach huts, as they slept.

Today there are also calls for changes to the current Environment Agency warning system after seafront guest house owner Geoff Harvey failed to be told about a weather warning earlier this month - despite the Agency having his mobile phone number, home phone number and email address.

If the worst was to happen, it may be up to police officers to drive around with loud hailers warning people to evacuate their homes - a system almost the same as in 1953 when 40 people died as a tidal surge suddenly burst the banks of the Orwell and flooded the resort's West End area.

Mr Harvey, who with his wife Anne runs the Grafton Guest House in Sea Road, said the system needed to be changed. Home owners have to choose which categories of flood warnings they want to be signed up to and although Mr Harvey thought he had signed up for all four, he apparently had not signed for the lowest warning.

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He said: “We live in the basement of our property and, of course, have guests staying all week, so it is quite a worry when the sea is high and coming over the prom.

“My concern is to be able to keep the guests informed so people staying here for a few days and who would not be familiar with the building, know how to escape should there be an emergency.

“I don't know why the authorities have to have such a complicated system. I would have thought the more information available at any time of high tides or possible flooding the better - they should be ringing or alerting everyone rather than asking people what categories they want to be alerted to. It's better to be prepared than not prepared.”

There are around 1,300 properties - including hotels and guest houses, homes, and houses in multiple occupation - at risk on Felixstowe seafront.

Catherine Burbage, principal communications officer for the Environment Agency, said of these only 250 were registered with Floodline.

People chose to be warned of a floodwatch, when flooding of low lying land is expected, or a flood warning level or a severe flood warning. There had been 24 floodwatches in the past three years but no flood warnings or severe warnings.

She said: “The Environment Agency liaises regularly with all the emergency services in Suffolk. In the event of a major catastrophe our coordinated flood plans would be put into operation to deal with the event. Arrangements also exist to use the media to broadcast vital information in such unlikely and serious circumstances.


Are you worried about flooding this winter? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

FASTFACTS: Preparing for the worst . . .

Make sure you have adequate insurance. Flood damage is included in most buildings insurance policies but do check your home and contents are covered.

Make up a flood kit - including key personal documents, torch, battery or wind-up radio, mobile phone, rubber gloves, wellington boots, waterproof clothing, first aid kit and blankets.

Keep details of your insurance policy and the emergency contact numbers somewhere safe - Floodline 0845 988 1188 - preferably as part of your flood kit.

Get into the habit of storing valuable or sentimental items and important documents upstairs or in a high place.

Buy some sandbags or flood boards to block doorways and airbricks. In an emergency, make sandbags using old pillow cases, carrier bags or even tights filled with sand or earth.

Make sure you know where to turn off your gas, electricity and water. If you're not sure, ask the person who checks your meter when they next visit. Mark the tap or switch with a sticker to help you remember.

Source: The Environment Agency