The floods that hit the UK during June and July 2007 were a wake-up call. The three months from May to July were the wettest since records began and the events that followed have been linked to the deaths of thirteen people. They also resulted in damage to approximately 48,000 homes and 7,000 businesses. Power and water supplies were lost, railway lines, eight motorways and many other roads were closed, and large parts of five counties and four cities were brought to a standstill.
Even considering the extraordinary degree of disruption caused by the floods, the country was fortunate that the impact was not much more severe. There were several near-disasters of an even greater magnitude, for example the potential breach of Ulley Dam and the loss of electricity supplies to hundreds of thousands of people in Sheffield and across Gloucestershire and South Wales.
It is clear that the vulnerability of critical infrastructure and the consequences of its failure were not fully appreciated in advance of the floods. We need to review the way we share information, how we set standards of protection and we need essential service providers to be more closely involved in emergency planning. Specifically, we need to ask whether business continuity duties on Category 2 responders should more closely reflect those of Category 1 and also if Category 2 responders can more formally contribute information on critical sites, their vulnerability and the impact of their loss into the emergency planning phase.
The Pitt Review Team has already received extensive evidence but much more needs to be considered before the final report will be ready this summer. Events such as RUSI’s second annual conference on Protecting Critical National Infrastructure and The Pitt Team’s ongoing series of events will continue to inform this important and timely debate.
Sir Michael Pitt
Independent Chair, The Pitt Review Team