Floods can be devastating, costing the lives of people and animals, as well as destroying crops, homes, businesses, and infrastructure.
The number of flooding incidents has fluctuated considerably year on year in line with weather conditions. NYFRS has seen a significant increase in the scale of flooding incidents over the last ten years (incident numbers shown do not represent total incidents as the flooding of an entire village for example could be classed as a single flooding event but the level of response required is significant).
Attendance at large scale flooding events such as in York, Malton and around Selby has become a routine activity, one which the Service has prepared and planned for alongside other organisations through the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum.
We have Environment Agency information about the predictive flood layers and indicators for areas most at risk of flooding. This provides geographical information but not when an event may occur. Currently we rely on real time information from the Environment Agency and Met Office as to when a flooding event is likely to happen.
We have looked at other factors that contribute to people, households, and businesses being at risk of flooding. Climate change will result in drier summers, wetter winters, and rising sea levels. Changes in the way land is used and future building developments on flood plains are all contributory factors to the increased risk of floods in the future.
An average of 400 people drown in the UK each year and a further 200 people take their own lives on our waters.
NYFRS has seen an increase over the last five years in the number of people requiring our assistance to be rescued from water. This includes helping people who have tried to drive through flood water, those who have got into difficulty whilst taking part in sport and leisure activities and those who have attempted suicide by jumping into deep or fast flowing water.
We have used our historic water incident related data to ensure that we capture all incidents, including those during spate conditions e.g. rescues from water may relate to a swift water incident or assisting someone to leave a flooded property. This data has been modelled to develop a ‘heat map’. The main areas of water related risk are in the York and Selby areas, Craven and parts of Ryedale. The incidence and particularly scale of flooding is likely to increase over the next five years. A significantly high proportion of water rescue incidents occur in western and southern areas of the county. There is a strong correlation between the incidence of flooding and the need for us to assist in rescues and evacuations.
So what does this tell us?
- Flooding incidents and water rescues are likely to be an increasing area of demand for our Service.
- Some of these incidents are preventable, as they are often linked to human behaviour e.g. driving through flood water.
- Water rescue incidents can be complex and present significant risk to our firefighters and other rescuers, for which we must plan and train for, and equip accordingly.
- We need to increase our emphasis on helping communities build resilience.