In January 2005 I was visiting my family near Carlisle when a weather front produced unprecedented rainfall levels (up to 180mm) which led to a large part of Carlisle and the surrounding area being flooded.
The response was generally effective though it was ad hoc and poorly equipped for what was at that time a very unusual event. Fire service personnel who responded to the floods as the event unfolded reported that they didn’t have any drysuits or specialist equipment and were just doing what they could to assist residents.
There was also no nationally produced guidance for rescues from water.
Last Friday I drove to Cumbria for a weekend of walking with my wife. By lunchtime on Saturday it was clear that Storm Desmond was wreaking a similar level of havoc to that experienced in 2005, though over a wider area. The question was would the response be different?
Whilst it is too early to make an assessment of the effectiveness of the response, what was immediately clear was that there is now a sound understanding of how all emergency responders should work together at wide area major incidents. Professional rescue efforts were taking place throughout the county with well equipped, well trained teams from various organisations working together to provide a co-ordinated rescue effort.
I was particularly interested in this as I am involved in the current review of the National Joint Doctrine written as part of the Joint Emergency Services Principles (JESIP), and the National Operational Guidance Programme is soon to publish its revised National Operational Guidance for Water Rescue and Flooding.
We will now undergo a review to ensure those documents offer best practice guidance.
As for my weekend in the Lakes? I was lucky enough to only suffer the inconvenience of coffee shops being closed and roads being inaccessible. I managed to stay dry and warm, though my thoughts were with those either involved in rescues or being rescued.
Doc Holliday, Programme Manager