Sixty flood wardens who volunteer to help protect people and their properties throughout the Calder Valley are being invited to an event to help them learn from each other.
Anyone who wants to get involved in supporting residents during a flood event, either as a flood warden or by volunteering for one of the charities or organisations which reduce flood risk in the community, can also come along to the event during the evening to find out how they can help.
Owners and employees from Calderdale businesses will also be welcome to drop in to get advice on how best to protect their premises from flooding.
The networking event, supported by the Environment Agency and Calderdale Council, will be held in the Waterfront Hall, at Hebden Bridge Town Hall, on Wednesday 23 May. It will be open to flood wardens between 5 – 6.30pm and to members of the local community between 6.30 -8.30pm.
There will be information stalls run by many organisations at the event including Yorkshire Water, Treesponsibility, Slow the Flow, Watermark Flood Fund and Community Foundation for Calderdale.
A team from the Environment Agency will be signing people up for their free flood warning service, providing information about flood defence schemes in the area and discussing what is included in the Calderdale Flood Action Plan.
Representatives from the Council’s emergency planning, flood and housing teams will also be on hand to share information on Calderdale’s multiagency flood response protocol, flood risk management strategy and role in recovery following serious flooding.
Jonathan Follows, Calderdale flood resilience officer with the Environment Agency, said: “This is the second time we have had an event of this kind in Calderdale.
“Our flood wardens are invaluable to us as our eyes and ears on the ground. This is a great opportunity for them to share best practice so they can support each other.
“They will have the chance to meet new people and learn more about the training opportunities and information that the Environment Agency can provide to help them in their role.”
Katie Kimber, chair of the Calderdale Community Resilience Board, said: “We have eight flood groups throughout the Calder Valley and if anyone is interested in joining one as a flood warden or simply as a volunteer they can come along to our event and find out everything they need to know.
“There will also be representatives from a wide range of voluntary and community groups who are keen to recruit new volunteers and will be happy to explain more about their projects.”
Mark Thompson, director of Regeneration and Strategy at Calderdale Council, said: “We're extremely grateful for the work our flood wardens do in helping to keep our communities as safe and informed as possible.
“If you or someone else you know has been affected by flooding, Calderdale's flood groups are a valuable support network that can offer you help and information before, during and after a flood.
This is a great chance to meet wardens in your area, find out more about what they do and discover some of the many ways in which you can get involved should you wish to do so.”
As part of the event there will be information about resources available to flood wardens including handbooks and personal protective equipment; training on how to use the radio network to communicate with other wardens and using social media during a flood event, demonstrations on using sandbags and a chance to ask questions and raise any concerns.
If anyone is interested in becoming a flood warden or volunteer they can email: email@example.com
Case study – Todmorden Flood Warden
It was the devastation caused by the floods in June 2012 that prompted Sarah-Jayne Robins to volunteer as a flood warden for Todmorden.
She was working for the Community Foundation for Calderdale at the time helping people who had suffered flood damage to their homes to get grants for flood protection in future. Sarah- Jayne’s own rented home had its living room, kitchen and cellar wrecked being surrounded by both a river and a canal.
“I had been living in the area for eight years, I loved my neighbours and didn’t want to move,” said Sarah-Jayne who works for her family farm shop business.
After the 2015 Boxing Day floods, Todmorden Flood Group was formed and Sarah-Jayne became secretary and later their chair.
In her role as a flood warden Sarah Jayne helps people to create their own flood plans so they are as prepared as possible, gives advice to local businesses and persuades them all to sign up for free Environment Agency flood alerts. During an event she has a direct radio contact with Calderdale Council, communicates with members in her flood group by walkie talkie, helps get messages out on the group’s Facebook page and operates a telephone tree system where each person has responsibility for communicating with at least two others.
“I’m Todmorden born and bred” said Sarah-Jayne. “I enjoy being part of my local community and want to make it as resilient to flooding as possible.
“We always need more flood wardens in the Calder Valley or volunteers as it is a flashy catchment area which means we don’t get much warning of floods.
“I find being a flood warden very rewarding – it means I don’t worry as much as I know what trigger points to look out for – for example, if the water comes up to a certain height on my tree I know to prepare.
“We learn from each flood event. The more knowledge you have, the better prepared you can be and that’s much better than feeling panic.”
The Todmorden flood wardens run workshops working with Healthy Minds voluntary group to help people be prepared and ‘flood ready.’
Case study - Burnley Road School
Staff and children at Burnley Road School have benefited from help and advice from flood wardens who volunteer in Mytholmroyd.
They came to talk to pupils in their assembly about the new flood defence scheme planned for the village, visited each class individually to get across messages what they should do in a flood event and then helped the school put together a flood plan.
Burnley Road School was so badly damaged by the Boxing Day 2015 floods that they had to move out to two alternative sites for nine months.
Headteacher Clare Cope has now joined the Mytholmroyd flood warden’s Facebook Group so that she can be kept up-to-date with everything that is being done to protect the village and the possibility of flood alerts.
The school, which has the river in front and a canal at the back, was provided with a framework for their flood action plan by the Environment Agency which sets out clear responsibilities for staff during a flood event, key contacts and will help to evacuate their 250 children as quickly as possible.
Clare Cope said: “We were absolutely devastated by the Boxing Day 2015 floods. If it ever were to happen again I feel we would be in a better position to get as much notice as possible and our priority would be to contact parents to evacuate as many children as quickly as we could and for the rest to go upstairs to safety.
“Two of our local flood wardens have pledged to contact us as soon as there is any sign of flooding and that is very reassuring.”