Fire brigade projects to reduce flooding dangers in Essex

Essex fire crews respond to flooding incident. Picture: ECFRS

Essex fire crews respond to flooding incident. Picture: ECFRS - Credit: Archant

Fire chiefs in Essex hope a series of projects to prevent and warn the public about floods will stop heavy rainfall turning into a drain on the brigade’s resources.

Flooding is one of the few types of incident attended by Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) which has seen an increase in the past two years.

As a result the brigade has invested in specialist equipment and training for its crews.

Now, in a bid to stop firefighters being called to non-life threatening incidents involving flooding, and potentially diverting crews away from more serious events such as car crashes or fires, it has teamed up with County Hall to take a more pro-active approach.

As well as sharing more information with Essex County Council (ECC) and other organisations such as Anglian Water, the Environment Agency, and parish councils, ECFRS is helping to co-ordinate a number of projects in a range of areas.

These include developing an app which the public can use to report both potential causes of flooding such as blocked drains or culverts and actual floods, installing automatic flood warning signs at hotspots, and sending out brigade volunteers to clear ditches and other waterways of debris.

ECFRS is also considering sending operational crews out to do such preventative work when they are not at incidents or carrying out other community work.

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Assistant Divisional Officer Richie Farrant, who has been seconded to ECC’s water management team for the past year, has been leading on the projects.

He said: “We are overwhelmed and delighted with the response we have had – we didn’t appreciate how keen people were to be involved.

“The potential for operational crews to be involved is vast. We can tell crews where their flood risk problem areas are, and build them into their daily routines.

“Spending one or two hours clearing the ditch can save sending a fire engine there after the main event and pumping out water for four or five hours – it is a no-brainer.”

An automatic flood warning sign is being trialled at Paper Mill Lock in Little Baddow, in a bid to stop motorists risking driving through water and getting stuck, while information such as where drains go can be sent direct to crews so flood water is not pumped somewhere where it will cause further problems down the line.

ADO Farrant added: “It is going from strength to strength now, we are looking at new computer software.

“I believe we are the only fire service in the country to make these links, so it is ground-breaking.”