Flood sirens 'proved vital' - claim

Flood wardens campaigning for the retention of a flood siren network along the Norfolk coast have said their argument has been strengthened by a “chaotic” emergency exercise based in Cley several days ago.

Flood wardens campaigning for the retention of a flood siren network along the Norfolk coast have said their argument has been strengthened by a “chaotic” emergency exercise based in Cley several days ago.

A lengthy row has been brewing across the county about the possibility of the sirens being scrapped, with Norfolk County Council originally wanting to close the 57 sirens in order to save £35,000 a year.

The county would instead rely on an Environment Agency system using landlines, mobile phones and pagers to warn people of imminent flooding.

But the plan provoked a public outcry and earlier in the year campaigners won an additional year-long reprieve for the sirens until July next year. Meanwhile a survey of the positioning of sirens related to need will be carried out.

Now that flood wardens have had a chance to sit down and consider carefully the results of Exercise Pontus - designed to test the emergency response of various authorities to a potential coastal flooding incident at Cley - they have come out fighting once again.

Cley flood warden coordinator Tony Aberdein has written a lengthy report about the exercise, about which he said: “Some of the communications were quite simply a cock-up.

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“At one stage the police could not even find the wardens. At one point I had to say to one police officer which way was east and which was west. And in a real event it would be pitch dark, raining and blowing a 50-mile per hour gale.

“It all goes to show how important the sirens are. We obviously want to keep them, because it is a system which people have come to understand over the years. It takes time to educate people about systems and they are already educated on this system.”

Mr Aberdein's flood warden colleague at Wells, Marie Strong, agreed: “It confirmed to us that on the night of any incident, a vital part of the job would be down to the local flood wardens.

“Because of the awful communications during exercise Pontus involving mobile phones and radios, it just shows that we need the sirens.

“I didn't expect it to be so badly clear cut during the exercise, but it was, and I was quite stunned.

“What really worries me is various agencies involved in Pontus have been back slapping each other in congratulation,” added Dr Strong.

“And while parts of the exercise may have worked, the communications on the ground were simply not good enough.”

Flood wardens along the coast were back in action in the past few days because of the high tides and strong on-shore winds. There were no major incidents, but the wardens were busy reassuring people and providing information.

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