The terrible impact of flooding and storm damage in the UK has been obvious over the winter and December 2015 was officially the wettest month on record for parts of the country.
Storm Desmond, Eva and Frank left a ‘trail of destruction’ in the North of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland following record breaking rain fall and over 180* flood alerts issued in one month.
Thousands of properties were flooded – homes, businesses, schools and other community facilities and there has been major damage to roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure.
As a result of the flooding analysis by accountancy firm PWC estimated costs of £900m to £1.3bn so far with costs expected to rise to £1.5bn as the full extent is realised.**
This has since sparked much debate on how to prevent this environmental catastrophe from re-occurring. Defra have committed to a £2.3bn, 6 year programme of capital investment to improve flood defences, Chancellor George Osborne has announced a £50 million fund for families and businesses affected by flooding in Cumbria and Lancashire and the Prime Minister announced £40m of funding to repair flood defences damaged in the December storms.
But what happens if this does re-occur? According to a study by the World Resources Institute, of the risks posed by river flooding over the next 15 years, it will happen again and it will only get worse with the number of people exposed to flooding risk expected to rise from 21m to 54m globally by 2030.
So, how does the response community prepare for the inevitable? And how can it respond to these emergencies most effectively?
A key strand to the solution lies in the provision of resilient communications at the scene. Robust, mobile and rapidly deployable communications infrastructures can support or replace compromised and overloaded terrestrial networks to ensure a better operational response. Such resilient communications enable teams to create and share better situational awareness with collaborating groups and helps support enhanced interoperability.
The Environment Agency is one organisation that is already benefiting from the use of a variety of communication solutions provided by Excelerate Technology.
When flooding is about to strike, the Environment Agency’s Incident Command Vehicles are deployed. The incident command vehicles are one of the first on the scene and can be deployed rapidly using Excelerate’s Digital Dashboard Management Interface (DDMI). This easy to use operating interface combines all the on-board communications systems and solutions into a touchscreen control pad for simple one-touch operation.
The vehicle is equipped with satellite communications. The reason for this is simple, satellite broadband delivers guaranteed communications capacity in areas where no terrestrial communications services exist, may be congested, under threat or suffering from disruption, such as areas affected by flooding.
Excelerate offer a range of satellite platforms suitable for a variety of vehicles that have been designed to perform in challenging environments where fast deployment is essential. With single button operation, the on-board satellite communications can be easily deployed to provide a resilient backhaul where terrestrial networks are inadequate.
This resilient network may be used to send live video footage from a mast-mounted camera giving an aerial view of the scene from within the vehicle which can then be streamed onwards to any authorised location. This gives commanders real time video footage assisting them when making critical decisions and allowing the sharing of information with collaborative agencies.
This also gives the Environment Agency the ability to add on future video streaming solutions from Excelerate Technology, such as from body worn cameras. Excelerate’s body worn camera solution incorporates optional COFDM technology that supports effective real time video streaming even in high signal loss environments such as within tunnels or buildings where normal transmission is typically compromised.
For a 360-degree aerial view of a wide area flood event Excelerate offers the integration of a UAV solution into an organisation’s existing command communications to enable a live video stream direct to the decision makers.
Additional temporary video coverage or communications capability may also be deployed quickly as required with our revolutionary Sherpa pole/lamp post climbing system. This easy-to-use, portable and re-deployable camera or communications delivery system can be set-up within minutes, giving immediate, high quality video or network coverage. As well as use in flood responses Sherpa may be used to deploy CCTV to monitor local flood defences providing the capability to move CCTV camera’s around as required – filling gaps in fixed CCTV infrastructures.
In flood responses vehicle access can be difficult, thus presenting issues for responders who need to deploy local area communications as required. Excelerate’s portable communications solution allows flexible deployment in these challenging scenarios allowing the deployment of a resilient data network from our LTE (4G) enabled Command Pod. This may be taken to the required location by boat for localised deployment (e.g. a cut off community, where little or no terrestrial communications are available).
The private and secure LTE network (configurable into vehicle based or portable formats), with it’s satellite backhaul, enables access to data, video and voice anytime and anywhere via smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.
*figures taken from BBC website using Met Office data
**figures taken from PWC website
Excelerate will be exhibiting at the Flood & Coast Expo at the Telford International Centre on the 23rd to 25th February. Visit us at Stand A3b to see our capabilities in action.