Old flood sirens may be scrapped

Aged flood sirens along Norfolk's coast could be scrapped under plans to save £35,000 a year.The 57 sirens, which date from the second world war, are no longer “fit for purpose”, according to a report to the fire and community protec-tion review panel next Tuesday.

Aged flood sirens along Norfolk's coast could be scrapped under plans to save £35,000 a year.

The 57 sirens, which date from the second world war, are no longer “fit for purpose”, according to a report to the fire and community protec-tion review panel next Tuesday.

Instead the county would rely on the Environment Agency's free Floodline Warning Direct system which provides advance warning of possible floods using three levels of alerts via landline, mobile or pager.

The county currently spends about £35,000 a year maintaining and operating the siren system, while decommissioning the sirens, which could begin this month if approved, will cost £85,000.

John Ellis, the county council's principal emergency planning officer, said: “One of the difficulties with the siren is you have to hope the community knows how to react to it - and that's if it can be heard.

“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 much more of an impact.

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“We do not use the sirens to warn people about floods. They are only used to assist with evacuations.”

The report says residents of Yarmouth registered with the Floodline system were recently informed of possible flooding within 26 minutes - rather than the four and a half hours that using the old warning systems would have taken.

Ivan Large, Salthouse Parish Council chairman, said: “The sirens are good for some people but not others and a lot of people don't take any notice of them anyway. If you live at the other end of the village and there is no wind, you can't hear it.”

The Home Office closed the National Siren Civil Defence warning system and ceased all funding in 1992.

Maritime counties were offered the sirens to continue using them as part of the local flood warning system, with costs met locally.

Suffolk already uses the Environment Agency system while Essex and Lincolnshire use sirens as a warning aid and not only during evacuation as Norfolk does.

Norfolk County Council manages the activation system and the BBC and National Grid transmit telephone messages to their message assemblers to activate the sirens via radio waves. Norfolk police, in consultation with other agencies, decide when to evacuate.

The current transmission contract with the BBC expires on July 31.

To register with Floodline, call 0845 988 1188.