Owing to changing global weather patterns, potential flood events are becoming increasingly unpredictable. In response to this, The UK’s Environment Agency (EA) continuously studies weather forecasts and water telemetry to detect emerging threats.
When a flood risk occurs, priorities often change on the ground. The EA’s strategy is therefore to go big and go early, delivering a comprehensive equipment resource to the response teams so they have everything they might need to erect the best possible defence.
This strategy needs well-organised logistic support. The flood barriers are a modular, interlocking system, packed onto stillages for efficient transport – each stillage holding everything needed for up to 50 metres of defence. They have to be delivered to site, where the local response teams often move them within the overall flood risk area to where the barriers are most needed.
As a result, once the flood risk has passed, the barriers are often not where they were originally delivered, resulting in further challenges for the logistics team that has to recover them.
The Environment Agency’s major incident response programme is working with Stobart Rail & Civils in order to provide this emergency flood resilience for communities around the country. Stobart’s 24/7 storage and logistics solution manages the EA’s temporary flood defence assets that includes 40km of barriers, high capacity pumps and a range of ancillary defence equipment.
When the EA identifies a potential flood risk, its national incident room integrates with Stobart’s major incident response management team to mobilise delivery of the required assets to site. Stobart and its transportation partners then deliver the equipment to the flood risk location and work with the EA’s front-line response teams to deploy the protection.
To assist in keeping track of the equipment, Stobart and the EA worked with BT to implement an Internet of Things (IoT) GPS-based track-and-trace solution, which uses small transponders permanently affixed to the stillages that continually report their position to an online management platform that can be viewed on any mobile device. This maximises the efficiency of Stobart’s logistics planning and ensures that the recovery teams can readily locate and collect every stillage, wherever they might have been moved to.
For added security of these expensive assets, the system’s geofencing capability will issue an alert if a stillage is moved away from the defined area.
When the flood risk event subsides, Stobart repatriates the deployed assets to strategically located resilience centres and EA depots around England. Stobart then ensures that all of the equipment is ready for its next deployment by checking every item before re-packing into the stillages. The data that the track-and-trace solution provides helps minimise this quarantine period to ensure the early availability of barriers for the next flood event, significantly reducing asset down time, and the repatriation and maintenance costs.
BT’s IoT track-and-trace technology, as deployed by Stobart and the Environment Agency, has proved an invaluable tool in the UK’s national flood defence capability. The ability to understand exactly where assets are located anywhere in the country is both essential when responding to flood incidents and helps Stobart deliver efficient strategic planning that ensures assets are always located close to where they might be needed.
The EA’s major incident response programme is making a real difference to people’s lives by protecting communities from increasing flood risk, and the innovative solutions that Stobart has introduced are helping the EA do this more effectively than ever before.
Toby Willison, executive director for operations at the Environment Agency, said: “Being prepared for flooding is one of our top priorities, so having the right equipment in the right place at the right time is key. We work very closely with our delivery partners to ensure that our temporary barriers and mobile pumps are ready to go anywhere in the country, allowing us to respond rapidly and flexibly to help protect communities, homes and businesses.
“Climate change is the biggest risk we face and we are continually looking for ways to build greater resilience into the work we do so that we are prepared for the future. New technology such as the GPS tracking of our mobile flood barriers marks an important step forwards in achieving this goal”