Environment Agency offer help to Sidmouth emergency planners

AN offer of staff hours from the Environment Agency to help in the setting up of an emergency planning committee has been welcomed by Sidmouth Town Council.

AN offer of staff hours from the Environment Agency to help in the setting up of an emergency planning committee has been welcomed by Sidmouth Town Council.

Hector Kidds, EA's flood incident management team leader for Devon, addressed Monday's meeting of the council, together with Dominic Maxwell-Batten, Devon County Council's emergency planning officer.

Mr Maxwell-Batten said there were "a multitude of risks" his team gave risk ratings too, from severe weather to flu pandemics.

He said it was important to have plans regarding risks to communities in the South West that tie in with other agencies such as fire, police and health agencies, along with the EA.

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"About 30 percent of communities in Devon have an emergency plan and we want this to rise to 60 percent by 2012," he said.

A workshop was held last July for parish councillors to draw up their own plan.

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He warned that emergency services could not, in the event of a disaster such as coastal flooding, get to some communities as quickly as others.

DCC has produced a leaflet: Don't be scared, be well prepared! which gives emergency planning advice to families.

Mr Kidds said the EA had flood warnings operating on 440 properties in Sidmouth, which is classified as a 'significant' flood risk.

"The River Sid is a 'flashy' river and...it doesn't take much more than a shower to get a response and the floodgates to close," he said.

He emphasised the importance of having an emergency planning committee that could respond to an emergency at once, possibly quicker than the emergency services.

An offer of some help was available for 12 months from a member of EA's staff to support the council in setting up a committee.

"Someone has to take on the mantle and we would very much like to support you in that. We need an invitation from you for us to come and help you," he said.

Councillor Ann Liverton expressed concerns at ensuring people knew who held keys to council offices and that a "cascade of command" was operated.

She said: "Someone in the town or village needs to know who is responsible locally, this council, the Chamber of Commerce, who? and that concerns me. When it (emergency) happens how does it work?"

Councillor Dilly Fung asked if examples of emergency plans were available and was told it would be possible to use other plans to base a Sidmouth plan on.

"We have tonight officers offering to help. We have to take this offer up, clearly this needs to be done," said Councillor Graham Liverton, who said the council should ressurect its old emergency committee.

A working party was set up on Monday that will liaise with DCC officers and the EA to work out a remit for the new committee.

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