CTA member Centre 81 recently assisted with efforts to evacuate local residents due to the predicted tidal surge in Great Yarmouth. Diana Staines, Chief Executive at Centre 81 writes about their experience and her concerns for future evacuations.
(The cover photo for this post is from flooding in 2013 during which Centre 81 also assisted with evacuations.)
23 January 2017
At Centre 81, we run a Skills and Activities Centre for 75 adults with physical or other disabilities, including complex health and social needs, as well as a fleet of community transport minibuses, serving 800 passengers and helping people get out into their local community.
Last week we were on alert due to the forecast tidal surge on Friday 13 January 2017 at Great Yarmouth. Centre 81’s rehearsed flood evacuation plan was put into action and we used nine of our fully accessible minibuses to evacuate residents from Great Yarmouth.
In total we evacuated 84 people. 44 of these were wheelchair dependent; another four needed to borrow our wheelchairs to get to and from the buses and all of these passengers required the tail lift and support of our drivers to get on and off the buses. They were accompanied by a further 9 people with their rollators (walking frames on wheels), 27 people who were able to access the buses independently via the side steps, plus two dogs and a very unhappy cat!
In contrast to 2013 when we evacuated six residential homes to various establishments in Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Acle and Norwich, this year we were asked to evacuate only one residential home which had made arrangements for their residents to move to other ‘sister’ residential homes. The evacuation was much better co-ordinated from our perspective than in 2013, as all requests for our assistance came via Travel and Transport colleagues at Norfolk County Council.
At Centre 81 we have completed our debrief and are in the process of updating our flood evacuation procedures.
One concern for the future, however, is that last week many Great Yarmouth Borough Council residents, along with those who manage residential homes with or without nursing, made the decision not to leave their homes and, as the tidal surge didn’t happen, I’m sure that many people would consider this evidence that they made the right decision. Next time there is a similar predicted threat there is the possibility that many will base their decision on their response to last Friday’s forecast surge and will not want to evacuate until the 11th hour. If this does happen, and the sea and river defences are breached, those involved in evacuating people could face extremely high demands for assistance within a very short period of time.
Centre 81, however, is happy to do what we do best: support vulnerable people who live within the Borough of Great Yarmouth whether this is with our Skills and Activities Centre, our Community Transport service or in times of civil emergency.