Flood sirens and emergency plans put to test in Calderdale

Eight flood warning sirens will be sounded across the Upper Calder Valley as part of the live training exercise ‘Operation Calderdale19’ next month (October).

They will be put to the test between 10 and 11am, on Thursday 3 October, in Walsden, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd, to help make sure communities are as prepared as possible for any risk of flooding this winter. Each siren test will last for two minutes. Residents and businesses in the towns do not need to take any action when hearing the sirens at these times. Loud hailer vehicles will be used to alert people to the tests, ahead of the sirens being sounded.

This test will be part of the sixth major emergency exercise held by Calderdale Council, the Environment Agency, emergency services, flood wardens and partners since the floods of Boxing Day 2015. The aim of the exercise is to rehearse the actions that these organisations would take during and after a flood, to ensure the best possible preparation for any future incidents. Flood hubs from Todmorden to Brighouse will be open to practice their processes and sharing information in the event of a flood so they are ready to help affected communities.

Officers from the Environment Agency’s flood resilience team will be testing the audibility of the sirens and for the first time this year they will be involving children and parents from a local school in the preparations to help raise their awareness of the risk of flooding at an early age and how best to be prepared.

Pupils from Todmorden CE School will be taking part in flood awareness activities in the morning, audibility testing and visiting residents and business owners to help them prepare and keep safe during flood events by having a flood plan, checking the weather forecasts and signing up for flood warnings.

Members of the team will be holding a special assembly and using learning resources in the school to promote understanding of how to receive warnings and what actions to take during a flood incident.

The sirens are used to warn people that rivers are expected to flood and their audibility level should be similar to that used by emergency vehicles.

There are four sirens in Todmorden which are sited at the fire station, the high school, Morrisons and Warmans. There is also one at Walsden, two in Hebden Bridge, one in Mytholmroyd and a community siren in Sowerby Bridge.

Carolyn Jarvis, flood resilience officer with the Environment Agency, said:

It is important that we test the audibility of sirens to check that they can be heard where they’re supposed to. They also get tested silently throughout the year. Although no action needs to be taken during the test, people need to be aware that if they hear the sirens at any other time, then this means that flooding is expected.

Our sirens are only sounded when specific flood warnings have reached a river trigger level – they are not sounded due to flooding from surface water or any other emergency.

The sirens are a secondary method used across the Calder Valley to warn that a flood is expected, so it is really important that all residents and businesses are signed up to the Environment Agency flood warning service which gives advanced notification of flooding via phone, text and email.

This year we are working with schools so that children who live in this steep sided valley which is frequently at risk of flooding can understand the importance of being prepared at an early age.

We are also encouraging local residents and businesses to put together a flood plan which they can practice during the exercise to keep themselves and their families safe and to check the latest weather forecast and flood warning information on our website.

Ruth Lee, deputy head of Todmorden CE Junior and Infant School said:

We have a fantastic morning planned for our children to help them find out about the flood siren and flood awareness with the Environment Agency which links to our school topic ‘Disaster’.

Our school suffered three floods last year and lots of our families live within the flood zone. Meeting our local flood warden and finding out how to keep safe is invaluable.

Todmorden station manager Paul Austin said:

This scheme is a great idea as it’s all about raising awareness for all members of the local community, so we’re really pleased to be involved.

It’s an opportunity for us to show what resources we have, and the preparations we have in place if there is any flooding in the future.

The community all remembers the devastating floods of 2015, so projects like this are a good reminder for local people to think about their provisions for any future flooding too.

Cllr Scott Patient, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Environment, said:

We hold our annual Operation Calderdale training exercise to test our emergency response and to keep learning. This ensures the Council and our partner organisations are as prepared as possible for flooding. We will be looking at our procedures, logistics, staffing and Community Support Hubs to make sure they’re still fit for purpose as we head into autumn and winter.

On the day of the exercise, and beyond, we’re encouraging local people to think about how they could improve their own flood preparations – from practising using resilience products, to checking their flood plans are up to date.

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