Middlesex course improves flood defence inspection
Flooding poses major humanitarian and economic risk in the UK. Large-scale flooding in England in 2007 resulted in the loss of thirteen lives and caused major health problems, as well as serious damage to infrastructure. The disaster cost the UK economy over £3.2billion.
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 & Wales.
The floods in 2007 prompted the Environment Agency to create a course that would be seen as the standard for visual assessment and monitoring of flood defences, not just for EA inspectors but also other organisations.
“We wanted to make sure inspectors were capable of visually assessing the state of flood defence infrastructure in a consistent manner. We wanted to test people’s understanding of the principles involved in visual asset assessment and put them into practice,” says Hugh Burchard, Environment Agency’s Learning and Development Advisor. “We also wanted the same assessment criteria to be standardised across England and Wales, which we felt a university accreditation would do.”
Hugh says the Agency approached Middlesex because the University has expert individuals with knowledge in the area: “Middlesex’s Flood Hazard Research Centre (FHRC) has the base of knowledge. It is well known for its flood and water management approach. The Centre had already done some work with the Environment Agency beforehand, so we knew the quality of the work would be good.”
How Middlesex helped
Following a successful tender and bid process, FHRC and the Environment Agency worked together to create a course that would provide a standardised approach for inspectors to check flood defences.
“The Environment Agency wanted the course to be accredited independently. As course examiners, we were analysed yearly by an independent chartered engineer, and the course was checked by the national audit office,” says Dr Simon McCarthy, the course leader and examiner at Middlesex’s Flood Hazard Research Centre (FHRC).
Inspectors were trained to report on the condition of their local flood defences. Training involved an initial e-learning and e-assessment, 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.
The course became established within the Environment Agency and was used by local authorities and large engineering consultancy firms.