This summer all eyes will be on London as it hosts the world's biggest sporting event. So far media debate has focused on whether the government is prepared in terms of transport and security but there is another vital element of infrastructure that is not being considered: the risk to residents and businesses of large scale flooding.
The recent weather conditions have been a warning for the state of things to come: Following the driest March for 59 years, we then experienced the wettest April since records began in 1910, with heavy rains across the UK leading to extreme flooding due to the dry ground. Whilst I can't predict the long range weather forecast, the past four summers have been very wet, so we could potentially be in for another August of rain at a time when we need things to go smoothly.
While much of the focus has been on how the recent flooding conditions have affected home-owners, there's a much wider issue at stake. Flooding can cause destruction to infrastructure, such as roads and public transport systems, as well as shops and businesses. The last thing the UK government needs are closed underground stations, or tourist sites and shops that are inaccessible because simple procedures have not been put in place to prevent flooding. Thailand is still reeling from devastating floods last year, when factories were closed for business for some time, leading to many global companies threatening to pull out of the country. It is not just that the negative perception will linger, but the financial impact of such destruction would be a burden on an already stretched budget.
Often when people consider flood defences, they imagine large walls creating an eyesore to the environment around them. However, technology has advanced and there are now solutions available that don't have a negative impact on their surroundings. The self closing flood barrier range protects buildings and communities from the consequences of flooding, but is installed at ground level and activated by the power of the incoming flood water, therefore remaining dormant and invisible to the eye in non-flood conditions. We have recently installed these barriers in Italy and Australia, protecting homes and businesses.
In addition, properties can be protected with simple measures such as flood-proof doors, airbrick replacements, and sewage defence, to ensure homes and offices are not damaged.
The answer to any threat is to be prepared for the worst. I think everyone would hope for a glorious summer this year, but unfortunately Brits are accustomed to being let down by the weather! If 2012 follows the pattern of preceding years, we could be in for another wash out. However, if businesses and the public sector have plans in place to prepare for the worst case scenario, any damage, physical and emotional, will be significantly lessened.
I call on the government and businesses to ensure they have emergency plans in place to combat any flood risk. Whilst contingency plans are no doubt in place for security lapses, or public transport failings, our biggest enemy is something that we have very little control over; the weather. The devastation caused by flooding brings misery to all those who experience it, but it is not an inevitable conclusion. There are steps that can be taken to safeguard buildings and communities, and I urge those responsible to act now before it is too late.
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