Storm Desmond: A multi-organisational response

by | Dec 18, 2015 | Student blogs | 0 comments

by Rose Pescod

Storm Desmond, which brought record levels of rainfall to Northern England and Scotland over the weekend beginning the 4 December, is estimated to have caused the flooding of 2,000 properties and left 60,000 homes without power. Following the devastating 2009 floods, new flood defences had been funded and erected, but sadly they were breached. Myself and other students from MSc International Disaster Management (IDM) at HCRI were involved in the response.

On December 10th, following an invitation from the Mayor of Keswick, Team Rubicon UK a veteran-led disaster response charity, issued an appeal for volunteers to assist on ‘Operation: Wordsworth’ in the affected areas. As a result, on Saturday 12th our team joined Kate Browne (IDM), the rest of Team Rubicon UK, Serve On, many Islamic groups from across the country and several spontaneous volunteers at the Keswick Convention Centre.

The aim of Operation: Wordsworth was to complete assessments of properties, roads and structures and assist the recovery process by clearing debris, stripping homes so the drying out could begin, distributing food and tools, and safeguarding those in need. Serve On used their drone to assess bridges and fed the information back to the relevant organisations. In just two days a phenomenal amount was achieved by a group of very dedicated, hard-working and adaptable people who, for the majority, had met each other for the first time on a chilly morning in Cumbria.

people clearing mud



With the different organisations pairing together, one may have expected numerous issues to arise. Yet, interoperability remained seamless between all organisations. Ineffective measures and responses were reduced through a unified command, personnel capabilites were expanded, and different viewpoints were displayed. There were debriefs at the close of each day and individuals were invited to reflect on what had been achieved and to highlight any problems.


two men smiling looking backwards



I feel it’s important to highlight the resilience of the community. Only 6 years after these communities were hit by the 2009 floods, they were working together in a mammoth effort to reclaim their homes and livelihoods. Many of the affected homes we visited had already begun the drying out process, assisted by their neighbours and friends, who at times directed the response teams to others they thought, were in greater need.

Soon after the initial flooding, local community stakeholders (farmers, store owners, etc.) provided heavy equipment, man power, and vulnerability assessments of their village. Members of the community took pride in their ability to remain “self-sustainable”. A week after the floods, one village held a very well attended local planning meeting, in which people discussed the effectiveness of their plan, and created a revised document. The meeting wasn’t focused on an individual failure or individual participation, rather a true desire to better the communites ability to mitgate, prevent, and respond to future, as they stated, “inconviences”.

Joining the command staff for this response provided an insight into a community response. One of our team members attended a local council meeting to link in with the services they were providing, speaking directly with members of the flood committee and council. He also drafted Incident Action Plans and Incident Command Forms as part of the Planning Section. I joined the Operations Section and worked closely with the spontaneous volunteers and Islamic groups, allocating tasks and accepting aid. Additionally, I became a point of contact for the local community to speak to as they identified those potentially in need. By my demobilisation date, I was briefing command staff on current conditions, actions, and needs of the community. Kate served as Planning Section Chief for the operation, in addition to managing personnel mobilisation and management.

These communities displayed key aspects of resiliency and sustainability that are rarely found in practice. All considering, the chance for our team to participate in this response was truly an rubicon members smiling


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