Flood resilience across the county has received a boost with the introduction of 160 volunteer flood wardens.
Following the floods of 2013-14, these community spirited residents now form an important link between local authority organisations and the emergency services like Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) and communities at risk of flooding.
Having received full training, they will pass flood warnings and information to residents and help identify people in the community who may need a little extra help due to age, disability or other impairment.
KFRS Station Manager Chris Else, who also heads up the Kent Resilience Team* (KRT) said: "Preparing for emergencies is at the very heart of our business and something we are well rehearsed in and we have been sharing our expertise with parish council’s to help communities be prepared."
One of the villages badly affected by the floods of 2013-14, East Peckham near Tonbridge has taken advantage of the help on offer to develop flood plans and provide training for flood wardens.
Chairman of East Peckham Parish Council, Stephanie Watson said: "What we learned from the 2013 floods was that no one person or agency can protect the whole community and we can all do a lot more to help ourselves. We’ve worked with KRT to develop a community action plan, so if the worst happens again, we will all be better prepared.
"Part of our flood warden’s role has been to go out and collect information to identify those residents who might need extra help, such as those who are bed-bound downstairs or if they have a carer or meals on wheels. That way we can make sure they still get help and services they need. As a result, we now have a much clearer idea of the people in our community and whether they want to be evacuated in an emergency situation, which we didn’t have before.
"It’s not just about us providing practical advice for our community, there are also a variety of steps people can take to help look after themselves, their family and property. We have an active flood group in the village and more of our community have signed up to receive flood alerts from the Environment Agency, so they get flood warnings far quicker."
Chris concluded: "It’s not just about flooding, for us water safety is a year round issue, which is why we are highlighting it during CFOA’s Water Safety Week. We regularly get called out to motorists who get stuck attempting to drive through flooded roads or fords and are also called to help people who get into difficulty in Kent’s rivers and lakes."
Kent’s firefighters will be out around the county during the coming weeks providing information on flood awareness, the EA flood warning text scheme and talking to people about keeping safe in and around water including:
Visiting Canal Road, Strood to provide information on flooding awareness and the EA flood warning text service
Fire crews will be carrying out water rescue training at Eynsford Ford on Thursday, 23 April from 7pm
Flood awareness event - Saturday, 25 April 10am until 12 noon at Edenbridge Fire Station, High Street, Edenbridge
For more information on preparing for emergencies or becoming a flood warden, call 01622 212409 for advice. Your parish can also order free copies of a handbook that could save lives - "What should I do in an emergency" email: KRF@kent.fire-uk.org if you can help with distribution. You can also download a copy from www.kentprepared.org.uk It gives important information so that you know how local people can help themselves in an emergency situation and be properly prepared.