Be prepared for the unexpected - that is the stark warning from volunteer flood wardens in the Calder Valley.
Katie Kimber is one of two Environment Agency flood wardens in a newly formed group set up to help protect residents and businesses in Luddenden Foot, and it is looking to recruit more this Autumn.
She lives at the bottom of the Calder Valley near a canal and a river, but until Boxing Day 2015 had never been flooded.
“I was completely unprepared,” said Katie. “I had only just moved to the area and even though the damage I suffered was minimal compared to houses just a stone’s throw away it made me determined to be ready for the next time.”
Katie has recently attended a session with the Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team where the team demonstrated the dangers of water and how to keep safe during a flood event. She has worked with her husband to develop an app called Flood Aware for tracking water levels in the local area. Her role is to work with the Environment Agency to provide them with local knowledge and to support her community in the event of a flood.
Her advice is to make sure measures are in place to protect property, sign up for the Environment Agency weather warnings and flood alerts, keep a close eye on the weather and the levels of nearby rivers.
Katie said: “Expect the unexpected, have FloodSax or something similar ready under your sink and an emergency bag full of essentials.”
Karl Boggis, a property developer from Mytholmroyd who also works part-time in a utility warehouse distributor, had six of his seven properties badly damaged during the Boxing Day floods with water reaching 10ft in his own house.
Karl joined the Mytholmroyd flood group in 2012. It has developed from being a small local pressure group to being the eyes and ears of organisations such as the Environment Agency with 22 volunteers covering eight zones. They receive early warnings of bad weather and one of group’s first tasks is to set up a communications cell in one of its living rooms to provide regular updates using its Facebook group.
The group communicates with each other using radios, visits neighbours, helps evacuate local schools if necessary and will direct traffic to keep it out of flood water.
All flood wardens in Calderdale are being encouraged to take part in an exercise to test their flood plans on October 20 to coincide with the Upper Calder flood sirens being sounded as part of an annual test.
“A lot of our work is through effective communications and making sure people don’t panic. We ask people to stay at home, turn their radios on and if they have elderly neighbours please check on them.”