Free flooding texts planned

A FREE text messaging service may soon be introduced in Huntingdonshire warning people of impending floods and other dangers. The texts would alert anyone who requests the service that there is the prospect of flood, fire or an explosion, but will be espe

A FREE text messaging service may soon be introduced in Huntingdonshire warning people of impending floods and other dangers.

The texts would alert anyone who requests the service that there is the prospect of flood, fire or an explosion, but will be especially useful for commuters who may be out of touch with events in the district.

The plan, which will also include a free e-mail warning system, is expected to be approved by Huntingdonshire District Council at a meeting tomorrow (Thursday).

A council spokesman said the scheme could create a speedy emergency alert for the 160,000 people living in the district, many of whom work away and may not be able to access local media.

The council is obliged to bring in an emergency system after a change in the law.

After the passing of the Civil Contingencies Act, 2004, a statutory duty was placed on local authorities to warn and inform the public.

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Citizens are required to be told:

* What plans are being developed to deal with a major incident or emergency in their district.

* In the event of such an incident, what advice is available to help them deal with any disruption.

The cost of the service to the council is currently estimated at around £11 a month - to run the database - plus 3p for each text message sent.

The cost would be covered in the existing emergency planning budget and the system would be run by the council's CCTV and emergency planning team.

A report to be placed in front of the council's cabinet tomorrow says the council is currently dependant on local media, particularly radio stations, to disseminate information to the public, particularly about flooding.

It says: "More recently, arrangements have also been made to post messages on the front page of the council's website.

"These systems are useful but are restricted to those residents who either listen to those particular radio stations or who regularly check the council's website. The Environment Agency has its own flood warning system but this is restricted to people living in particular flood risk areas."

Sonia Hanson, HDC's street scene manager, told The Hunts Post: "Huntingdonshire has a very large commuter population and these residents might have the internet at work, but they will be out of touch on their journey home and may be unaware of a situation which could affect them on their return."

The text messages will give brief information about incidents and signpost people to the council's website for further details.

INFORMATION: The text/email warning scheme would not replace other systems currently in use. Individuals who wished to received the free texts will be able to supply their numbers by phone, letter, e-mail or on-line.

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