Flooding poses a major humanitarian and economic risk in the UK. Large-scale flooding in the UK costs the economy billions of pounds and occasionally claims human lives.
The Environment Agency (EA), an executive non-departmental Public Body that protects the environment, has a supervisory role for many flood defence assets in England and Wales.
The increased regularity and force of flooding prompted the EA to seek out a training course that would set a high standard for the visual assessment and monitoring of flood defences, not just for EA inspectors, but for inspectors from other organisations as well.
Middlesex's Flood Hazard Research Centre and the EA worked together to create a course that would provide a standardised approach for inspectors to check flood defences.
According to Hugh Burchard, the Environment Agency's Learning and Development Advisor, Middlesex was chosen as their partner because the University has academics with extensive expertise in the area of flood management.
"We wanted to make sure inspectors were capable of visually assessing the state of flood defence infrastructure in a consistent manner," he said.
"We wanted to test people's understanding of the principles involved in visual asset assessment and put them into practice. We also wanted the same assessment criteria to be standardised across England and Wales, which we felt a university accreditation would do."
Training involved an initial e-learning and e-assessment element, using 3D interactive graphics. A period of on-the-job mentoring then followed, culminating in a final written and in-field examination for certification or further training.
What has happened since?
The course has become firmly established within the EA and has been taken up by local authorities and large engineering consultancy firms wishing to ensure their inspectors meet the extremely high standards demanded by the course.