And it’s a wrap! As Flood & Coast finishes for another year, I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit, learnt a lot and made or strengthened connections across the community.
I was certainly inspired by last night’s Project Excellence Awards and I expect those of you who were with us were too. It’s always great to celebrate success and never more so when it’s also about celebrating partnerships. My absolute congratulations to all of our highly commended and winning entries.
Toby Willison, Executive Director of Operations at the Environment Agency, opened this morning’s plenary which was focusing on the third of the Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Strategy themes building a nation of climate champions (consultation open until 4 July). We started the session thinking about the role that technology can play in helping us to reach a wider and more diverse audience. Harriet Green, Defra’s Chief Digital Officer talked about the reach of the Environment Agency’s flood warning service to date, and referenced Sir James Bevan’s speech from day one, reminding us we need new tools for a new future. Fujitsu’s Patrick Stephenson built on this and highlighted the importance of co-creation with the people who live and work at flood risk and rely on those services.
Rob Davis, flood lead for the National Fire Chiefs Council demonstrated the opportunities that come from collaboration by outlining the fire service’s ‘safe and well’ programme where home fire safety visits can also provide links to advice on flood risk. Dr Teresa Bridgeman talked about the power of story telling and said that in terms of engagement and collaboration how we work is just as important as the objective we’re aiming to achieve. Emma Greenwood, Youth MP for Bury, brilliantly illustrated what we need from a nation of climate champions. Emma challenged us all to talk about the decisions and actions we must take, make them real, show that everyone can make a difference and make it now. Her challenge to us to act on behalf of young people was inspirational.
Today’s FCERM Strategy workshop was focusing on improving communications and inspiring behaviour change. It was great to hear recognition that proper engagement needs time, connection and trust. It can sometimes be hard to make this the priority it deserves. However research is helping to identify the financial value we all know comes from early engagement. Climate change increases the need to get this right and we must learn from one another – and those we engage with – about how to do it better. Above all, our speakers reminded us to speak in a language which resonates with the audience we are trying to reach.
One of today’s undoubted highlights was our Digital Dragons session. We’d had great interest in this session and just reaching the final five was no mean feat. Each team had two minutes to present their innovation to the panel before being questioned by our experts. The innovations covered included:
Our dragons were seriously excited by everything they saw but there could only be one winner: congratulations to Black & Veatch!
Practising how to respond to an incident is essential and ‘exercising’ is common practice for many organisations. It helps emergency responders to learn lessons safely, improve the health of their emergency plans and do their best as and when the response is real. So it was great for our delegates to experience what this is like. Using interactive polling they walked through a scenario from an initial forecast through to making decisions about a potential evacuation. The session absolutely highlighted the message that great decisions depend on the information you have available.
Although this is the end of the conference, I hope it’s the start of many new and exciting conversations. I feel massively encouraged by what I’ve heard over the last 3 days. I am resolved to stand firm on the things we have to do to make a difference. Let’s be tenacious in doing the great things we are already doing and audacious in what we seek to achieve. Let’s have courageous conversations and be confident that we can bring about transformative change by working together.
All that remains is for me to say thank you: thank you to our fabulous Advisory Committee, our sponsors, exhibitors and their staff who have maintained an amazing buzz in the hall over all 3 days, our speakers, panelists and chairs for fascinating sessions, the Environment Agency and Trio team who make it all work behind the scenes – and of course to you, our attendees, without which there would be no Flood & Coast.
I hope you all had a safe journey home and look forward to seeing you all soon - to keep the conversation going and to keep making a difference. In the meantime – remember the pledge you made on our ‘climate champions’ wall and hold yourself to it!
Deputy Director FCERM, Environment Agency and Chair of Advisory Committee