Should we tell them about the risk from flooding? Who’s them? Ah…

Should the Government publish details of reservoir flood plans for local residents and ‘persons likely to be interested‘? (Which I think is a reference to the emergency services)

Sir Michael Pitt believes so. The Centre for the Protection of the National Infrastructure, on the other hand, says that such information could show terrorists where an attack on a dam might have the most impact.

Here’s the problem. Last year record levels of rainfall nearly caused a Yorkshire dam to fail. Ulley reservoir, near Rotherham was very close to breaking. Below are some of the potential consequences of the dam bursting:

‘Water would have knocked out the main electricity switching station in the Sheffield area for an indefinite period, perhaps leading to a breakdown in social cohesion. A dam flood would also have destroyed the main 42-inch gas main serving Sheffield, which would have created a hazard to aircraft from the gas escaping into the atmosphere. All this would have been in addition to hundreds of deaths caused by a wall of water driving down the valley below the dam if it burst.

As the Pitt report points out, emergency services facing the crisis had no maps of potential inundation to work from and had to work it out themselves, identifying the areas most likely to be flooded and then planning an evacuation – all this took time and could have been done faster if the information had been available in the first place. But the CPNI is standing firm – publishing flood plans is just too much of a risk.  More to come.

Good map showing last year’s flooding (courtesy of The Independent) can be found here.

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About Charlie Edwards

Charlie Edwards is Director of National Security and Resilience Studies at the Royal United Services Institute. Prior to RUSI he was a Research Leader at the RAND Corporation focusing on Defence and Security where he conducted research and analysis on a broad range of subject areas including: the evaluation and implementation of counter-violent extremism programmes in Europe and Africa, UK cyber strategy, European emergency management, and the role of the internet in the process of radicalisation. He has undertaken fieldwork in Iraq, Somalia, and the wider Horn of Africa region.