Ready for winter...ready for anything

One winter storm after another is battering the country bringing floods, downed trees and powerlines, and causing other significant impacts. 

The weather was the perfect backdrop to a recent major incident exercise organised by West Sussex County Council and the Sussex Resilience Forum (SRF), which tested the capabilities of more than 100 emergency responders representing ‘blue light’ services, local authorities, health partners, the voluntary sector, and utilities.

Working in collaboration with other responders is of course absolutely essential in preparing for major incidents and emergencies.

And Exercise Vader tested every part of the County’s multi-agency preparedness – the storm in the scenario may have been simulated but every impact was drawn from real world examples including the massive freeze/thaw event of February 2018, which stretched us and other agencies to the limit. Furthermore, the exercise on 2 December provided us with a great opportunity to work with partners from the SRF to practice responding to and recovering from an ‘incident’ that saw thousands without power and water for up to a week. 

Personally I relish these opportunities, even more so following the extensive work we have carried out within Southern Water to improve our own incident response capabilities. Although a challenging day, it was great to test what we've been preparing for over the past eighteen months. 

Following the freeze-thaw event, there was an intense focus on our own lessons identified and how we would respond to future weather-related events and other incidents. All of these elements helped inform the development of our Incident Management processes, which are now fully embedded in the way we work and have demonstrated how we are committed to always improving. 

In emergencies, we are a Category 2 responder under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, which commits us to collaborating with Category 1 responders such as the police and fire service. 

While the weather would have an impact on our systems, other responders know we are a 24/7 business which can mobilise up to 24,500 employees and contractors to help in a major incident. 

Sharing information and data is also key to make sure we can provide wholesome drinking water to all of the vulnerable customers that are registered with us and the local authorities. 

Our performance was far from perfect in freeze/thaw but we’re doing everything we can to ensure we are better prepared for major incidents and emergencies in the future. 

Exercises such as Vader bring into sharp focus the problems that could hit us and force us to consider exactly how we would respond. We can’t control the weather – or its impacts, but we can certainly ensure we are as well prepared and practiced for any eventuality as possible. 

Emergency Planning Manager, Andrew Snadden

Make sure your home is as ready for winter as our emergency team. To find out more, visit here.