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The sea rising around Cromer Pier
Flood sirens to be silenced?
By Jill Bennett
Flood sirens could be a sound of the past - and not because the threat of rising water has been eliminated. Agencies want to implement a system of phone and text messages, but those living along the coast insist the sirens should not scrapped.
Have Your Say
People living in flood risk areas in North Norfolk's coastal communities have until Monday, 11 February, 2008 to send back the questionnaires that have been circulated about the use and future of flood sirens.
The findings of the review will be reported in March so councillors can make a decision about the future of the sirens alongside other warning systems currently in use.
Anyone who has received a questionnaire is asked to complete it and return it to their parish council clerk or by freepost to North Norfolk District Council, Freepost NC22398, PO Box 2, Cromer, Norfolk, NR27 9BR.
The distinctive wail of a flood siren may soon be a thing of the past in some parts of Norfolk.
The Environment Agency and the police say they don't need them to warn people of impending floods and want to rely on phone messages and text alerts instead.
But a series of meetings in coastal towns and villages has shown that local people don't agree. They've made it clear that the sirens are useful and should be kept and possibly upgraded.
Sybil Melton, who chairs Snettisham Parish Council near King's Lynn, says she's in favour of keeping the system.
"I think you need the other measures as well," she said. "You need the knocking on doors and other things, but sirens are something people really take notice of. If you hear a siren, you run!"
Mayor of Hunstanton Richard Bird is also in favour of the siren system.
"The average age of our people in Hunstanton is 68 – and they remember what a siren is for. People know it as a warning, and treat it with the respect that it's due," he said.
People who went to the Snettisham meeting were told by emergency planning officers that the siren system was old and unreliable, and often failed in tests.
The problem was not only the age of the sirens themselves, which date back to WW2, but the computer system which drives them.
But people felt the experts had not taken into account the way a siren could alert those who were not local, or who didn't answer phones or a knock at the door late at night.
Unprepared for floods
Their role was highlighted at Walcott in November, when a request to sound the sirens was ignored, leaving many people unprepared for the floods which swept into their homes.
Stormy weather at Wells-next-the-Sea
At Wells there has been a vigorous campaign to keep sirens for the town. More than 2,000 people have signed a petition for them to be retained. Many people want them upgraded and modernised.
The chairman of Norfolk's fire and public protection panel, Stephen Dorrington, says all the meetings held so far have been strongly in favour of keeping the sirens.
Councillors were also united in wanting to keep the system, against the professional views of their officers.
The panel will discuss the issue in March and make its recommendations to the Norfolk Resilience Forum, a multi-agency group which includes the police and the Environment Agency, which are responsible for issuing flood warnings.
They are expected to make a decision about which of the 57 Norfolk sirens should stay and which should be scrapped in the summer.
last updated: 29/01/2008 at 17:51