Stay safe during flooding and high river levels

Published on: Tuesday, 19th January 2021

With heavy rain affecting many part of the county this week, Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service is reissuing advice to motorists and people across Derbyshire to take extra care - respecting road closed signs, keeping away from fast flowing rivers and flood water, driving carefully and considering their calls to emergency services.

Flooding and Road Closures
Between 2018/20 Firefighters responded to 36 incidents to rescue people who had become stranded in their vehicles in flood water.  Many incidents can be avoided if motorists adhere to Road Closed signs and take the sensible decision not to drive through flood water.

Group Manager Wayne Brooks said: “Road Closed signs are put in place to advise motorists that a road is considered too dangerous for a vehicle to pass safely. Sadly we continue to attend incidents when drivers have ignored these signs making a dangerous decision that they and their vehicle will be ok.

“There are other drivers who come across flooding where there isn’t a Road Closed sign, in both circumstances, we need to appeal to all road users to consider the impact of your actions not only on your own safety, but the impact on the emergency services called to assist should you get into difficulty.

“When you consider as little as 60cm of standing water can float a car and just 30cm of flowing water could be enough to move a vehicle it’s easy to understand the danger and how easy it is to get stuck.  For every incident we attend to rescue a stranded motorist Firefighters are prevented and delayed from responding to other potentially life threatening emergency incidents. So please, if there is a Road Closed sign do not ignore it, and if you do come across a flooded road – find a safe alternative route.”

  • Never ignore a Road Closed sign
  • Don’t drive into flood water, find a safe alternative route
  • As little as 60cm of standing water can float a car
  • As little as 30cm of water can move a vehicle
  • A mere egg cupful of water can wreck your engine

Of the 26 incidents referred to in this data, sadly two resulted in two people tragically losing their lives.

Keep away from fast flowing rivers and flood water
Between 2018/20 Firefighters responded to a further 12 incidents where people needed rescuing from water. 

Group Manager Brooks went onto say: “With increased rainfall comes fast flowing rivers and floodwater - both increasing the risk of accidental drownings.   We need people to understand just how dangerous water can be and how quickly someone can get into difficulty. 

“Nationally in 2018, 263 people accidentally drowned.  Over 50% of those people had no intention of entering the water, being dog walkers, people out walking near to the water’s edge and people out for a daily run – when the water is high, it’s quite easy to slip on water logged and unstable ground and when you are too close to the water’s edge this can quickly become an emergency. 

“We know people are limited to daily exercise at the moment and want to get out whatever the weather, but we really need people to take extra care when they are out and about and close to water, especially over the coming days when river levels are expected to peak.”

  • When out walking, or running close to water, keep away from the water’s edge, especially after rain when the ground may be slippery or unstable
  • Never enter the water to try and help a person or animal - always call 999 and use any water rescue equipment if it is available
  • Keep dogs on a lead when close to water
  • Make sure you know what to do if you happened to fall in water. Don’t panic, float on your back and then either call for help, or swim to safety
  • If you've had alcohol don't enter the water and avoid walking routes near water
  • Keep children fully supervised when walking close to water

Calling the Fire Service – Consider your call
During the last significant extreme weather related event in June 2020 when Derbyshire and the East Midlands experienced sustained flooding, calls to their emergency control room increased dramatically.   Over 150 calls per hour were being handled by Control Operators, often to incidents where service officers couldn't help.

This simple table shows when the fire and rescue service can help:

General flooding

Call Fire? No - Wait for water to subside

Flooding with life risk

Call Fire and Rescue Service? Yes call 999 immediately

Flooding affecting electrics

What to do: Only if it safe to do so, isolate electrics – if in any doubt call the Fire and Rescue Service – call 999

If in doubt – call 999 immediately

For more advice on flooding and protecting your home visit this link on the Fire Service website.

You can access the latest river and flood warnings here.

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