South Somerset District Council (SSDC) covers an area of 960
square kilometres. Much of the area is low lying and feels the
impact of flooding. Whether it's climate change, global
warming or just cyclical changes, rainfall events continue to be
extremely variable and the trend seems to be more towards the
intense storm events rather than prolonged rainfall. In 2008
South Somerset felt the effects of intense storms on 3 occasions in
January, May and September and in December of that year a more
normal winter event saw a number of areas experience flash
flooding. More than 100 properties suffered flood damage and
a number of families had to move to temporary accommodation until
their homes were repaired.
South Somerset District Council has a policy of issuing free
sandbags to those residents who are in imminent danger of
flooding. The Councils policy is based on prevention of
flooding to the property rather than protecting gardens and
The key issues related to:
- Speed of sandbag delivery in an emergency
- Safety of staff driving in extreme conditions
- Providing solutions for vulnerable or elderly residents
- Knowing where and when areas may flood
- Accurate weather forecasting
For SSDC there was a need to work with partners and suppliers
- Provide information to residents
- Improve Community Resilience during extreme weather events
- Implement the recommendations of the Pitt Review
- Source innovative and resilient solutions to residential flood
What did SSDC do?
SSDC responded by:
- Working with the Environment Agency, Somerset County Council,
Town & Parish Councils and suppliers to carry out a number of
flood fairs across the District-Providing information on extreme
weather and self-help flooding measures.
- Working with a number of Parishes & Town Councils to
prepare flood plans & assisting with flood warden schemes.
- Providing a number of local sandbag stores to areas of high
risk to enable a speedy local response to extreme weather
- Sourcing and testing a range of lightweight sand bags to enable
less able residents to store & deploy them easily.
- Following flooding incidents the Councils Land Drainage
engineer carried out a number of home visits giving practical
advice of flood defence measures.
- Signing up to the Joint Met Office/Environment Agency Flood
Forecasting Centre alert system that gives early warning of severe
weather events and issues extreme rainfall alerts.
- On average 5000 sandbags per year are issued to those residents
in danger of flooding.
- We provide individual information to approximately 200
households per year on flood alleviation matters.
- We work with various suppliers and groups to provide
information to residents on how they can best help themselves in a
- SSDC worked with a number of Parish Councils to prepare Parish
plans, resource inventories and collate information on vulnerable
members of the Parish. This work allows Parishes to respond
in a practical way to an emergency.
- Joint working with the environment agency to find solutions to
specific flooding problems.
- A standby team is on duty 365 days a year 24 hours a day - to
provide assistance to those residents who maybe in danger of
- A stock of filled sandbags is held in a purpose build store at
the Councils depot.
- A stock of lightweight gel filled flood sacks are held for
- A team of operatives are on standby to respond to reports of
blocked culverts and screens
Who was involved?
Crucial to the development of a localised response to
the threat of flooding and to improve the resilience of high-risk
communities were the already existing networks and partnerships
that work with SSDC. Key ones include:
- Environment Agency and Met Office
- Parish & Town Councils
- Various departments within SSDC - Emergency Planning, Land
- Suppliers of Flood Defence products- Suppliers have worked with
SSDC to provide solutions to resident's individual problems in
sourcing appropriate products.
- Somerset County Council
- SSDC's elected members
Critical success factors
- Residents of South Somerset accepting responsibility for
defending their homes from flooding
- Improving the resilience of resident's properties to flooding
by giving well-informed advice on landscape changes, appropriate
products and temporary solutions.
- Reducing the risk to SSDC operational staff in delivery of
sandbags in an emergency
- Improving the speed of response by having more localised
What we would change from the experience
- That a pro-active year round approach to flooding issues reaps
rewards in terms of less pressure on the emergency response teams
during an incident. Leaving them more able to respond to the
- The recovery from flooding incidents is long-term commitment;
normally when the flooding is over the agencies leave the area, it
is important to have a clear recovery plan to assist residents to
recover as quickly as possible.
Pam Harvey Civil Contingencies Manager
Telephone: 01935 462303 Email: