Case Study: Response to Flooding

Supporting the residents of South Somerset in preparing and responding to major flooding incidents has been a priority for South Somerset District Council for some years, in particular following the major flooding in 2000. This case study highlights how South Somerset District Council has and continues to work with parishes & residents to improve community resilience.



South Somerset District Council (SSDC) covers an area of 960 square kilometres. Much of the area is low lying and feels the impact of flooding.  Whether it's climate change, global warming or just cyclical changes, rainfall events continue to be extremely variable and the trend seems to be more towards the intense storm events rather than prolonged rainfall.  In 2008 South Somerset felt the effects of intense storms on 3 occasions in January, May and September and in December of that year a more normal winter event saw a number of areas experience flash flooding.  More than 100 properties suffered flood damage and a number of families had to move to temporary accommodation until their homes were repaired.


South Somerset District Council has a policy of issuing free sandbags to those residents who are in imminent danger of flooding.  The Councils policy is based on prevention of flooding to the property rather than protecting gardens and outbuildings.


Key issues/problems


The key issues related to:

  • Speed of sandbag delivery in an emergency
  • Safety of staff driving in extreme conditions
  • Providing solutions for vulnerable or elderly residents
  • Knowing where and when areas may flood
  • Accurate weather forecasting



For SSDC there was a need to work with partners and suppliers to:

  • Provide information to residents
  • Improve Community Resilience during extreme weather events
  • Implement the recommendations of the Pitt Review
  • Source innovative and resilient solutions to residential flood defence



What did SSDC do?


SSDC responded by:


  • Working with the Environment Agency, Somerset County Council, Town & Parish Councils and suppliers to carry out a number of flood fairs across the District-Providing information on extreme weather and self-help flooding measures.
  • Working with a number of Parishes & Town Councils to prepare flood plans & assisting with flood warden schemes.
  • Providing a number of local sandbag stores to areas of high risk to enable a speedy local response to extreme weather events.
  • Sourcing and testing a range of lightweight sand bags to enable less able residents to store & deploy them easily.
  • Following flooding incidents the Councils Land Drainage engineer carried out a number of home visits giving practical advice of flood defence measures.
  • Signing up to the Joint Met Office/Environment Agency Flood Forecasting Centre alert system that gives early warning of severe weather events and issues extreme rainfall alerts.



Key outcomes


  • On average 5000 sandbags per year are issued to those residents in danger of flooding.


  • We provide individual information to approximately 200 households per year on flood alleviation matters.


  • We work with various suppliers and groups to provide information to residents on how they can best help themselves in a flooding situation.


  • SSDC worked with a number of Parish Councils to prepare Parish plans, resource inventories and collate information on vulnerable members of the Parish.  This work allows Parishes to respond in a practical way to an emergency.


  • Joint working with the environment agency to find solutions to specific flooding problems.




  • A standby team is on duty 365 days a year 24 hours a day - to provide assistance to those residents who maybe in danger of flooding
  • A stock of filled sandbags is held in a purpose build store at the Councils depot.
  • A stock of lightweight gel filled flood sacks are held for vulnerable/elderly residents
  • A team of operatives are on standby to respond to reports of blocked culverts and screens


Who was involved?


Crucial to the development of a localised response to the threat of flooding and to improve the resilience of high-risk communities were the already existing networks and partnerships that work with SSDC. Key ones include:


  • Environment Agency and Met Office
  • Parish & Town Councils
  • Various departments within SSDC - Emergency Planning, Land Drainage, Streetscene
  • Suppliers of Flood Defence products- Suppliers have worked with SSDC to provide solutions to resident's individual problems in sourcing appropriate products.
  • Somerset County Council
  • SSDC's elected members



Critical success factors


  • Residents of South Somerset accepting responsibility for defending their homes from flooding
  • Improving the resilience of resident's properties to flooding by giving well-informed advice on landscape changes, appropriate products and temporary solutions.
  • Reducing the risk to SSDC operational staff in delivery of sandbags in an emergency
  • Improving the speed of response by having more localised sandbag stores


What we would change from the experience


  • That a pro-active year round approach to flooding issues reaps rewards in terms of less pressure on the emergency response teams during an incident. Leaving them more able to respond to the vulnerable residents.
  • The recovery from flooding incidents is long-term commitment; normally when the flooding is over the agencies leave the area, it is important to have a clear recovery plan to assist residents to recover as quickly as possible.




Pam Harvey Civil Contingencies Manager

Telephone: 01935 462303 Email: