Be safe, not sorry - Exhibition event to underline importance of evacuation in emergencies

AN EXHIBITION event will take place in Great Yarmouth town centre this Friday (February 10) to illustrate to residents the complex weather factors that can lead to flooding and the importance of evacuating during an emergency, when they are advised to do so.


For last month's tidal surge, some 6,000 properties in the potential flood zone were advised to evacuate for their safety. Despite door-to-door visits from police and armed forces, it is estimated that 60 per cent of people chose not to leave their homes and thereby may have put themselves at unnecessary risk.

Fortunately, there was no significant flooding in Great Yarmouth, because of last-minute changes in the weather and the fact that local flood defences held. However, the outcome could have been very different, as it was during 1953's North Sea Flood, when 10 people in Great Yarmouth and 41 people around the Norfolk coast lost their lives.

This Friday, from 11am to 2pm, an exhibition event will be held in the Market Place to help raise awareness of the complex factors involved in deciding whether and when to evacuate, what that process involves, and the importance of being personally prepared for emergencies.

Organised by Great Yarmouth Borough Council, in partnership with Norfolk Constabulary,  partner emergency services, the Environment Agency and volunteers, the event features information, flyers and a display of vehicles involved in the recent emergency response, including from (subject to call-out) Police, Fire, Ambulance, Coastguard, NorlSAR, Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 Response, and Centre 81.

There will be information highlighting the complexity of weather factors which need to coincide to create a severe flood warning or sea-surge scenario - and the event will explain why emergency responders need to act ahead of the expected tide time when starting to evacuate.

In addition, people will be able to meet community resilience volunteers, who have an important support role in emergencies, and have the chance to find out more about what they can do personally to be aware of and reduce their own flood risk and prepare themselves for future emergencies.

Cllr Graham Plant, the council leader, said: "The borough council and other agencies are concerned about the number of people who put themselves at unnecessary risk during the last tidal surge by not evacuating, when advised. Equally worrying are the people who, despite warnings, went close to the seafront, beaches and the riverside to spectate.

"Our message is simple: If you are advised to evacuate, please do so before it is too late. Don't wait and see, don't go and see, don't gamble with your life. Go to a safe place you have pre-arranged, or to a rest centre. Take your medication, take your pets (under control or contained) and be safe, not sorry.

"We would much rather evacuate people in time and find it was a near miss, like last month, than find that people don't evacuate and then create a rescue situation where people are trapped inside flooded properties and there is potential loss of life."

Chief Inspector Nathan Clark, of Norfolk Constabulary, said: "While major flooding was avoided on this occasion, the number of people choosing to stay at home was a concern to us. We would rather people take heed of the warnings and leave their homes, than risk the need for a rescue operation.

"I understand the inconvenience and disruption this can cause; however a decision to evacuate homes is not taken lightly and is based on the latest information from the Environment Agency.

"We are often dealing with small margins of error, and the significant number of properties affected by the risk of severe flooding is such that decisions need to be made in sufficient time for each home to be visited. While we can never be certain on how things will develop, our primary concern is for the safety of the public and protecting those most at risk from flooding."

Graham Verrier, Area Flood & Coastal Risk Manager at the Environment Agency, said: "Our response to the recent surge proved how well all organisations work together and were well prepared.

"Communities also worked brilliantly alongside us and our partners to protect their homes and businesses. We need to remember that whilst the defences did their job this time, if the surge had been a bit earlier or the wind changed direction, flooding would have happened and lives would have been at risk."

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