14 December 2012
For immediate release Friday 14 December
For further information Kate Gormley, Media Relations Officer
Contact number 07968177569
Cut off by the floods – Red Cross reveals impact of rural flooding in Northern Ireland
Research published today by the British Red Cross outlines the specific difficulties experienced by rural populations in Northern Ireland when faced with extreme flooding. The humanitarian charity, which published a 2010 report on flooding in Greater Belfast entitled ‘Living in Fear of the Rain’, wanted to understand how the needs of rural communities may differ from people living in more urban areas. The research focused primarily on Co Fermanagh and the village of Beragh in Co Tyrone, both of which have experienced flooding in recent years.
Joanne McKenna, Head of Emergency Response and Resilience for the Red Cross in Northern Ireland said;
“In working with the Fermanagh Multi-Agency Group which was convened following the OFMDFM Fermanagh Taskforce report back in 2010, it became clear that additional research was necessary. While severe flooding is a serious emergency wherever you live, its impact can be quite different in rural areas. In Fermangh for example, few homes were flooded but many people were stranded and couldn’t access vital services for long periods of time.”
The research also highlighted the role which community self-help played when isolated communities were cut off. Many families relied on local farmers who became a lifeline to the outside world; a situation which local farmers themselves agreed was far from ideal and potentially dangerous.
Ms McKenna continued;
“The way in which isolated communities pull together when facing an emergency is a tribute to the rural characteristics of stoicism and self-reliance. In some cases however the public was unaware of the detail of the emergency plans in their area. This led to additional stress and to people taking unnecessary risks.”
The Red Cross report includes a number of recommendations which include; better communication between agencies and the public about local emergency planning arrangements, and more direct engagement with communities to improve preparedness for future emergencies.
The charity would also like to see an early warning system like the Flood Alert Phone Service which operates in the rest of the UK and more help to be given to rural communities in planning for future resilience. It has also called for overarching civil contingencies legislation to bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.
The Red Cross also acknowledged the work which has been done by all relevant agencies since 2010.
“Since the 2009 flooding in Fermanagh there have been significant infrastructure improvements and many of the recommendations contained in the Fermanagh Taskforce report have been addressed. There are now new arrangements for flood management in Northern Ireland with the PSNI and Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service at the centre of a coordinated multi-agency approach.”
Joan McCaffrey, Emergency Planning Coordinator for the Western area of Northern Ireland, welcomed the report saying;
“This research allows local people affected by flooding to voice their concerns and consequently enables organisations who are proactively and reactively involved in responding to flooding situations to ensure that consideration is made to these important issues.”
Read the full report here
Follow us on twitter: @BRC_NI
Notes to editors
The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.
We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.