June 24, 2021

Flood drill: prepare for the worst

Flood drill: prepare for the worst

The breaking of a dam and the rise of the water level flood a town is highly unlikely, but even so the emergency services are prepared: "The simulations serve to rehearse and put us in the worst", underlines the coordinator of the simulation EUriwaterex 2018, Hope Junquera.

The deputy director of Civil Protection of the Community of Madrid, Esperanza Junquera, has coordinated this week in the region a large-scale simulation in which 600 European troops have participated who have checked whether they are coordinated for the worst.

The simulation, integrated in the European Civil Protection Mechanism in which teams from Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal and Romania have participated, stages a situation of level 3, the most serious emergency (of national interest).

This type of exercises are not only necessary, but an excellent training opportunity for emergency teams: "If we always stay in a scenario 1 (minor catastrophe and the most common simulation), the day something happens we will not be prepared "he argues.

Everything develops as if it were real: the rains have increased the water level above the security level and the Riosequillo dam has been broken, and the inhabitants of the nearby town (Buitrago de Lozoya, north of Madrid) have been evacuated to an elevated area and a rescue zone has been established in the river in case some neighbor has been dragged by the current.

Previously, Italian divers have inspected the dam, the Belgian team has used one of its bilge pumps to remove water and pressure to the infrastructure, and evacuation alarms have sounded in the village and near the dam.

The Red Cross has begun to take care of the evacuees in an improvised shelter in the municipality's sports center. There, he evaluates the displaced and is given a backpack with what is necessary for them to spend the night: toilet, blanket, flip flops and pillow. There is an area of ​​beds, another to eat and a mobile recharging point.

The key that is transmitted to all the assistance and civil protection teams is "coordination", while citizens receive constant messages of the importance of following the instructions of those responsible, who do not use the mobile phone more than strictly necessary (for not saturate the networks) and do not commit imprudence.

In addition to the breakage of the dam, in EUriwaterex 2018 other water-related drills have been carried out, such as the rupture of an ammonia deposit, a traffic accident with multiple victims, the rescue of people in fast waters and hikers lost in a cave.

The head of coordination recognizes that a catastrophe such as the breaking of a dam is "highly unlikely" to happen in Spain, these constructions "do not break suddenly".

It has a category of "critical infrastructures", they are constantly monitored with sensors in their structure and before something like this happens "corrective measures" are taken.

This is stated by the head of Press and Well Exploitation of the Canal de Isabel II (water company of Madrid), which supervises the development of all operations from the control of the dam's controls.

"All this is done in case it happens at some time, so that we are trained with all available means, we will teach the future".

And the Euriwaterex 2018 simulation, which also involved firefighters, forest agents, SUMMA112 and Guardia Civil -among other Spanish bodies-, does not end with the two days in which it has been developed.

The exercise is evaluated and supervised by some thirty international observers, who are emergency team personnel in countries such as Italy, Austria, Norway, Lebanon, Algeria, Peru or engineers of dams in the United States, who in the end prepare a report and propose possible improvements.

Celia Sierra.


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