The impact of flooding in rural Northern Ireland

Photo © John McVitty.

Introduction Context of the research Flooding research hot spots Flood management in Northern Ireland Help and support for victims of flooding Spotlight on Fermanagh Spotlight on Beragh Conclusions Bibliography, references, acknowledgements 4 6 8 10 10 14 18 22 26

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

Photo © Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker.

> June 2012 – flash flooding across Greater Belfast > October 2011 – widespread flooding across eastern and western regions of Northern Ireland > December 2010 – severe winter weather emergencies leading to a water shortage > November 2009 – protracted flooding across County Fermanagh > August 2009 – street and out-ofsewer flooding in Belfast > August 2008 – Greater Belfast affected by flooding, including closure of the M2 motorway because of landslides There is a growing public consciousness across Northern Ireland that the weather is changing, including a heightened awareness of flood risk. In April 2010, the Red Cross in Northern Ireland published a research report, Living in fear of the rain,3 which focused on people living in flooding hotspots across Greater Belfast. The report

“Climate change has and in the future will have a considerable impact on our physical environment, in particular through a greater risk of flooding and extreme weather events” Michael McGimpsey, Minister for Health, social service and Public safety (november 2009)1
Extensive flooding in Fermanagh in 2009

The climate in Northern Ireland is changing, making us more vulnerable to extreme weather events including flooding. 2 concluded that flooding is not a one-off event – it can have a devastating impact on people’s lives, often taking weeks, months and sometimes even years for people to fully recover. The report made a number of recommendations to improve support for flood-affected communities and to help them be better prepared for future emergencies. In 2009 communities in County Fermanagh experienced 40 days of persistent rain that caused extensive flooding in the area. In response the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) published the Fermanagh Taskforce report (August 2010), which examined the reasons for this flooding and made recommendations to reduce the likelihood of future incidents.4 The report recognised that building community resilience is an important element in preparing for future emergencies.

The Red Cross was invited to the Fermanagh Multi-Agency Group convened to implement the taskforce’s recommendations in January 2011. We proposed additional research on the impact of flooding in rural communities. The group endorsed the proposal and the Emergency Planning Co-ordinator for western counties gave support throughout the project. We also decided to include the village of Beragh, County Tyrone, in this research as it had been flooded repeatedly in recent years. This research examines the specific needs of rural communities during the response and recovery stages. It demonstrates a long tradition of community self-help in times of adversity and makes recommendations to improve multi-agency co-ordination in both response and recovery.

The British Red Cross has extensive experience in responding to floods, both in the UK and overseas, including: > Gloucester (2007) > Morpeth (2008) > Cumbria (2009) > Bangladesh (2009). The Red Cross has commissioned previous flooding research – for example in Gloucestershire and Doncaster – and is currently conducting a study in identified flooding hotspots across the United Kingdom.5 This report will contribute to this research. In Northern Ireland, the Red Cross provides a humanitarian response to local emergencies, including flooding, in partnership with statutory responders.6 As part of a global voluntary network, we help vulnerable people in the UK and abroad prepare for, withstand and recover from emergencies in their own communities.

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

Photo © Paul Faith/Press Association Images.

Research aims 1. Examine the short and long-term impact of flooding on individuals, communities and businesses in identified flooding hot spots. 2. Identify needs at the response and recovery stages, including practical, social and welfare issues. 3. Identify specific vulnerable groups through engagement at a local level. 4. Provide a comparison between the causes and effects of flooding in rural and urban settings. 5. Identify examples of community resilience in rural locations. 6. Use the research information to inform strategic partners – including the civil contingencies community, emergency services, local resilience partners and policy makers – about the impact of flooding and how communities can be better prepared for future emergencies. Methodology The project adopted a purposive sampling procedure, where people were invited to participate on the basis of their expertise in and experience of flooding. This also allowed for a wide range of participants to be interviewed. Stakeholder engagement Seventeen participants were identified from the emergency services and statutory agencies, including representatives from: > Fermanagh District Council > Omagh District Council > Emergency Planning Co-ordinator for western counties > Police Service of Northern Ireland > Rivers Agency of Northern Ireland > Northern Ireland Water > Roads Service > Met Office > Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service > Western Health and Social Care Trust > Western Education and Library Board > Maritime and Coastguard Agency > Share Centre > Ulster Farmers Union Community engagement Thirteen participants from Fermanagh and Beragh who had experienced flooding also agreed to be interviewed. Their accounts are shared throughout this report. Procedure Participants from both groups volunteered their time following an initial meeting with a member of the research team. The research interviews were conducted in person with 96 per cent of the sample. All the interviews were either recorded electronically or taken down in note form where this preference was expressed. Sharing research Following the interviews, the Red Cross held a mid-term report seminar on 22 March 2012 at Fermanagh District Council to present and discuss emerging findings with relevant parties, including statutory responders, the emergency services and victims of flooding. Judi Evans, Red Cross Operations Director, was a keynote speaker and shared her extensive experience in flood response and recovery in the north of England.

A farmer traverses a flooded road in Fermanagh

The seminar highlighted that no single agency can deal with the complexity of needs following flooding emergencies. The Red Cross in the north of England has developed a flood recovery model based on the multi-agency response to flooding in Carlisle, Morpeth and Cumbria. The model recommends that contact is made with as many people as possible after a flooding incident, and that a multi-agency information point is established. It recognises that not everyone will need extensive or longterm support, but it helps to identify and assist the most vulnerable during the recovery phase. Our experience in flood recovery indicates that a physical presence may be needed for between 12 and 18 months, with additional support required for people returning home. The recovery model was also used to support local communities affected by the Cumbria shootings in July 2010.

the British Red Cross is working to an agreed definition of resilience provided by the Cabinet office: “Communities and individuals harnessing local resources and expertise to help themselves in an emergency, in a way that complements the response of the emergency services” 7

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

Photo © Michael Cooper.

FLOOD: OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER 2009 Between 17 October and 27 November 2009, County Fermanagh experienced intense levels of continuous rainfall which saw 336.8 mm of rain come down over a 41-day period.10 The consequent increase in water levels caused severe flooding, particularly around Upper Lough Erne. Beragh, County Tyrone Beragh is a small rural village located just outside the main town of Omagh in County Tyrone. The Cloughfin River runs along the east of the village, close to a small housing estate and a local sports club. FLOOD: OCTOBER 2011 The village, which had already experienced extensive flooding in August 2008, was badly hit in October 2011 when the Cloughfin River burst its banks twice in one week. This followed persistent rain, during what the Met Office recorded as the second wettest October since 1910.11 Unlike Fermanagh, where households and businesses became cut off, Beragh experienced more traditional flooding in that properties and businesses were flooded. Michelle O’Neill, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, visited the area. Afterwards she said: “I have listened to some harrowing stories. Having your home or other property flooded is very difficult to cope with and I realise the personal impact that has on those affected.”12 The Minister pledged an additional £1 million to be made

available to the Rivers Agency to help with flood defences for areas such as Beragh and commissioned a review of the October flooding events.13 The government report, Review into the operational performance of the Rivers Agency, was published in November 2011.14 One of the main findings from the report was that the Rivers Agency “had the expertise, but not the capacity or funding, to deal with these events”.15 The report also described some specific concerns of residents, including the negative impact of the flooding on their quality of life and punitive insurance premiums.

Fermanagh and the village of Beragh in County Tyrone, both in the south-west of Northern Ireland, are the identified hot spots for this research. County Fermanagh Known as ‘the land of the lakes’, County Fermanagh is situated in the south-west of Northern Ireland.8 It is a popular tourist destination renowned for its two main lakes, Lower and Upper Lough Erne. Enniskillen, the county’s largest town, sits at a narrow crossing between the two lakes in a predominantly rural environment. Unlike areas affected by flash flooding, flooding in Fermanagh generally occurs slowly following periods of heavy, persistent rain. Another unique feature of this type of flooding is that it can take many weeks for the water to recede. The most significant and distinctive feature of flooding in Fermanagh is that properties are not always flooded. It is often reported that only three properties were actually flooded during the 2009 floods. Instead, small rural communities – often only single farm holdings – tend to become stranded and cut off from the outside world. Many people compare the experience to living on small islands. This phenomenon was recognised by the Rivers Agency in its 2011 report: “The flooding presented very considerable challenges to the local population who had difficulties in accessing homes, shops, schools, farms and businesses. It also caused public health concerns, difficulties for the care of vulnerable groups and for the welfare of animals.”9

An ambulance assists a woman during the Fermanagh floods

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

Photo ©Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.

In Northern Ireland, there is no single lead authority with statutory responsibility for flooding. There are three drainage agencies with responsibility for maintenance and flood response: > Rivers Agency > Northern Ireland Water > Roads Service The participants in both our Belfast research Living in fear of the rain and this project told us that they are confused about who to contact as each of the three drainage agencies have different responsibilities depending on the type of flooding (e.g. overflowing rivers, blocked water/sewage mains, blocked road mains/gullies).

“A lot of people in Beragh are very confused at the moment. they really don’t know what minister is responsible for what. Most of these people have full-time jobs and quite simply don’t have the time to be running around ringing different departments all day”16 Councillor Bert Wilson

Cars and pedestrians make their way through floods

Rivers Agency The aim of the Rivers Agency is “to reduce the risk to life and damage to property from rivers and the sea”.17 Under the EU Floods Directive it has mapped flood risk in Northern Ireland in its report Preliminary flood risk assessment and methodology for the identification of significant flood risk areas (December 2011).18 The Rivers Agency website contains important information for the public, including an extensive flood map and an overview of risk throughout Northern Ireland. It identifies areas that have flooded in the past and that may be at risk from future incidents. It does not, however, provide site-specific information for households, businesses and communities. strategic-flood-maps.htm If members of the public do have concerns about individual properties, the Rivers Agency can provide:

> a substantive response within 15 working days to a written request if a property has recently flooded from an overflowing watercourse > an account of any known history of flooding for a homeowner’s address.

specifically gives advice on health precautions for households and businesses dealing with contaminated water and sewage.20 The NI Water website,, provides general information and advice for customers who have been affected by flooding. During a flooding incident, this information is available from the homepage of the NI Water website. NI Water also has a 24-hour Waterline number for customers to report problems such as out-of-sewer flooding, loss of water supply or drinking water quality issues. NI Water also operates a critical care register for vulnerable customers who will be prioritised in an emergency.

Northern Ireland Water NI Water is a government-owned company with responsibility for the management of water mains and sewage systems in Northern Ireland. Its aim is “to provide a reliable and efficient service for collecting, treating and disposing of wastewater”.19 NI Water has produced a public information leaflet, Advice for customers who have suffered flooding, which

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

© Photo Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.

relevant drainage agencies on behalf of the enquirer. The telephone number is 0300 2000 100 and is available around the clock every day of the year. A public information leaflet is available which gives advice on reducing the extent of flood damage and health safety advice. agency_flooding_leaflet_2009_-_ final.pdf.pdf There are several other ways for the public to find relevant information.

Belfast Resilience Forum The ‘Preparing for emergencies’ section of the Belfast Resilience website provides links to practical information for individuals, communities and businesses. In 2012, Belfast Resilience developed the household emergency life-saving plan (HELP), encouraging individuals and households to be prepared by considering their own emergency arrangements. preparing.asp

Beragh was badly flooded after the local river burst its banks

Roads Service The aim of the Roads Service’s flooding emergency response service is to minimise, as far as possible, the impact of roads-related flooding and to co-operate and assist other agencies and organisations during an interagency flooding event. The Roads Service has procedures in place to assist with roads-related emergency flooding incidents, ensuring a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week response. The principal actions of the Roads Service during a flooding incident are to: > maintain a safe road network > provide an emergency response during flooding > erect flood warning signs on the highway

> organise roads closures and traffic diversions > clear blockages on highway drainage systems > take action to protect property from flooding by water from the highway where there is a failure of the highway drainage system > support the joint response > remove debris from the highway once the flood has subsided. An emergency page has been established on the Roads Service TrafficwatchNI website. Public information updates relating to strategic flooding incidents are provided through this site. Flooding Incident Line The Department of Finance and Personnel established the Flooding Incident Line. This is a single point of contact for all flooding incidents. The Flooding Incident Line will contact the

Met Office The National Severe Weather Warning Service (NSWWS) is available to the public and emergency response community through the Met Office website. It highlights severe weather events that may have an adverse impact in Northern Ireland up to five days in advance. forecast/ The Met Office has also developed a hazard manager service for category one and two responders and government departments. This gives emergency planners access to an interactive web portal, which uses maps that can be overlaid with weather and incident-related information whenever there is active flooding. NI Direct The government information site NI Direct provides a link to useful information on flooding in Northern Ireland including preparing for a flood and what to do if a flood happens. flooding-in-your-area.htm

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

Photo © Liam Campbell.

THE FARMER’S STORY “Our neighbours needed to be rescued from their houses as they’d been stranded for three weeks. I’d been bringing in supplies but they really needed to get out themselves – to go for medication, Christmas presents and other things they didn’t want me bringing in. There were three houses altogether, some with elderly people and some with children. “Together with my wife, we got them out by taking my tractor and trailer in. We put their car – with them in it – onto the trailer and then took them out through the water. My wife was there to calm them down as they were very panicked and scared. It was scary but you couldn’t let them see that.

something pretty dangerous, but there was no other way to do it. “One man had Alzheimer’s and it was especially distressing for him. We really had to try to keep him calm when coming out in the car. It was quite difficult and we felt very sorry for him and his family. He just kept saying: ‘I need my tablets, I need my tablets.’ It was all a great worry for him. “Once we got through the water, the car stayed on the other side of the flood so they could use it to go and get what they needed in future. But I still had to take them in and out from their homes on the link box or in the tractor to reach it. “I was the only one who could help, since my tractor was bigger than other people’s and could make it through the water, but even then it was trying to get in and could have ruined the engine. Still, you can’t let that stop you because otherwise what would have happened to these people? No one else was coming to help them.”

The experience of flooding in County Fermanagh Flooding affects people in different ways. During 2009, only three properties in Fermanagh were reported as being flooded.21 Our own research found from people in Fermanagh have an entirely different experience of flooding than people living in other areas. During the floods, homes and businesses became cut off from all aspects of normal life, leaving people stranded and unable to access essential services for many weeks. In Fermanagh, there are heroic examples of the community – especially farmers – coming together to help neighbours get to work and school to collect post, medical supplies and prescriptions to take people shopping and to transport elderly and vulnerable people to GPs and local hospitals. People we interviewed spoke about the wide range of practical and complex

Communities pull together to keep things moving during floods

“The water went right up above the level of the trailer and near the car, which was holding four adults and two children. One elderly lady had to come in the tractor with me as she was too scared to get in the car. My wife kept them calm, which was important as we were trying to do

problems they had to face every day. This was highlighted by the OFMDFM Fermanagh Taskforce report, which acknowledged that flooding led “to significant disruption to life in the county at both the individual and community level”.22 It was apparent in Fermanagh that the community became proactive and creative in meeting the needs of their isolated and vulnerable neighbours. Participants in Fermanagh spoke often about the ‘culture’ of the county, in which people were willing to help both themselves and others around them. This was also recognised by the Fermanagh Taskforce, which noted that residents displayed “resilience and readiness to help themselves and their neighbours deal with the worst effects of the flood”.23

Perceptions of vulnerability The research identified groups of people who would traditionally be viewed as vulnerable – including children, older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions. Due to the unique circumstances of this flooding, we found that some people who would ordinarily be expected to cope experienced a loss of control when they were forced to depend upon neighbours. Stakeholders further acknowledged the ongoing needs during this protracted incident. One local responder said: “We saw plenty of examples of the consequences of flooding on families – especially the strain of dealing with flooding for such a long period of time.”

Research participants identified other factors that could contribute to vulnerability. These included: • people with no previous experience of flooding • people new to the affected area • people who did not have a rural upbringing • people who did not have the means to move to and from their home • younger people • people in isolated areas, cut off from emergency response services.

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

Photo © Brian Thompson/Press Eye.

Access to emergency services Grave concerns were raised by all interviewees about how emergency services could reach sick or vulnerable people over the 40 days of this protracted flooding incident. The possibility of emergency vehicles not being able to reach homes added to people’s stress and anxiety in an already difficult situation. Consultations with emergency services revealed that contingency arrangements were in place. These arrangements, however, were not known to the people we interviewed. Concern that the emergency services may not be able to reach isolated people dominated the stories captured by this research. For example: > “What if someone had a serious accident?” > “What if someone was having a baby?” > “What if a child got really sick?” > “What if an elderly person needed to go to hospital?” > “What if there was a fire?” Informing people about the contingency arrangements the emergency services had in place would have eased their concerns and reduced anxiety during a very stressful situation. Access to essential services All participants reported extreme difficulty in accessing regular services, particularly bin collections, postal deliveries, collections from farms, doctor’s appointments and shops. Ratepayers expressed concerns that there was no compensation for loss of services during this period. The Fermanagh Taskforce report highlighted this problem, stating: “Steps must be taken to ensure robust contingency arrangements for the continued provision of emergency/ health care, education and refuse collection are in place.” 24 Isolation Many participants reported feeling isolated and trapped during the floods.

“We pay our rates but for two weeks we could not use the services we pay for. surely we should have got a rebate for those two weeks? We had to sort out major problems ourselves but there was no offer or recognition of what we did. We pay our rates but that didn’t seem to matter. no one offered any help, either at the time or afterwards” Fermanagh resident
Time and again the research highlighted the importance of the relationship between people who live in isolated areas and their social contact with the outside world, including postmen and bin men. People were limited to only essential travel as they often had to rely on the help of local farmers. This seriously affected their participation in normal social events – such as sporting commitments, family gatherings and Christmas shopping – which exacerbated their sense of isolation. Public expectations of outside support There was limited understanding of the multi-agency arrangements in place to support communities in emergencies. All participants expressed the same understanding that people simply had to sort these things out for themselves. As a consequence, there was little expectation or knowledge among residents of the range of external agencies that could offer them assistance.

Vehicles battling through the floods

Livelihoods and jobs This protracted flooding event had a significant impact on people who could not get to work. There were many examples of people making alternative arrangements, with a high dependency on local farmers. It would appear that, initially, employers were sympathetic to those stranded during the floods but as time went on people became more fearful for their jobs. This resulted in an overwhelming pressure to get to work.

The high dependency on farmers by the local community also compromised the livelihoods of farmers themselves. One said: “No one was coming to help us so what else are you supposed to do? I couldn’t leave people stranded.” Less time could be given to farming duties, which tended to suffer in order to maintain a community transport service for family members and neighbours.

“We had no post for two weeks, so a post run had to be done every day. this was just one more thing that we had to sort out ourselves. no one asked: how are you going to manage, how are you getting to work, to school, getting bins emptied, getting post?” Fermanagh resident

“My husband, who is self-employed, lost money during that time because he was basically occupied taking “I had to be taken out and in from people in and out through the water, work in the dark, which was very and being on standby for when frightening. I was standing on the something happened that required back of a link box with the water his tractor. I didn’t look forward to it coming up round my feet and my husband driving in the dark. He was and worried about him doing that relying on his knowledge of the roads journey so many times a day. It to guide him. I then brought a change cost us a lot in diesel and, with my husband not getting his own work of clothes to work so I could get changed after being on the boxv v ” done, it really took its toll” Fermanagh resident Fermanagh resident
CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

Photo © Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

flooded homeowners by local councils. However, in many cases this was not enough to cover the costs: “My front room is absolutely gutted. It’s a shell. We hope we have saved other areas of the house but it’s a waiting game to see how the foundations have been affected and whether doors and the likes will swell. The garage is also completely gutted and that is where I keep most of my utility things, toys and gardening. It will definitely take months to get back on our feet.” 28 Most people had little difficulty making a successful first claim on their insurance. Like many victims of flooding in other parts of the UK, it was much more difficult to get insurance cover and to make a second claim without financial penalties, such as an increase in premiums and excess limits. Unlike Fermanagh, where homes are often passed down through generations, people in Beragh had similar experiences to residents in Greater Belfast in that the market value of their homes was negatively affected as a result of flooding. Some people in Beragh felt that the only solution was for the government to buy them out and demolish their properties to create flood plains. 29 Flood-resilient homes and flood defences The research team found examples of people, particularly those who had been repeatedly flooded, taking steps to make their homes more resilient. Their ability to secure additional flood defences was dictated solely by money. One man said: “I know exactly what I need to do to protect my home but

“We were chatting last night and we’re all of the opinion, or most of us are at the moment, if they bulldozed my house now and gave me the money for it, I’d go and live somewhere else” 31

it costs so much. We live, like most people, with little savings; just paying bills. If there is flood damage, then I need to have the money to fix it. It would probably save us money if we could make the changes to stop the damage, but it’s a vicious circle. We have saved up before and got a couple of things done, but that takes time.” The financial difficulties householders face have also been identified as a major obstacle to people living in floodaffected regions in Great Britain. The Red Cross research team in the UK has found that people have difficulty meeting the total costs of flood defences because products vary in price – from low-cost air vents to expensive flood doors. The main problem is that people need to invest in a range of flood defences to fully protect their homes, the cost of which is beyond many people’s means. Community response There was a demonstrable community response in Beragh, where families, community representatives and the local Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) came together to offer help. The GAA members distributed sandbags to prevent flooding to properties and also helped people move from floodaffected homes. One interviewee said: “The community quickly and effectively mobilised itself to make sure people were out of danger and had somewhere safe to go, and offered whatever support they could during the floods.”

Beragh in County Tyrone experienced flooding in 2008 and twice in 2011. Unlike Fermanagh, where people were cut off by the floods, people in Beragh experienced a more traditional form of flooding, in that properties were damaged. In October 2011, 20 businesses, 50 homes and 19 garages were flooded.25 Eighteen people had to be rescued from their homes in boats by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.26 Many Beragh residents reported they had been flooded on more than one occasion – some had only just finished refurbishing their homes following the 2008 floods. Relocation Many homes became uninhabitable due to contaminated water, flood-damaged furniture and loss of utilities. This presented additional financial pressure for people who had to find temporary accommodation while their own homes

Local residents work to clear water in Beragh

were being repaired and refurbished. In some of the worst cases in Beragh, residents had to leave their homes for up to six weeks.27 In Beragh, the flooding had a particularly devastating impact on some residents. One woman, who had suffered repeated episodes of flooding, decided she could not return to her home and now lives elsewhere. She said: “I just couldn’t go through that another time. I will never be back; it is just one disaster after another.” Financial impact Flooded participants reported high costs incurred for home repairs, such as decoration, rewiring and structural repairs – as well as additional costs for refurbishment, electricity bills, laundry charges and costs associated with temporary accommodation. They appreciated the £1,000 severe inconvenience payment provided to

“the people in Beragh bought these properties in good faith and now there is no value at all to their homes” 30 Councillor Bert Wilson

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

Photo © Jonathan Porter/Press Eye, © Alan Lewis/Photopress Belfast

“the community of Beragh itself looked after those who were evacuated and the emergency services. they opened up cafés, they were giving tea, giving blankets out and taking strangers into their homes, which was magnificent from our point of view” 32 Max Joyce, Group Commander, northern Ireland Fire and Rescue service
Statutory response During the Beragh flooding in October 2011, Omagh District Council provided a range of support for households and businesses. Staff from the Environmental Health Department visited properties across the district to assess damage to homes and commercial businesses. These inspections facilitated financial assistance to residents, arranged for the disposal of contaminated food from local businesses, and supported proprietors in making insurance claims. As a result of this early intervention, local residents and businesses were able to apply quickly for financial support, with most claims being processed within four days of the flooding. In addition, officers from the Environmental Health Department offered services to make homes more habitable, including the use of dehumidifiers (for up to four weeks), decontaminating homes and gardens, power washing exteriors, cleaning garages and sheds, testing electrical and gas services, providing skips and emptying septic tanks. Shared frustrations – residents Following the floods in both 2008 and 2011, participants expressed frustration that there had been no significant improvements in flood protection, despite promises from political representatives and statutory responders. Residents are relieved that a £1.75 million flood prevention scheme for Beragh has been brought forward to 2013/14.33 This significant development follows commitments from Michelle O’Neill, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, who visited Beragh in October 2011 and promised additional funding for flood defences. Members of the community were also frustrated by the lack of information from responders throughout the incident. They would have welcomed

Jeffrey Irwin’s house in Beragh was flooded in 2011

early warnings and regular updates, and also reported a lack of support in the aftermath of the floods. They did not believe progress had been made by statutory agencies between the 2008 and 2011 floods in Beragh. Shared frustrations – responders Statutory responders expressed their frustration at a perceived lack of acknowledgement for the commitment of their staff, many of whom worked for 36 hours with little sleep. While recognising the public’s frustration, they felt people had too high an expectation of what could be realistically delivered within current capabilities: “We are doing our best with limited resources and manpower. It is very disheartening for my team – who are working very long hours in difficult conditions and doing the best they can – to be met with angry and unforgiving members of the public.”

Capacity issues were highlighted in the government review commissioned after the October floods. There was a specific recommendation to build capacity and increase funding, and also to explore the willingness of community groups to be part of the organised flood response.34

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

Photo © Claire Hannigan

The Red Cross is working with Emergency Planning Co-ordinators across Northern Ireland to engage with communities that have been recently flooded. > Flood-affected communities should be made aware of any contingency arrangements to treat ill or injured people during an emergency. 2. Capacity and capability in response and recovery > Improved multi-agency co-ordination in recent years has ensured that the emergency services and statutory responders have the capability to support communities during the initial response phase. > There is some evidence that the capacity of the drainage agencies can be stretched in protracted or widespread incidents.35
Flooded farmers’ fields

required in such emergencies and to support communities in developing safer working practices. > An asset register of equipment useful in flooding should be developed, taking into account potential assets across all sectors. > Regional and sub-regional emergency planning forums should begin to focus on the distinct needs of individuals and communities in the recovery phase. > As the needs in recovery can be complex and long term, additional multiagency capacity will be required. There is an opportunity to harness the assets and resources of local communities and the voluntary sector to sustain support in the recovery phase. 3. Communication > There was a general disconnect between emergency responders and the public. People in flood-affected areas were unsure about the role of officials, especially people in highvisibility jackets. > Many participants felt frustrated that they could not access public information regarding flood alleviation programmes for their area. > There are no ‘warning and informing’ schemes available in Northern Ireland, as compared to the Flood Alert Phone Service available in Great Britain. Recommendations > The community needs to have greater clarity on the roles and responsibilities of responding organisations during the response and recovery stages. > Flood alleviation programmes and timescales, such as those planned for Beragh, should be in the public domain. > A ‘warning and informing’ Flood Alert Phone Service should be developed in Northern Ireland so people living in flooding hot spots can register to receive an early call if the threat of flooding arises in their area.

1. The disconnect between emergency planners and the general public > There have been significant improvements in multi-agency emergency planning and co-ordination by local and central government. > The general public and the community are mainly unaware of these improvements and are not represented on regional or sub-regional emergency planning forums. They also do not know how to activate local emergency protocols. > Research participants are generally unaware of the statutory arrangements for flood management in Northern Ireland and the range of public information services available to support them. > People were generally unaware of contingency plans that the emergency services had put into place to reach people who were stranded in Fermanagh.

> Local emergency planning tends to be associated with a core group of key stakeholders. This places a high level of responsibility on a small number of individuals and presents operational risks, especially in protracted incidents. Recommendations > Local emergency planners should consider community representation on regional and sub-regional emergency planning forums. As a first step, key community stakeholders should be identified, included in local activation contact lists and familiar with the procedure to activate a local multiagency response. > Action should be taken to increase public awareness of the risk of flooding and what communities can do to help themselves. There is very good information available online but this general approach cannot address the complexity of needs at a local and individual level. We strongly recommend direct engagement with people living in flooding hotspots in order to assess their needs and the support required to help them prepare for future flooding.

> There is a lack of clarity about multiagency co-ordination in the recovery stage. The public assumes that the emergency services continue to have a lead role in response and recovery. > Feedback from people interviewed in Fermanagh suggests that they equate capability with having the necessary equipment to deal with flooding (e.g. large tractors, link boxes, etc.). > Vulnerable individuals and communities would have been helpless without the selfless actions of local farmers who responded to the needs of their neighbours. > The reliance on the farming community to provide agricultural vehicles and equipment to meet the needs of people stranded during flooding is, however, unsustainable and unsafe. Recommendations > There should be an increase in the capacity of and funding to those agencies with responsibility in flood response and recovery. > Responders should engage with local farmers to assess the vehicular assets

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

Photo © Paul Faith/ Press Association Images.

Chris McHugh with his son Jacob near his home in Co Fermanagh after 30 days of consecutive rain

4. Resilience > The research confirms a long tradition of community self-help in Fermanagh. There is, however, little evidence that communities take action beyond the initial response to prepare for future emergencies. > There is broad agreement in the civil contingencies sector across the UK that individuals and groups should be empowered with the knowledge and skills they need to build community resilience in response to local risks. > Communities need to be encouraged to be more proactive in preparing for and responding to emergencies. > The Fermanagh Taskforce recommends an education and public awareness programme.36

> The extensive research on flooding that has been conducted across the UK has so far not seriously examined the impact on children and young people. Recommendations > There needs to be renewed engagement between emergency planners and local communities, including farmers, to share experiences, identify risks and improve preparedness for future flooding emergencies. > We need to identify the organisations that have a stake in building community resilience, as opposed to those organisations with responsibilities in response. > The Red Cross recommends new approaches to building resilience and could support multi-agency partners and communities by sharing

experiences from other flood-affected communities, and by organising local information workshops on key areas e.g. > preparing for flooding > personal safety during flooding > improving flood defences > participating in multi-agency exercises > understanding the role of other responders > learning first aid. We are currently working with partners to identify pilot communities as a result of this research. > Further research should be conducted into the impact of flooding on children and young people. We support the Fermanagh Taskforce recommendation to develop bespoke flooding resources for schools. The Red Cross has

extensive experience and resources at home and abroad in working with young people, for example through peer education programmes. 5. Legislation > As the Civil Contingencies Act (2004)37 does not apply to Northern Ireland, emergency planners and statutory responders recognise that there is a deficit in the legislation in Northern Ireland which leads to inadequate structures for civil contingencies planning and response. Recommendations > Overarching civil contingencies legislation should be introduced to bring consistency to the structures and delivery of emergency response across all areas of Northern Ireland.38

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland


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Report of the Flooding Taskforce on the Fermanagh flooding of November 2009. Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (2010) Sharpe, Cathy, et al. After the floods: The lessons for recovery (2008) Report of the investigations into the freeze/thaw incident 2010/2011. Report to the Northern Ireland Executive (March 2011) Defined by the Civil Contingencies Secretariat (CCS) in March 2011. See epcollege. com/EPC/media/MediaLibrary/ Knowledge%20Hub%20 Documents/A%20Strategic%20 Framework/Strategic-NationalFramework-on-CommunityResilience_0.pdf?ext=.pdf Fermanagh Lakelands visitor guide 2012 Preliminary flood risk assessment and methodology for the identification of significant flood risk areas. The Rivers Agency. (December 2011) p.13

Agency – October flooding events Tyrone Constitution. Thursday 3 November 2011

21 Review into the operational performance of the Rivers Agency – October flooding events




Review into the operational performance of the Rivers Agency – October flooding events. (foreword); also see Belfast Telegraph online, Thursday 27 October 2011 at local-national/northern-ireland/ northern-ireland-needssingle-agency-to-deal-withflooding-16069398.html
13 14 Review into the operational performance of the Rivers Agency – October flooding events 15

Report of the Flooding Taskforce on the Fermanagh flooding of November 2009. Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (2010), p. 5
22 23

33 index/media-centre/newsdepartments/news-dard/ news-archives-dard-nov-2011/ news-dard-251111-beraghflood-prevention.htm 34 Review into the operational performance of the Rivers Agency – October flooding events

ibid, p.6 ibid, p.60


25 Review into the operational performance of the Rivers Agency – October flooding events 26

Foreword by Pat Doherty MP. Review into the operational performance of the Rivers Agency – October flooding events
35 36 Report of the Flooding Taskforce on the Fermanagh flooding of November 2009. Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (2010), p. 10

ibid ibid


28 A Tyrone resident speaking in the Tyrone Constitution. Thursday 3 November 2011 29 Review into the operational performance of the Rivers Agency – October flooding events 30 Omagh District Councillor Bert Wilson, Tyrone Constitution. Thursday 3 November 2011 31 Local resident, BBC News website (25 October 2011) 32 Group Commander, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service. BBC News website (25 October 2011)


Omagh District Councillor Bert Wilson, Tyrone Constitution. Thursday 3 November 2011
16 ukpga/2004/36/contents
37 38 Resilient Northern Ireland: A call to action, British Red Cross (2012)


Rivers Agency website, chief executive’s welcome. See index/about-rivers-agency/chief_ executive_welcome-2.htm
17 18 Preliminary flood risk assessment and methodology for the identification of significant flood risk areas. The Rivers Agency. (December 2011) 19

10 Data supplied by Met Office as reported by the Report of the Flooding Taskforce on the Fermanagh flooding of November 2009. Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (2010) p.15

Review into the operational performance of the Rivers
11 resources/flooding%20leaflet.pdf




Acknowledgements The authors of this report would like to thank: > Individuals and community representatives from County Fermanagh and Beragh > Joan McCaffrey – Emergency Planning Co-ordinator (western counties) > Paddy Joe McClean – Beragh Care and Development Association > Claire Carleton – Programme Manager, Belfast Resilience Forum > John McIlwraith – Rivers Agency > John Wylie – Met Office > Andrew Law – NI Water > Aloysius Loughran – Roads Service > Judi Evans – Operations Director, British Red Cross > Alison McNulty –senior researcher, British Red Cross > Dr Liam Campbell – researcher, British Red Cross (May 2011 – October 2011) > Dr Katrina Collins – research consultant (November 2011 – May 2012) Special thanks to Fermanagh District Council and Robert Forde for their generous use of office space and other facilities during the course of the research.

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

CUT OFF IN THE COUNTRYSIDE The impact of flooding on rural Northern Ireland

British Red Cross 44 Moorfields London EC2Y 9AL Tel 0844 871 1111 Fax 020 7562 2000 Published 2012
The British Red Cross Society, incorporated by Royal Charter 1908, is a charity registered in England and Wales (220949) and Scotland (SC037738) Cover photo: Photo © Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Email: Tel: 020 7877 7029

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