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SEPA’s flood messaging system to be extended to include multiple hazard warnings

By Gavin Musgrove

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Horses being rescued during flooding below the Spey Bridge next to the Dell in Kingussie.
Horses being rescued during flooding below the Spey Bridge next to the Dell in Kingussie.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is set to upgrade its Floodline messaging system and incorporate other hazard notifications for communities and businesses across Scotland.

Since 2011, the Flood Warning Dissemination system has issued regional flood alerts and local flood warnings to at risk areas 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Anyone can sign up to receive advance notice of flooding via an automated text or phone call for the area where they live, work or travel.

Work is now beginning to transform the system and improve the customer experience by using advanced digital technology.

The new Future Flood and Incident Messaging Service (FFIMS) will involve an initial phase of developments over the next year including dynamic and location-based alerts.

This means notifications will be more targeted to users within a set radius of areas at risk of flooding.

Other digital communication options will be included such as mobile alerts and email to make accessing local and live flooding information easier than ever before.

A second development phase will see localised three-day flood forecasts developed in addition to the national Scottish Flood Forecast, which is planned to go live in the next couple of months.

Digital developments which are resilient will be at the heart of FFIMS and will integrate with social media, Google and other web notification systems.

SEPA will also explore the integration of multiple hazards within the new system.

These include a water scarcity alerting service highlighting where droughts are possible. This gives businesses time to plan ahead for water extraction, protecting both them and the environment.

BT, supported by HTK, has been awarded the contract to provide the new service for the next 12 years, delivering the digital innovations required.

The contract is also the first where suppliers are required to deliver ambitious targets in line with SEPA’s Regenerative Goal.

Within this decade, SEPA aims to reduce all of its emissions and impacts to zero or net zero, while at the same time taking actions that repair the environment.

Pascal Lardet, SEPA's flood unit manager, said: “SEPA has a pivotal role to play in helping communities avoid flood risk where they can, adapt where they cannot and act when warned of flooding.

"Developing a messaging system, which is both resilient and innovative, is key to ensuring residents and businesses have the information relevant to them when it matters most.

“The science on climate change is clear that extreme weather events are likely to increase in the future.

"Flooding is just one example that poses a real threat to people and property. The impacts can be devastating and that’s why it’s more important than ever to have a system like this in place.”

Senga Thomson, BT’s public sector lead for Scotland, said: “We’re thrilled to be working with SEPA on this project to modernise this important service.

"As climate change continues to affect our homes and businesses, it’s vital that people can access real-time, accurate information on the risk of flooding in their area.

“BT already plays a unique role in keeping vital services connected, whatever the weather, including handling all 999 calls and supporting the emergency services in Scotland.

"We’re pleased we can extend our role to help transform the Floodline service to make it fit for the future.”

SEPA is Scotland’s national flood forecasting, flood warning and strategic flood risk management authority.

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