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Exercise Watermark demonstrates the importance of spill containment strategies

Recent reports by the Environment Agency show that:

• One in six homes in England and Wales is at risk of flooding.

• Over 2.4 million properties are at risk of flooding from rivers or the sea in England, with 220,000 properties at risk in Wales.

• The expected annual damages to residential and non-residential properties in England at risk of flooding from rivers and the sea is estimated at more than £1 billion.

An extraordinary exercise was organised between the 4th and 11th March in order to test the response to catastrophic situations caused by flooding.

Exercise Watermark created a scenario based on the increased risks of severe flooding, more frequent rain storms and rising sea levels, all due to climate change.

Emergency services across the nation were asked to respond to situations that included stranded rail passengers, evacuations of residential areas, dam breaches, missing people, harmful chemicals leaking into flood waters and reacting to an oil spill incident in a river.

This last ‘incident’ was dealt with by erecting a pollution prevention boom across the river. Containment booms are ideal in the event of an emergency or an accidental spill: fence booms can be attached to the banks of low flow rivers, brooks and streams; whilst inflatable booms can be used on open water and larger areas.

If predictions are correct, then this type of exercise and the importance of spill containment equipment may increase in the future.

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