I co-ordinated the comms response to flooding while trapped in a shopping centre

One afternoon in early November public-sector comms chief Carrie Goodwin became trapped by the flooding at Meadowhall in Sheffield, forcing her to co-ordinate the comms response from within the shopping centre as the situation quickly escalated. This is her account of the first few hours.

Carrie Goodwin was forced to co-ordinate the initial comms response to the flooding while trapped inside Meadowhall
Carrie Goodwin was forced to co-ordinate the initial comms response to the flooding while trapped inside Meadowhall

On Thursday 7 November, I started a 'normal' shift at 8am. One of my colleagues was due to work at Meadowhall, a local shopping centre, that evening for a Christmas lights switch-on event.

I decided it might be interesting to join her, so at 3pm we started what should have been a four-minute journey to Meadowhall.

It actually took more than half an hour due to very heavy traffic. The police HQ was evacuated at 3.30pm due to expected flooding.

At 4pm, I dialled in to the first Strategic Coordinating Group (SCG) to address the expected floods.

This focused on a situation update from all the agencies and detailed Meadowhall, as this was in the path of the first flooding from the River Don.

It had also been badly damaged in the 2007 floods. This proved to be the first of 20 SCGs involving about 25 agencies to take place over the next week.

The flooding had added complexity as it was not a single event in a single location at a single time, but numerous incidents in numerous locations, all with complexity and with no clear end point.

Carrie Goodwin, chair of South Yorkshire Resilience Forum’s Warning and Informing Group

In my role as chair of the Local Resilience Forum's Warn and Inform Group, I took responsibility for setting the communications strategy, keeping this under review, and co-ordinating the messages from the partnership to ensure a single narrative.

For the next eight hours, I was trapped at Meadowhall due to flooding and traffic gridlock on surrounding roads, so I ran the comms cell from there.

While the flooding began at Meadowhall in Sheffeld, it very quickly started to appear across South Yorkshire.

Sheffield escaped with about 30 properties affected – most of which was flooded cellars; Barnsley had about 20 properties affected; and in Rotherham, 67 people stayed in the town hall overnight after being rescued from Parkgate Retail Park.

The centre of the flooding was Doncaster, and by Friday morning, this had quickly become our focus.

Doncaster had 20 flood warnings, nine of which were severe: 1,600 people were evacuated from their homes or places of work.

The flooding had added complexity as it was not a single event in a single location at a single time, but numerous incidents in numerous locations, all with complexity and with no clear end point.

Carrie Goodwin is head of corporate comms at South Yorkshire Police and chair of South Yorkshire Resilience Forum’s Warning and Informing Group

Thumbnail credit: Morgan Daley/PA Wire/PA Images




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