The at risk reservoir and surrounding land
Unfortunately, due to the recent developments in the area, neither the reservoir nor a new housing estate that was identified to be at greatest risk were on the Ordinance Survey maps or Google Earth. Acting as Gold commander for the Tactical Coordinating Group Graham Mountford (the Deputy Chief Pilot for Eastern Area) was able to offer to activate a Sky Watch crew to take up to date photographs of the whole area and the reservoir to allow better situation analysis. Police, Fire and rescue and environment agency all welcomed the offer, especially as access to the site was considered difficult. An Eastern Area crew were able to get airborne at 9am on the 6th June (Pilot Graham Mountford, Observer Neil McAllister, flying Cessna210 from Turweston) and took still and video footage.
They were able to use Whats App to pass messages and photos live from the air to the TCG meeting that was sitting at the time, and were able to receive live requests to photograph new areas considered to be at risk following further analysis. In addition they photographed sites identified as evacuation centres and the routes to them from the affected area. The crew identifed that one of the previously planned evacuation centres was on the other side of the potentially flood area from the properties to be evacuated with no suitable route. Should evacuation have been necessary, this problem would have added greatly to the risks to the safe management of the incident.
After landing the high resolution images were shared with the Cat 1 responders and provided essential up to date intelligence to help manage the water draining and the potential evacuation. Fortunately the multi agency response team were able to reinforce the dam and drain sufficient water to reduce the risk and no evacuation was needed. All the agencies involved were grateful for the contribution from Sky Watch, which was identified as significant in informing plans for access of pumps to the reservoir and establishment of safe routes and areas for evacuation.
Sky Watch’s contribution has since been acknowledged by the Cambridgeshire Chief Fire Officer and hopefully will serve to highlight our capabilities to assist the Local Emergency Services in the future.
(Update- Since this operation Cambs FRS has asked for assistance to obtain images ofteh re-development of the A14 to aid their emergency planning. Please see the E&W news pages for more details.)