Flooding in the Darent Valley
Individuals and communities have a vital role in looking after themselves and flooding is the no 1 risk they need to prepare for. It is doubly important because the same or similar preparations will apply to most other emergencies. Ordinary citizens need to assist the emergency services, be prepared and help in the aftermath eg. volunteer for clean up. No-one says so but this is likely to be an essential part of the govt’s welfare strategy.
The Environment Agency (EA) runs Flood Warnings Direct which you can sign up for online (google flood information service) or telephone the floodline 0345 988 1188 and register, to get telephone calls, texts, e-mails, whatever suits. This does not cover surface water (heavy rain filling the drains), smaller watercourses or sewers overflowing. If you dial that number, select option 1 and then dial 012632 you can hear a pre-recorded message regarding the alert status of our part of the Darenth Valley.
Information goes in the other direction when you call up the authorities to report a risk – drains or gullies blocked, trash screens full etc. Report to the Parish Council, the District council or the EA. The statutory authorities NHS/Social Care/Utility companies make lists of vulnerable people available to the emergency services so we don’t need to compile such a thing, but people who have recently become vulnerable (leg in plaster), who don’t think of themselves as vulnerable (never-say-die grannies) or those who simply couldn’t lift a sandbag – these are the ones to look out for before the emergency services arrive. The geeky could make a note of times that flood reaches certain heights for post-flood analysis by the water authorities.
The EA has monitored gauges (height measures) at Brasted, Otford and Eynsford from which they deduced (after the event) that 2013 was a 30-40 year event and January 2014 was a 25-30 year event – reports of two 100 year events were not accurate. 1958 and 1968 on the other hand…
During a flood, nobody wants you to go into the murky water – whether falling in, on foot or in a car. Flood water travels four times faster than the normal stream, especially over smooth surfaces like roads, even heavy manholes get lifted and often create suction downwards like a plughole. A third of flood related deaths are in cars deliberately driven into flood water. Even without the extra speed of flow, two feet of water will lift a family car. On top of that, floodwater is filthy – it has flowed over treated farmland, into stables, garages, gardens and toilets and sewers may have backed up as well. Only Kent fire and Rescue, the RSPCA and Kent Search and Rescue have the training and equipment to go into deep water and they know to wash everything off afterwards.
One of the most disappointing things is when the bow-wave from a lorry or 4×4 floods a house that was otherwise dry. If you live in a house by a road you need
10 be prepared for this, do not expect KCC Highways to close the road – they are obliged to keep Kent moving. Besides which, cars and other vehicles go around road blocks if they can see their house in the distance – you know they will.
Floods or hail and snowstorms come with high winds and tree falls. The Parish council recently asked for names of those with chainsaw certificates to come forward but will not want you to go into the water…. and cannot insure you. Always ring in to co-ordinate before you start to help and remember that if you use a chainsaw in a public place you will need to be insured against personal injury or damage to third parties under your own policy. Voluntary workers are seldom found at fault and no obligation or contract exists if you do or do not help. If you have a chainsaw certificate you will doubtless know the Health and Safety regulations.
It would be useful to say that the Village Hall is a good meeting place but in a deep flood Farningham Village Hall visitors may well need wellies if not sticks to check for obstacles or deep water. Giles Bergne – Flood Warden