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Helping north east communities be flood resilient

Four new engagement officers have started work with the Environment Agency and will work with local communities.

The Environment Agency has appointed a new team of engagement officers to help communities be more resilient to flooding in the North East.

The £280,000 a year project includes four new engagement officers spread across four areas – Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Durham and Darlington, and Cleveland.

Funded by the Northumbria Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (NRFCC) for the next four years, the officers are working alongside partner organisations to help support communities.

It includes helping businesses and residents to understand their risk of flooding and ensuring those in flood risk areas are signed up to receive free flood warnings.

They’re also helping communities prepare themselves for flooding, such as supporting them to develop community flood plans and recruit volunteer Flood Wardens in at risk communities.

The Community Engagement Officers are working on behalf of the Environment Agency and local authority partners.

As well as supporting residents and businesses, working alongside schools will play a key role in helping future generations understand their risk.

Direct support for communities

Phil Taylor, from the Environment Agency’s Flood Resilience Team in the North East, said:

We’ve seen over the last few years alone just how devastating flooding can be for communities, so it’s positive news that Northumbria RFCC has agreed to fund these dedicated officers to provide direct support to communities.

In areas where the Environment Agency’s free Flood Warning Service is available the officers will be working to increase sign up to the service.

They’ll also be helping develop community flood plans that will detail the action each community or business can take to reduce the impact of flooding, and help them return to normal life as soon as possible should a flood happen.

And working with schools and youth groups means children can be educated about what it means to be flood resilient and ensure the messages delivered through the project have long-term impact in flood risk areas for years to come.

Taryn Al-mashgari is the new Community Engagement Officer in Tyne & Wear.

Taryn is working on behalf of the Environment Agency, Newcastle City Council, Gateshead Council, South Tyneside Council, North Tyneside Council and Sunderland City Council in communities at risk of flooding from all sources. Taryn will help communities, businesses, and schools to develop plans which will reduce the impact of a flood.

Over five years ago many communities in the Tyne & Wear region experienced serious flooding during ‘Thunder Thursday’. Surface water flooding such as this can happen with very little warning so Taryn will be aiming to get communities to take action and prepare for flooding now.

As an example, there are more than 2,800 properties at risk from surface water flooding in Sunderland and 4,100 In South Tyneside, and 1,800 in Gateshead, as well as 1,500 in Newcastle.

There are around 600 properties at risk of fluvial flooding in Tyne & Wear.

Sign up to receive alerts and warnings in areas where the free Flood Warning Service is available in Tyne & Wear is around 14%. Taryn said:

Previous work in Tyne and Wear has developed some good practice. For example a network of flood volunteers in North Tyneside provide local information to the council during periods of bad weather which helps the council direct their emergency response resources. In Gateshead a Community Flood Plan has been developed for an area prone to flooding.

I’ll be hoping to replicate this sort of community activity across other areas while continuing to support existing volunteers.

You can contact Taryn at taryn.al-mashgari@environment-agency.gov.uk or 0208 474 9842.

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