Carslile storms – debrief by Cumbria County Council

Long serving team member Chris Moody attended (as a representative of the Bolton MRT) a debrief on the Carlisle Storms of earlier this year, hosted by Lancashire County Council Emergency Planning.

The full day event was held at the Lancashire Hub, Longridge, near Preston, and involved many representatives from emergency and voluntary organisations working in Lancashire who may benefit from a debrief of this incident.

Here’s an account by Chris of what happened on the day.

The Cumbria storms of early 2005 were, according to both the local and national press, ’unprecedented’ and resulted in flooding of the city centre affecting hundreds if not thousands of residents and the population of greater Cumbria. The truth is that Carlisle has been similarly flooded in living memory.

Local authorities and the emergency services plan for civil emergencies and those in Cumbria are no exception. When weather conditions brought the possibility of excessive rainfall and the possibility of flooding to Northern England a Flash Message was sent out to local authorities. During the following few hours water levels rose and with it the first problem. The building meant to be a command centre was one of those flooded, along with both the fire and police stations.

The local authorities brought in assistance from many voluntary bodies as the scale of the effort needed became apparent. Over the following six or seven days many organisations brought their expertise and personnel to Carlisle. Media coverage concentrated on the visible, such as the MCA and RNLI operating on city streets ferrying residents to safety, or the always highly regarded WRVS doling out tea etc to rescuers and rescued alike. Many were probably unaware that members of MRT provided a radio net which effectively replaced the telephone network for a period of time and allowed emergency services to respond to the normal range of calls.

On Friday 28th October 2005 Lancashire CC acted as hosts to their Cumbrian colleagues. A presentation on what had, or had not, been effective during the emergency, and thereafter, was delivered to organisations involved or interested. Communications difficulties, inter-agency relations, the role of volunteers, effectiveness of procedures and other topics were discussed and commented on.

As part of the same day the Lancashire Major Incident Co-Ordinating Group, comprising local and county authorities along with the emergency services, presented awards to representatives of several organisations or services identified as having made significant contributions to the people of Lancashire, as part of the ’Year of the Volunteer’. Nick Mattock of Bowland Pennine MRT accepted the award to ’Mountain Rescue’ on behalf of the three teams, Bowland Pennine, Rossendale Pendle and Bolton, based and/or operating in the county in recognition of support provided over many years. Other organisations included the RSPCA / Victim support / British Red Cross amongst the number also recognised.