Flood Forecasting Centre moves to ExeterApr 13, 2011
After two pilot years in the heart of London, the joint Met Office / Environment Agency Flood Forecasting Centre (FFC) has a new home. It now works from the Met Office's Operations Centre in Exeter.
The independent Pitt Review of the summer floods of 2007 recommended that the Environment Agency and Met Office work more closely together to give early warning of the risk of flooding. Within six months of the report, a new 24/7 operational partnership was in place. Since April 2009, the Flood Forecasting Centre's team of hydrologists and meteorologists has been providing a crucial daily planning tool helping government and emergency responders support communities in the event of flooding.
The FFC faced a major test in its first year when a prolonged spell of heavy rain brought severe flooding to parts of Cumbria. The Centre's key role was acknowledged in the government's Pitt Review progress report in December 2009: "Thirty-six hours before the flooding occurred, the FFC indicated a high risk of significant property flooding and extreme danger to life in Cumbria via its Flood Guidance Statements and rolling telephone conferences with local responders."
Since opening, two Secretaries of State — Hilary Benn and Caroline Spelman — visited to see the Centre in London at first hand, as well as many key partners in the Environment Agency, government and the Cat 1 and 2 responder community. "Relocation to the Met Office's 24/7 Operations Centre in Exeter is now the obvious step to deliver a cost effective and resilient service for the future", says the Head of the Flood Forecasting Centre Paul Mustow.
"The move to Exeter also sees the benefits of investment in training and development of the FFC team fully realised", says Will Lang, the Centre's Chief Hydrometeorologist. "Over the past two years, Environment Agency hydrologists and Met Office meteorologists have trained in each other's skills so each member of the team can now forecast the weather and interpret the potential for flood risk."
These skills will enable the FFC to be more flexible and operate more efficiently in future, with one skilled hydrometeorologist on duty at a time, instead of a hydrologist and a meteorologist as before. Will Lang continued: "The Flood Forecasting Centre wouldn't have been successfully established without support from many people in both organisations. Equally, a lot of people have worked very hard to ensure a smooth move from London to Exeter. We would like to thank them and welcome our colleagues from the Environment Agency to Exeter."