February 2015 Update Somerset Levels

Latest report on our on-going work on the Somerset Levels to help those affected by the flooding of 2014

The support goes on in Somerset

Flooding on the Somerset Levels




Most Rotarians in District 1200 know the story; those Clubs that wish to know more, or learn of more detail should suggest that David Welch visits to update as guest speaker.
In short, Rotary is one of the final resorts for those who still need relief.
We are still providing funds for those who are in need & who meet our criteria, advocacy has been skilfully and sensitively given, holidays, courtesy of the Lyme Regis Club are available for the distressed and fatigued.the list goes on.
We have reached the stage now, at which Somerset County Council Officers, when they receive notice of the need for relief, call Rotary.
It’s been a magnificent effort, supported by so many Clubs and Rotarians.
We have received huge support from other Districts too, including their share of  142,000+ sum of money donated by so many Clubs. (69000 has been distributed so far).
Local Clubs still willingly provide labour, we still provide transport and we have 10 dehumidifiers on loan.
We have over 200 ‘resilience packs’ in the County Council warehouse – they will be issued to at-risk households , ready for the next flood.
At this stage there are over 40 homes which not yet been re-occupied and such donated  items as furniture, duvets and a myriad of households items are still being issued


Distressed households previously unidentified are emerging: we have been told that there at least 6 families who are in immediate need. Our investigations are on-going
The County Council warehouse is still open but the lease runs out at the end of May. One of our options is to rent a warehouse for our resilience packs, and for equipment we might store to improve our future emergency response.
If we do so, there is a prospect of partnering with the Somerset Community Foundation, with whom we have cooperated closely, often sharing the relief burden.
We are members of the disaster response committees of Somerset, Wiltshire & Dorset. If labour-intensive response becomes a requirement we can expect a call.


We shall of course, finish the job. We said a year ago that we might be the only relief organisation still standing when the initial surge has evaporated.
That has proven to be close to the truth. The Somerset County Council, Somerset Community Foundation and the Freemasons are active, but we are important implementers.
At the District get-together on March 14th we shall examine some potential plans for the future of our disaster response objectives.

Rotarians have every reason to be proud of our response to this awful experience for the 250+ families who suffered from these floods.
The anguish, the frustration and loneliness have all been mitigated for those whom we have assisted.


Update:  22nd - October 2014

Our work supprorting residents affected by the floods on the Somerset Levels is on-going and we are still actively involved.

We have the supervisory committee, overseeing objective and strategy. They approve expenditure recommended by the operational committee.


    We still have a sum close to 100k in the flood relief fund.

    We have been active, and funds are now moving as we identify more families in need.

    We have purchased, with Somerset Community Fund, a mobility scooter to replace one lost in the waters.

    We have paid out for small help gestures to families in financial distress.

    We are having a ceiling replaced with our funds, and we have purchased carpeting for 66 homes where carpets were ruined.

    Our Rotarians are working in gardens, replanting hedges, rebuilding paths.

    600 full-colour brochures  have been circulated to all the Villages, telling people that we are here to help.

    We have paid for 6 professional surveys to provide homeowners with a road map for restoration.

    Inner Wheelers have put a huge effort into assembling boxes of cleaning materials, curretnly being issued. They are well received.

    We have provided advocacy - many of the more senior or very stressed victims feel unable to cope with the paperwork, and in some cases need help in negotiation with the less responsive insurance companies (who, in my view should be named and shamed).

    We have provided transport via Rotarians and have provided hired transport to clients who wish to help themselves but lack the necessary vehicles.

    We are using our hired storage capacity to help families to store their possessions while restoration work continues.

    We have hired equipment to be installed in homes to accelerate the drying process.

    A conservatory has new glass, compliments of our fund

    A host of new requirements are just emerging as families will gradually return to dried-out homes, which  will require new bathrooms, kitchens, white good and electrics.


 Update: 25th February 2014

The Flood Relief warehouse at Junction 24 continues to effervesce with energy.

Rotary & Inner Wheel teams continue to man the site with the utmost professionalism. They are calm, resourceful, thorough and helpful to the families who attend for aid. The spirit of the Rotarians & members of Inner Wheel ensures the success of this huge operation.

A decision has been made to close on Sundays - the teams who operate alongside Rotary & Inner Wheel simply cannot work 7 days a week.

There is an ample supply of new clothing & bedding from generous Companies & retailers and we have a large supply of wellies.The supply of waders (similar to those worn by anglers) are a popular item amongst families who literally wade to their homes for a progress check and for further recovery of their possessions.

The food supplies are ample and there is an endless almost daily supply of fresh eggs.

A new feature started yesterday - there is a Caf (yes, a Caf!) complete with tables, chairs & fresh cakes for the families who come to collect. They are invited, as they enter, to take some coffee while they collect themselves - they are visibly surprised by the sheer scale of what's on offer. The caf is manned by Taunton Street Pastors and 4/40 volunteers - a support group for 40 Commando Marines & their families. The cakes are pretty tasty by the way (so I am told).

The 4 x 4 Response teams are on hand. They have a vehicle at the warehouse on standby from 11:00am until 2:00pm to meet our transport delivery requirements. Via the Silver Command Centre they connect with the Unimogs & boats so that we know that whatever the condition at the destination, we can fulfil transport requirements.

Goods continue to come in and there are many touching stories. The Tamil Tigers (remember Sri Lanka?) arrived with a very large van full of water & Coke and a 500 cheque after a London street collection!

There are many more stories such as that one.

Families in need are now increasing their attendance - 65 families attended on Sunday. Its interesting and distressing to hear their stories - they face a prospect of re-entering a home half full of flood water & sewage, with the prospect of a year-long dry-out and removal of plaster. Most floors are ruined: those who blocked every conceivable entrance simply saw the water rise through the floor.

There are reports, still unconfirmed, that about 100 houses completely flooded and a further 150 houses seriously affected.

David Welch
District 1200 Flood Relief co-ordinator.
M5 Junction 24 Warehouse

Update: 16th/17th February 2014

Rotary in Action (2)

Sunday brought better weather and some additional mechanical help in the shape of two tracked mini dumpers which made completion of the access path much easier for the Rotary team. Most of the big Dutch pumps are now working side by side with the EA machines and the water level is being held stable. The wall is holding and the 14 houses are still dry.
A resident contacted Rotary to say there had been a power cut overnight and the house was very cold – no central heating and they had run out of coal. A quick trip to B & Q for 4 bags of coal which were then brought to the flood barricade by the RNLI inflatable. A Police Officer with the boat crew called in to Silver Control to say the other residents were in a similar situation and asked Rotary to help. A trip to Wickes’ this time to fill the back of the 4 X 4 with coal which was then delivered on the tracked transporter.
Sunday marked the end of the operational involvement of Rotary on the Moorland site. Our part of the battle is won but the war goes on between the two big players – the Environment Agency and the Elements! We have watched the workers of the EA over the last week – no one could possibly doubt their dedication and commitment seeing what they have achieved on that site under simply horrendous conditions.
Sunday saw 15 Rotarian and Inner Wheel volunteers worked a 5 hour shift at the new Aid Distribution Centre and made a big impact on the sorting and setting up of donated goods. The Centre was the main focus for Monday with a large team of 22 Rotary and Inner Wheel volunteers in action. The Centre was open for business and the first of the “shoppers” arrived.
This is a growing commitment and we still do not really know the full extent of either demand or supply. It is anticipated that the manning requirement in the first instance will be a large team from Rotary and Inner Wheel of 20 volunteers per day -  10am to 3pm.. Floor managers are being trained to ensure proper work practices are adhered to and to supervise the warehouse work teams.
There is much to be done in terms of the necessary management and planning systems to control what is fast becoming a major undertaking. Rotary has a supporting role to play here also. We will be setting up a rota page very soon on the District 1200 website to enable volunteers to sign in and choose a shift to suit them - watch this space!
HTV & BBC Points West made a brief mention of the Centre tonight, choosing a FLAG volunteer to speak along with the BBC's Inside Out South West that did a section on the floods at Moorland with a positive edit for both Rotary and Wessex 4 X 4 Response.
Below is a link to a Flickr page where we have put up some photos. These were taken by me on a small point and press, so not great but will give you a feel for what we did. 
Robin Brown
Community Resilience Coordinator
Rotary International District 1200

Update: 14th/15th February 2014

Rotary In Action

On Friday, 10 Rotarians with EA Rapid Response Team assistance began laying the gravel path along the high riverbank, the only way out, apart from a boat, for the remaining residents. Our place on the sandbag laying was taken by 6 Marine Commandos. They were very quick but our volunteers bag laying was more artistic!  The first of the path went down quickly but the farther along it progressed the further wheelbarrows had to be pushed (machines could not get there) and the going got cruel. The team were grateful that the gravel ran out about 3pm. The Marines were grateful that the volunteers couldn’t eat all the Inner Wheel sandwiches.
A late afternoon request came from a  meeting of FLAG, County Councillors, Rotary other volunteers to move as soon as possible all the donated goods from free temporary storage in a self storage depot to a vacant warehouse that had been provided by a major company that would allow better access. An urgent request for more help resulted in 30 Rotarians and friends of Rotary reporting in for Saturday morning. An early morning call to a large local transport company meant the arrival of a 7 1/2 ton lorry and driver finishing the night shift which gave the removal a huge boost. Other members of that team completed the job with cars, vans and trailers in excellent time which meant a start was made on setting up and sorting of donated clothing and food.
At the incident site a shuttle bus service was set up by Rotary at Police request to keep down the numbers of private vehicles trying to enter and causing congestion. The work on the path got harder and harder as the distance to wheel the gravel increased. A huge supply of Inner Wheel goodies brought much of the site to a standstill at lunchtime. We could have done with some help from the Marines again but unfortunately they had been sent somewhere else! We had recruited the help of District Governor Brian who visited both sites and gave a great boost to our teams and everybody else he could speak to. Unfortunately he was not much help with the sandwiches!
Tomorrow we intend to finish the path. I believe that is about all we can do on the ground for Moorland for now but our people can be very proud of what they achieved.  The next challenge is our role with the distribution centre - a team of 10 are there again tomorrow and plans are being made to help ensure the centre is fully staffed and becomes  the effective resource it needs to be. Another 10 brave souls are on the path. There are some who have spent 4 consecutive days in the mud that have had to be asked to please take some time off!
Robin Brown
Community Resilience Coordinator
Rotary International District 1200

Update: 9th February 2014

Rotarian colleagues in Somerset are proud to be long term members of the Emergency Voluntary Agencies Group, under the wing of the Civil Contingencies Unit of Somerset County Council, who direct the efforts of the volunteers in community crises such as those being faced with the horrendous flooding affecting villages and farming communities across the Somerset levels, and along parts of the Somerset coastline. 
Groups of Rotarians have been deployed mainly thus far in making visits to homes and businesses in high risk areas, to provide information and offer reassurance, to take inventory and gauge needs and to report all this back to the Civil Contingencies Unit. This enables those directing operations to build an accurate profile and to target responses. 
Rotarians have been offering accommodation for those displaced, sourcing dry animal feed - a big issue now - recovering cars, helping with the shopping and many other little tasks to try to make life just a bit easier for those affected. Such are the concerns regarding the safety of all volunteers that Rotarians’ services have been suspended in the short term as the situation has passed their capabilities with the floodwater now impassable to them – the emergency services are now in control of all that moves in these areas. Rotary is of course ready to respond if called on again as the situation changes.
Understandably the District anticipates a wave of cleanup operations being needed when the waters finally recede. The Environment Agency predict six to eight weeks to drain the levels -  provided the torrential rain stops - but currently given the weather forecast there does not seem much hope of that soon.
So, the residents on the Somerset Levels will need all the help they can get to put their lives back together. As you would expect Rotary plans to be there for them – it will not be a pleasant task but trust Rotary will be there in the forefront.  To help with this when the clean-up starts District 1200 has set up a Flood Relief Fund to meet needs where hardship and circumstances warrant specific aid.  In relation to fund management, District Governor Brian Kirkup will establish a small team to assess individual cases and decide awards to ensure the most equable and effective use of the Flood Relief Fund.
Support on behalf of District 1200 is being coordinated by past District Governor Robin Brown who is the District’s Community Resilience and Disaster Coordinator.  He knows only too well how difficult things are as his home is cut off to the south, east and west.  If your club is able to make a donation to the Flood Relief Fund we will be most grateful and Robin Brown and/or Rory O’Donnell will acknowledge your support on behalf of District Governor Brian Kirkup. 
Please send donations to Rory O’Donnell District 1200 Treasurer which should be made payable to -
Rotary International District 1200 Charity Account and marked “Flood Relief
and sent to Rory O’Donnell, Rotary International District 1200 Treasurer, Fulford House, Kingston St Mary, Taunton, Somerset, TA2 8AJ
Brian Kirkup
Rotary International District 1200

Update: 7th February 2014

A team of 5 Rotarians  completed house to house visits in Curload and Stathe today. This area is bounded by the rivers Parrett and Tone. The main request from concerned residents was for sandbags to stop the water going in to their properties. We completed approx 65 forms that the Civil Contingencies Unit of Somerset CC use to build a profile of those at potential risk of flooding and help them to deploy needed resources effectively. Everyone was glad to see us. A Local ground worker has made a start getting sandbags out to residents and will action the requests picked up from our visits. Requests for dehumidifiers, help moving cars etc  were all noted and reported back.
Moorland and Fordgate have been cut off and we were not allowed into that area for safety reasons. We were also stopped at Burrowbridge as the water was too high and they were starting to evacuate people from the Stathe Road where it joins the A361. There was a real traffic jam at this junction with all the press and large farm vehicles moving livestock from the Sedgemoor Market J24 where they had been kept overnight to farms that can take them. It looks like dry feed is becoming an issue and feed  lorries were seen making their way to farms.
We have lots of offers of practical help which have been passed on to the incident controllers.  
A lot of people are very worried about the weather that is due to hit tomorrow. Another problem is getting children to schools in other villages and teenagers to college. Food, fuel, water and power supplies are OK. Many have stocked up the cupboards in case the only road left open to town goes under again. 
Offers of help are still arriving from far and wide. These are all being logged and we will get back to all as soon as we know more.
Thanks to everybody for their offers and support.
Robin Brown
Community Resilience Coordinator, 
Rotary International District 1200

Situation as at 5th February 2014

You will all be aware from the extensive media coverage of the extent of flooding in the South West and the terrible cost in terms of property damage and hardship that some residents here are facing. Hard-pressed Emergency Services and Local Authorities, supported by an active Voluntary Agencies Sector including Rotary are battling with new challenges daily as the wet and stormy weather continues.

We can predict that this tragedy will leave many families in dire circumstances when the water finally recedes; property damaged, belongings gone, homes destroyed. Given the nature and recent history in many of these areas appropriate insurance is often simply not available.

Rotarians from outside this District have been calling in with offers of help. For those wishing to make donations District Governor Brian has authorised the setting up of a charity fund base that will be managed by officers of this District in order to assist those in greatest need.

Cheques should be made payable to;

Rotary International District 1200 Charity Account and marked “Flood Relief

These should be sent to:      

District Treasurer Rory O’Donnell
Fulford House
Kingston St Mary

For all other matters please contact:

Robin Brown
Community Resilience Coordinator,
Rotary International District 1200.
T +44 (0)1823 490151 M +44 (0) 7 712 712 712
E robin@levelsound.com