Floood sirens warning

RICHARD PARR Lives could be at risk along the north Norfolk coast if flood warning sirens are scrapped with a saving of just £35,000 a year, it was claimed last night.

RICHARD PARR

Lives could be at risk along the north Norfolk coast if flood warning sirens are scrapped with a saving of just £35,000 a year, it was claimed last

night.

Flood action plan voluntary co-ordinators Dr Marie Strong and her husband Michael, of Wells, say that the sirens would play a vital role in an 11th-hour evacuation of people living along the coast and could prove to be the difference between life and death in the event of a major emergency.

“The sirens would play a vital role as a last resort in making people aware of the urgency of the situation in the event of a threatened flood, particularly for elderly people,” said Dr Strong.

She is also angry at what the volunteers believe has been a complete lack of consultation with a group that works closely with the emergency services.

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Dr Strong said that the sirens along the coast have always been seen as an adjunct to the current

three-level Floodline warnings via mobile phones or pagers.

“I and other volunteers along the coast feel strongly that any decisions relating to abolishing the sirens should only be taken after consultation with all the agencies involve in flood risk preparation - including the very volunteers who would be a key factor in evacuation,” she said.

Their concerns have been backed up by Wells Town Council, and clerk Keith Lee-Smith has written a strongly worded letter to the head of emergency planning at Norfolk County Council about the lack of consultation. In his letter he claims to have been given six hours' notice, making it impossible to consult with town councillors.

The proposed budget saving of the 57 sirens is said to be £35,000 a year, and Mr Lee-Smith has suggested that the sirens in Wells to be retained and operated on a local basis.

“The proposed budget saving of £35,000 seems little enough as a provision for saving life in the event of a sea-surge flood. However, when this cost is divided by the 57 sirens one has to ask if £614 is too costly to save even one life per siren,” said Mr Lee-Smith in his letter.

He also points out the removal of the sirens would make the role of the volunteer more difficult.

John Ellis, the county council's principal emergency planning officer, has said that one of the difficulties with the sirens was that it was not known if the community knew how to react to them.

“People on the coast are not always local and we have to take into account those with disabilities who may not be able to hear the siren. If we

use a system where they

get information direct it can have more of an impact,” he said.

The emergency agencies have arranged a meeting

for the flood warning volunteers on February 22 at The Maltings in Wells so they can explain the proposed changes.