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Upgrade plea as flood sirens saved

PUBLISHED: 09:44 17 June 2008 | UPDATED: 11:14 03 July 2010

NORFOLK'S flood siren system must be upgraded to warn coastal communities of impending deluges.

Members of the county council's ruling cabinet yesterday backed a proposal to retain 40 of the 56 sirens which are currently used to sound the alarm for an evacuation.

NORFOLK'S flood siren system must be upgraded to warn coastal communities of impending deluges.

Members of the county council's ruling cabinet yesterday backed a proposal to retain 40 of the 56 sirens which are currently used to sound the alarm for an evacuation.

The move is a reversal of an earlier plan to scrap the system after it was no longer deemed fit for purpose while the police had also said they would not use them and the Environment Agency preferred a telephone based warning system.

That sparked a robust opposition campaign from local flood wardens and the authority yesterday gave the thumbs up to a proposal to keep a reduced number of sirens in operation for the next three years.

District councils in North Norfolk and King's Lynn are also supporting the decision, while Yarmouth will discuss the recommendations next Tuesday.

And campaigners said the reprieve meant attention now should be turned to modernising the system because longer term the sirens will not be operable from 2014 when analogue signal is turned off as part of the switch to digital.

Steve Dorrington, who chairs the fire and community chairman of the fire panel, told the cabinet that Norfolk should follow the model used by Lincolnshire and Essex, where sirens are used as warnings.

The authority will now lobby Norfolk Constabulary and the Environment Agency to persuade them of the changes.

“We are looking at approaching the Environment Agency and the Police to get them on board to use the flood warning system as a warning,” he said. “The problems at Walcott highlighted that they should be used as a warning

Dr Marie Strong, joint co-ordinator of the Wells Flood Action Plan, said the next stage of the campaign was to modernise the sirens, so they would continue to work in the event of a power cut or any other emergency situation.

She warned the cabinet that a large number of coastal residents had little confidence in the Environment Agency's preferred telephone alert system.

“We are in the front line of the response, we are the people there, not the emergency services, who are bussed in from other parts of the county,” she said. “The current system of warning isn't adequate for the residents of Norfolk.

“We have to get them upgraded,” she said. “The modern ones can be independently operated.”

Richard Rockcliffe, cabinet member for fire and community protection, said the cabinet fully supported the decision to keep the sirens.

But he urged people to adopt a belt-and-braces approach to ensure their safety.

“It's still very important that people who are in flood risk areas do sign up to the Environment Agency's flood warning direct system,” he said.

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