Fresh calls for flood sirens to be reinstated on parts of Norfolk coast

Tuesday, July 8, 2014
2:20 PM

Fresh calls have been made for flood sirens to be reinstated on parts of the Norfolk coast, following last year’s devastating storm surge.

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The call for another debate on sirens was one of more than a hundred recommendations made to improve the way Norfolk responds to floods, after an investigation into how the storm surge was handled.

The floods, on December 5 last year, saw hundreds of homes and businesses swamped with water as tides around the county’s shores reached heights which eclipsed those of the fatal floods of 1953.

A report, put together by officers at Norfolk County Council after a ‘debrief’ with councillors and other organisations, hailed much of the work done to cope with the emergency.

But council bosses said vital lessons must be learned and 114 recommendations - including consideration of bringing back the sirens - were drawn up.

They were considered by the county council’s environment, development and transport committee today.

Among issues identified in the report were:

• Key information, such as about evacuations, was not communicated properly

• Schools should have been closed on the day of the surge and not opened the morning after

• There was a “lack of willingness” by some staff at Norfolk County Council to respond out of hours

• People relied more on social media, which was not always accurate, than on ‘official’ sources

• Councillors were not kept properly informed

• Rest centres were opened in areas where they were not needed - such as Acle, where not one person attended

• There were problems with mobile phones and blackberries not working in some coastal areas

Liberal Democrat Tim East said the events of December 5 showed there should be another look at flood sirens.

He said: “Norfolk’s coastal residents, in many cases, have very poor communication links and the flood surge has highlighted the danger residents can be placed in at such times.

“I would like to see sirens erected in certain, specific places.

“I am not saying a blanket approach, but it should be a serious consideration.”

But UKIP’s Toby Coke, chairman of the committee said the Environment Agency said it might make more sense for parish councils to consider buying sirens.

He said: “I am very loath to commit to some countywide plan where Norfolk County Council is responsible for the maintenance.”

Council officers said the Environment Agency was responsible for flood warnings and did not see flood sirens as the way to issue those warnings.

But committee vice chairman John Timewell, also a Lib Dem, said: “We may be outside the national way of thinking, but there’s a need for it.

“North Norfolk is an area that needs help because it doesn’t have mobile phone communication.”

However, independent Richard Bird said flood sirens were not necessarily the answer and would not be appropriate, for example, in the Hunstanton area.

He said: “We used to have Sunday morning siren sessions and they used to drive everyone up the wall.”

The meeting also agreed which councillors would sit on a panel to distribute £250,000 to communities affected by coastal erosion.

Areas such as Wells-next-the-Sea, Blakeney and Cley were swamped in the floods and there was substantial damage to property at Walcott, where some homes were destroyed. Over the border, Lowestoft also suffered.

Following the floods, the Eastern Daily Press set up the Norfolk and Lowestoft Flood Appeal to help and our readers raised a six-figure sum.

Money has, through the Norfolk Community Foundation, gone to those who needed it.

• Do you have a story about a local council? Call reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

10 comments

  • On the 4th Dec the environment agency was issuing flood alerts, on the 5th they were issuing severe flood warnings and the tv was full of preparations for the coming flood, and on the 6th thousands of people in North Norfolk who live without tv, radio, mobile phones, family friends or even caring neighbours were nearly caught out by the flood. I am sure sirens would have made all the difference.

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    Rhombus

    Wednesday, July 9, 2014

  • You could sound the sirens every night at 8pm to indicate that everyone is safe in their beds and no risk of floods. A no siren at 8pm would mean high flood alert, evacuate immediately to the local pub. This would be a fail safe system, because even those old dearies who switch take off their hearing aids in the evening would be safe, but possibly drunk after visiting the pub 7 days a week.

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    Rhombus

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • So you don't like the idea of Brass Bands BG, is it because they are old fashioned? Daisyroots....The Tide is High by Blondie?

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    Rhombus

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • The reason why the flood sirens were done away with was because the police at the time were getting rid of as many responsibilities as they could which they were not legally liable for. They were quite adamant that sirens were not necessary, backed up of course by NCC who did not want to bear the cost of replacing the sirens, which had come to the end of their life, with more modern equipment. We had every excuse under the sun as to why they were no longer needed. Ranging from not being heard because of double glazing to causing alarm and panic amongst local residents. The police and the NNC put all their eggs into one basket and preferred the option of the Environment Agency`s text system to warn the public. As we now know, and several people tried to tell them at the time including me, that that strategy was wrong. Thankfully no one lost their lives but the event could have been better managed if sirens had been available where the mobile signal was poor or non existent. I would go further and suggest that we should have blanket siren coverage as a back up, should the mobile network fail, which it obviously does quite regularly when demand outstrips capacity.

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    BG

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • Well, you are not too far out Rhombus-but some of those old dears, if they are not move ins, may have seen it all before and not be quite as fazed as you think. And others, like us, lost a relative in 1953, so not quite so blase-even though I have harsh words for those who are surprised to get wet when living in daft places.A look at the footage of Sea Palling and Horsey from 1953 and I believe 1938 ish ( A Royal Mail film -might be on You Tube) shows what a surge can do. I guess if you live close to the beach Eternal Father Strong to Save might come to mind!

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    Daisy Roots

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • Not quite sure what the best tune for the brass band would be....perhaps 'Yellow Submarine' by the Beatles would be appropriate. What do other readers think would be best?

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    Rhombus

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • Yes bring back the sirens (perhaps 4 times louder than the old ones), but back this up with personal phone calls and personal visits to the dear oldies who might think a test alarm is the real thing (flooding or even German bombers) and fall down the stairs in their panic. Possibly worse they may think a real alarm is just a test, and get their feet wet when the storm surge gets just above their doorsteps in Walcott. Seriously a good loud brass band marching around the village would be as good as anything else (you could call it the Emergency Wellington Boot Brass Band Ensemble.

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    Rhombus

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • The Environment Agency are incompetent when it comes to flood warnings, I have signed up more times than I care to remember because I have never been issued with a warning by text or email. Why doesn’t the EDP do one of their polls and ask how many people who have signed up for alerts have actually been sent one, by district council area? I was told by a smug looking idiot from KLBC that one of the reasons sirens were going to be done away with was because they don’t work in the event of a power cut, and computers and mobile signals do? Have wind up ones like they did in the blitz scattered along the coast, how much would that cost to maintain?

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    Honest John

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • It was probably some phone happy lad who decided of course everyone would be able to get a mobile phone signal. The sirens should never have been removed and should have remained as part of the warning and evacuation process. And they should be placed in the furthest reaches of affected areas too so that everyone knows what is happening and that help might be needed. I recall one school Xmas party which had to be abandoned as sirens sounded and parents had to be contacted to fetch their children.Early warnings and school closures just in case are more likely now of course. One of the failings last winter, in GY anyway, was that those who were working in the town and relied on public transport to get home were hearing rumours that the buses would stop running because of the state of the river and that the bridges were likely to be shut. I gather that it was not easy to get a definite answer so some businesses shut up shop.

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    Daisy Roots

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  • Wasn't it Norfolk CC who done away with the sirens in the first place? I asked you, have they got a clue on what they are doing?

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    Vic Sponge

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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