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Whaley Bridge - One Year On

Whaley Bridge was put on the map this time last year when a major incident was declared in the small Derbyshire town.

Downpours of torrential rain caused dangerous levels of water and structural damage to the dam at Toddbrook Reservoir which looked set to breach.

What unfolded over the next seven days was nothing short of extraordinary as  emergency services, the army, partners and the community worked together to prevent potential destruction.

Today, we revisit their quick response and hard work to secure 1.5 million tonnes of water!

Lee Williams, was first on the scene for Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service and tells us a bit about the initial response:

“After receiving a fire call and information from Control I got set to carry out an officer inspection at the dam. Staff from Emergency Planning and Derbyshire Police were already on site on my arrival, and I sought an update from the Police Inspector.

We made our way to the start of the dam to see how we could divert the flow through a sluice gate and away from the main body of water. From this inspection we started discussions with staff from the Canal and River Trust who knew the dam well, and shortly after, we called an initial JESIP (The Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme) meeting which involved; Kier Engineers, Derbyshire Police, East Midlands Ambulance Service, Emergency Planning, Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service, a Dam Engineer and the Canal and River Trust.

I requested a Water Rescue Team and Command Unit to work on identifying methods of stopping further water entering the dam, whilst we worked out how many pumps where required to move the water and lower the depth.

The Dam engineer advised that to make the scene safe we would need to lower the water level by 10 meters – no small feat. It was at this stage that Derbyshire Police made the decision to evacuate Whaley Bridge.”

Lee attended six days out of the seven that this incident spanned and said he was amazed at the progress being made to resolve the incident from the emergency phase through to recovery. He said:

“The joint work that was carried out that week was phenomenal with every agency playing a key role, including the welfare and support from the local community.

I feel extremely proud to have played a small part in what was a massive effort and achievement to resolve this incident safely and successfully. The support from the community of Whaley Bridge and surrounding villages was fantastic. It is ultimately the key reason why I joined the Fire and Rescue Service; to aid people and communities in need of help during an emergency.”

From Chinook helicopter pilots delivering bags of ballast for the army to strengthen the dam wall, to the expertise of the Canal and River Trust, Tactical Advisors, Control Room, Boat Teams, Dam and Keir Engineers; the joint work carried out really was phenomenal.

With numerous agencies, fire and emergency services working tirelessly on this incident, organising the lowering of the water level, evacuating residents, laying miles of pipework by hand and building footbridges and new access roads overnight, we can look back on this incident as one of the most successful, large scale response operations in the East Midlands to date!