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Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 16:31 UK
New flood plan to prevent damage
Sam Pearce, Jim Beeny and Katie Jay
Sam, Jim and Katie have been working together on the flood plan

A community flood plan in Beaminster is raising awareness of flooding and has boosted community spirit.

The town's positioning at the bottom of a 'horse-shoe shaped' valley means it is prone to flooding in heavy rainfall.

In conjunction with the Environment Agency, the town started to look at what it would do if there was a flood.

They decided to appeal for volunteers to be community flood wardens, each responsible for their own area. They received an enthusiastic response.

The town's new flood plan is part of a larger emergency plan.

It was decided to update this partly in response to flooding in nearby Crewkerne and Netherbury last summer.

People who will know what to do

It means that, should the town be at risk of a flood, there are now people in place who residents can contact, and who will know what to do.

The Environment Agency are keen for more towns and villages in Dorset to set up their own flood plans.

Katie Jay, from the Environment Agency said: "We split Beaminster into several different zones and we had enough people come forward to look after each zone.

"They go out to look at places and try to spot any potential issues or problems with drainage, ditches or water courses.

"The idea is that everyone will know what they are doing in an emergency."

Picture from Dorset County Museum as part of a community archive project by the Environment Agency
Beaminster 1960, James Barret's flooded house

'Anyone can be susceptible'

Beaminster Town Council administrator Sam Pearce helps co-ordinate the plan, and has seen the devastating effects of flooding first-hand.

She said: "I live in Netherbury, and last year my neighbour's house was flooded.

"It was a bad experience - the water was just pouring off the hills and flooding into their house.

"It shows that anyone can be susceptible to flooding."

Sam says Beaminster has already found the scheme 'invaluable':

"People have phoned when the water is lapping at their door, they contact their flood warden and then they are out there with sand bags, it's fantastic."

'You could see the water oozing out'

Keeping an eye on the town and helping to ensure the safety of Beaminster's 3,000 residents are nine flood wardens, who look after the zones between them.

One of them is Jim Beeny, a former farmer and who is now retired.

He said: "We've been called out three times so far, and it's nearly always in the middle of the night!

"The worst time was last autumn when you could see the water oozing out underneath the manhole cover on the street."

Jim says the town can cope with around an inch and a half of rainfall in an hour, but any more than that could cause problems.

He said: "Flooding can begin to happen very quickly when it rains but also the water subsides very quickly too, in a couple of hours.

"I advise people to put all their valuables upstairs."

The green telemetry box helps measure the town's water levels
The green telemetry box helps measure the town's water levels

New measuring equipment

The flood wardens are part of an effort to increase an awareness of the issue of flooding, and the scheme works alongside new equipment installed in the town by the Environment Agency.

This can monitor water levels in the river, and, where a notable increase occurs, the equipment will trigger a message to notify those who may be at risk of flooding.

Katie said: "This is our telemetry system and it constantly feeds back via a mobile phone network, so we can warn local councils, the police and the flood wardens if we think there may be problems.

"If the levels continue to rise we then let people know if we think it may affect their properties."

As well as putting in place the flood wardens who can help in a possible emergency, the plan also aims to raise awareness of what to do in the event of a flood and to promote self help for households.

Sam Pearce from Beaminster Town Council said: "We also work on a preventative level where each warden will speak to residents to help raise awareness of flooding in the town, and what they can do to help."

"It has definitely helped to improve the community spirit here too."

If you are concerned about flooding in your town or village or would like to find out more about the Environment Agency's flood warden scheme please contact the Floodline on 0845 988 1188 or visit their website




SEE ALSO
Residents give advice on flooding
02 Nov 09 |  Dorset


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