Friday, October 15, 1999 Published at 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Homes warned of flood risks
There may be trouble ahead . . . and the Environment Agency wants to spread the word
By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby
A national advertising campaign will for the first time highlight the risk posed by flooding.
The UK Environment Agency, the government body responsible for flood warning in England and Wales, will spend £2m on the campaign, which includes local radio advertisements and 2,000 outdoor poster sites in high-risk areas.
New warning service
The agency is also launching a new telephone information service for people to ring. Called Floodline, it will offer advice on home protection, and details of flood warnings in force in the caller's area.
In flood warning areas, the agency aims to give two hours' advance notice. But it says many floods cannot be forecast.
It says 1.3 million homes and businesses in England and Wales are at risk from flooding, and for them the risk is greater than the risk of fire.
But it says only 5% of people in flood risk areas take the threat seriously enough to make any preparations to face it.
In 1998, 21 people in the UK died as a result of flooding, and during October alone an area the size of North Yorkshire was flooded. Six months earlier, flooding caused losses (some uninsured) of £400m.
The agency's chief executive, Ed Gallagher, said there were simple ways of minimising the long-term effects of a flood.
These included having enough insurance, protecting vital documents, clearly marking where gas and electricity switches needed to be turned off, and moving valuables out of the reach of the water.
The agency was criticised by an independent inquiry for failing to give adequate warning of the April 1998 floods.
It apologised for its performance, saying: "We believe we did many things well, but we acknowledge that our actions did not always meet our own standards or satisfy the public or others."