Press article - Exercise Watermark - March 2010
Grimsby Telegraph 10th March 2010
Residents and livestock evacuated in mock flood response exercise
ATTACHED: IN CHARACTER: The Reverend Adrian Smith with Martyn Wheeler and Terry Scott, of British Red Cross, during the evacuation.
RESIDENTS and livestock were evacuated from the Lincolnshire coastline after the sea defences were breached – or at least that's what this team of emergency workers pretended.
The region's coast was a hive of activity as RAF helicopters, police, firefighters and medical helpers jostled with cattle and sheep transporters to ensure neither man nor beast was claimed by the "rising waters".
The national mock operation, codenamed Exercise Watermark, was based on the premise that the sea defences had been breached.
Scores of Sutton-on-Sea residents were taken to Louth town hall for care and warmth in the wake of the disaster, while officials contemplated the best way to remove the area's 500,000 cattle, sheep and poultry if such a major incident had really occurred.
As evacuees from Sutton-on-Sea arrived at Louth Town Hall, they were registered and looked after by voluntary organisations such as the British Red Cross.
Ladies from the WRVS were there serving hot meals and refreshments and local clergy were there offering evacuees support.
The Reverend Adrian Smith, curate of the Mablethorpe and Sutton-on-Sea group, had a dual role of being an evacuee and a chaplain for the rest centre. He said: "It was quite a strange experience seeing all the police and emergency services in Sutton, but it has been a really good experience.
"My house was affected by the floods in 1953 and an event like this is putting in people's minds that plans are in place if anything happens again. It has also shown how different groups are working together."
Some Sutton-on-Sea residents were given roles to play for when they arrived at the rest centre in Louth.
Sue Neville was given the task of staging an angina attack.
She said: "I had to pretend I did not have my medication in my bag and had to be traumatic. It helped give the British Red Cross a realistic situation to deal with."
Ian Clark, President of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire 4x4 Response club, which has 60 members in Lincolnshire, supported Louth Search Dogs team and Lincolnshire Police Vulnerable Persons' Unit, ensuring even those people determined to stay in their homes, were rescued. He said: "The whole operation has gone smoothly, which is a credit to everybody involved."
North East Lincolnshire agencies were also called into action as part of the drill.
Glenn Peterson, Steve Goodwin and Ian Sanderson, who are all members of Cleethorpes RNLI Lifeboat Flood Rescue Team, joined Skegness RNLI crewmen at Tattershall Lakes.
Their exercise saw them rescuing people from rooftops of houses, as if there had been a repeat of 1953's major coastal flood.
Mr Sanderson said: "As RNLI volunteers, we are all used to saving lives at sea, but rescuing people from floods requires very different training, skills and equipment."
Officials in the borough also prepared for an emergency flood by conducting a desktop exercise to ensure communications flowed smoothly.
A North East Lincolnshire Council spokeswoman said: "It was to test the lessons learned in the 2007 floods and also to draw people's attention to the possibility of sea flooding.
"There is a forward plan involving search and rescue teams, fire, police and ambulance, as well as council staff.
"Some authorities have done simulations, but we have done it as a table-top exercise."
For more information about Exercise Watermark, visit www.exercisewatermark.co.uk.
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