Flood warnings tested in Hunstanton, Heacham and Snettisham
16:36 06 October 2012
Emergency flood warning signs at caravan sites along the low-lying West Norfolk coastal strip are being tested by the Environment Agency on Monday.
The signs, called Precautionary Evacuation Notices (PENs), are manually switched on by emergency teams from the EA when there is a risk of flooding in the area.
They are along the coast between Snettisham and Hunstanton, where there are thousands of caravans and chalets next to the flood defences, in areas which are at risk of flooding from high tides and storm surges.
At times of risk, sites are evacuated and the signs will inform people when it is safe to return to their properties.
EA flood teams and emergency planning officers from West Norfolk council will be at Hunstanton, Heacham and Snettisham from 8:30am – 12:30pm today to test the PEN information signs and run through their operation.
Alan Daniels, operations team leader for the EA, said: “We have a duty to exercise our procedures regularly to ensure that we are as prepared as possible should a real emergency occur.
“We must ensure our teams are confident in their roles and that all equipment is fully operational and ready for action.”
Eighty lives were lost on the coast of North West Norfolk when the last major flood occurred, in January 1953.
A gale, high tides and low air pressure combined to cause a storm surge, with the tide more than six feet higher than normal.
Thousands of homes along the coast were also destroyed within hours, as the sea broke through defences and flooded inland.
Both weather forecasting and communications technology have vastly improved since 1953, with the weather systems which cause storm surges now able to be predicted days in advance and warnings transmitted via telephone, text messages and e-mails.
But experts also warn that climate change will cause sea levels around our coasts to rise in years to come and storm surges will become an increasingly-frequent risk to those living in low-lying areas.
The exercise is part of Norfolk Prepared Week, which began on Saturday, with events planned around the coast to increase awareness of flood risks and how householders can stay informed.