In the last several years, the concept of integrated emergency management has been continually evolving. This is taking place by focusing on how communities, businesses and government officials are prepared for a host of events ranging from natural disasters to terrorism. In 2007, the UK experienced a series of floods between June and July. This was the largest peace time rescue operation in the history of Britain. (Flin 2008)
However, in the aftermath of these events, the government determined that more preparation needs to occur. To fully understand how these issues were addressed, requires looking at the shortcomings of the flood and what changes have been enacted. Together, these elements will illustrate the lasting lessons and the most appropriate steps to prepare for them. (Flin 2008)
The Shortcomings of the Flood
The situation with the 2007 floods in the UK is showing how integrated emergency management must take place. This is because there was a lack of planning for these events. For the most part, everyone assumed that these were not as big of a threat to communities. This is from improvements in the ability to control flooding, through building a series of dams and water control projects. (Klein 2008)
These attitudes meant that a number of construction projects were built along the flood plains for many different rivers. In the summer of 2007, excessive amounts of rain created a situation where the water began to flood these areas. The problem was compounded by the fact that no one was prepared or felt that these regions would be vulnerable. When this happened, it meant that many communities were not prepared for these issues in the future. (Klein 2008)
A good example of this can be seen with observations from Howlett (2009) who found that Cabinet Office review illustrated the different types of knowledge for flood risk management. It also examined weaknesses in the current system. The government explored how to expand the knowledge base, the relationships among officials and local the changing nature of local community flood risks. Commenting about these challenges Howlett said, "The research involved stakeholder interviews undertaken before and after the 2007 floods, Severn catchment, UK and examination of policy documentation. At the same time, there was a focus on scale issues in relation to knowledge types suggesting that local knowledge can be 'expert' in large-scale mapping of flood processes. This reflects on how local flood knowledge can be captured, shared, harnessed and used and assimilated into governance structures for flood resilience planning." As a result, the 2007 UK flood experience is demonstrating key weaknesses and the impacts they are having on a variety of stakeholders. (Howlett 2009)
These insights are showing how the UK had no effective integrated emergency management system. The result is that these challenges could negatively have an impact on the way various stakeholders are interacting with each other. When this happens, the odds increase exponentially of a natural disaster having adverse consequences on everyone. (Howlett 2009)
Moreover, many local councils and communities were not prepared for the possibility of flooding. This is because most people assumed that these regions would not have any issues. As emergency flood control measures were used, to limit the total amounts of excessive water inside specific regions. The problem was compounded by the fact that a number of areas received above average amounts of rain within a short period. (Freudenburg 2009)
The combination of these factors created a situation where attitudes of complacency and a lack of planning compounded the problem. This enabled the crisis to become worse when the extra water began running through its traditional floodplain. The result is that many residents were stranded and there were limited amounts of resources to help them. (Freudenburg 2009)
A good example of this can be seen with observations from Handmer (2013) who said, "The summer of 2007 was, without a doubt, one of the wettest on record, but we have had wet summers before, indeed some quite recently. Analysis of the Meteorological Office's rainfall series for 1914-2007 for the United Kingdom shows that in about 20% of years the UK's summer rainfall was greater than the median winter and autumn rainfalls. However, the UK's summer rainfall for 2007 (357.1mm) was the second highest on record, and only marginally less than in the wettest year (1956, 358.4mm)."(Handmer 2013)
This is demonstrating how the flooding in the UK was the result of above average rains during the summer months. The fact that most people felt this would not happen, made the underlying situation worse. This is because; attitudes of complacency began to influence the opinions of government officials and communities.
Over the long-term, Parliament cut funding for these programs. At the same time, there was no clear authority on who was in charge. Once the disaster hit, is the point these issues became more pronounced. This is when, there were clear challenges impacting officials and the long-term effects on a variety of stakeholders. (Hindmoor 2006)
What Changes have been Enacted?
In light of these events, the government experienced a number of criticisms directed at their ability to deal with these challenges. What made the situation worse is a report from the Metrological Office found that many regions of the country were going to experience above average amounts of rain from El Nino like conditions. However, no ministers had the authority or responsibility to enact any kind of changes. (Dryzek 2009)
Evidence of this can be seen with information uncovered by the Drennan. He concluded that ministers were warned months ago that the country faced heavy flooding this summer. Yet, nothing was done to protect vulnerable towns and villages. Early in 2007, the Met Office and the government knew the El Nino effect, would change global weather patterns more than usual. However, at the same time, the government was planning to cut jobs at the Environment Agency, (which deals with theses defenses). Moreover, water companies had been prevented from building larger storm water drains and sewage systems. This is illustrating how the lack of planning led to more people facing tremendous challenges in those areas most vulnerable to flooding. (Drennan 2007)
The result is the government took specific actions to increase funding, planning and coordination among communities. The biggest changes occurred with the passage of the Flood and Water Management Act of 2010. This gives more power to the Environmental Agency and local authorities to prepare flood defenses. These shifts, require both entities working together to understand the potential threats and creating plans for dealing with them. (Birkland 2006)
At the same time, it provided added amount of funding for first responders, local and national governments. The basic idea is to provide them with the resources they need, in order to be prepared for these disasters in the future. This is used, to help communities to create sustainable drainage systems such as soak-aways. (Birkland 2006)
Moreover, there is an emphasis on creating a working strategy which can deal with these challenges in the longer term through effective planning for growth and emergencies. These elements help everyone to have a basic strategy to combat flooding in a host of regions. This is based upon the recommendations provide to the government. The most notable include:
• Establishing a Cabinet Committee dedicated to tackling the risk of flooding, bringing flooding in line with other major risks such as pandemic flu and terrorism.
• Publishing monthly summaries of progress during the recovery phase of major flooding events, including number of households still displaced.
• Ensuring proper resourcing of flood resilience measures, with above inflation increases every spending review.
• Establishing a National Resilience Forum to facilitate national level planning for flooding and other emergencies.
• Having pre-planned financial arrangements for responding to the financial burden of exceptional emergencies.