Flood alert text warning system to be launched

Comrie residents have recently suffered from flooding
Comrie residents have recently suffered from flooding
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AN EARLY-WARNING service has been launched to help people across Scotland whose homes are at risk of flooding.

• Warnings will be issued three hours before floods are due to hit

Stonehaven was hit by severe flooding this winter. Picture: PA

Stonehaven was hit by severe flooding this winter. Picture: PA

The text-alert system will provide targeted information to communities in 28 areas along the east coast, from the Borders to Angus. Residents can sign up to receive advance warnings to their mobiles 24 hours a day.

The free texts from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) are aimed at providing residents and commuters with at least three hours’ notice of possible flooding near the firths of Forth and Tay, giving them valuable time to protect their homes or make alternative travel plans.

Villagers in Comrie, Perthshire, who were among the worst hit by repeated deluges in 2012, can also join the early warning service, although Sepa warned that, due to the nature of flash flooding there, it might be possible to give only half an hour’s notice of likely problems.

However there was criticism after it emerged people in Aberdeenshire, which was also badly hit by floods, will not be able to receive the localised alerts.

The new service is an extension of Sepa’s national Floodline service, which has sent warnings via text to more than 14,000 people since its launch in 2011.

One in 22 homes and one in 13 businesses in Scotland are at risk of flooding, with coastal areas in the east particularly badly hit recently.

Announcing the new service, Dr David Pirie, Sepa’s director of science and strategy, said: “It represents a major investment in building community resilience to coastal flooding. As we saw before Christmas, this can cause significant disruption and damage, so it’s vital we are aware and prepared for it.”

Environment minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “It is important that we do everything in our power to protect, help and prepare people who are living or working in areas at risk from flooding.”

Heavy rains brought devastation to communities across Scotland last year, including in Comrie, where scores of residents were rescued from their homes after being trapped by rapidly rising floodwaters during a night of torrential rain.

More than 100 homes and other properties were hit by the deluge, as the River Ruchill burst its banks for the second time in four months.

Sepa said research suggested warnings should be given at least three hours before potential floodings to be beneficial.

It agreed to extend its new text-warning service to people in Comrie after a public consultation showed residents felt “any amount of advance warning” would help. In a letter to residents, it said: “We have taken the unprecedented step to launch a service in an area where it may not be possible to provide three to six hours warning.

“Therefore, whilst we will always endeavour to issue warnings as early as possible, please be aware that in some circumstances advance warning of flooding may be limited to 30 to 60 minutes.”

Aberdeenshire, which was also badly hit by recent floods, will not be included in the new service and will have to rely on existing regional warnings. Local MSP Richard Baker said: “I am surprised and concerned at the decision to leave the area out of the new extension of the Floodline warning system which allows for targeted local updates…why should people in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire not benefit from this system, given the flooding we’ve had here?”

People interested in signing up to the service should go to www.sepa.org.uk/floodingsignup or call 08459 881 188.