A NEW flooding incident room has opened in Oxfordshire.

Environment Agency chiefs hope the larger £10,000 room, containing the latest data measuring and forecasting systems, will provide residents with a better service.

And with 6,330 Oxfordshire homes at risk of river flooding, managers said it was essential the agency had the right technology and manpower to deal with incidents.

The incident room, at agency headquarters in Crowmarsh Gifford, near Wallingford, now has space for almost double the number of staff – from 12 to 20, working shifts to man it 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Ian Tomes, Environment Agency flood and coastal risk manager, said: “Enlarging the room has enabled us to have more trained staff in the room, there are a lot of roles to fulfil.

“We deal with environmental incidents, flooding or maybe dealing with issues with a boat that gets stuck on the Thames – it could be anything.

“Simply by having more professionally trained staff in the incident room we will be better able to respond to public enquiries.”

The incident room monitors river levels, rainfall radar and Met Office information, and issues flood warnings.

Staff dealt with nine major incidents between April 2011 and March 2012, along with a host of less serious incidents.

Mr Tomes said: “There are plenty more staff on the ground, operations people out and about in the field.

  • “It is a bit like an iceberg – the incident room is the bit that you see that sticks above the water.”

Mr Tomes added: “Historically we were waiting until a big incident to open the incident room.

“This is much more likely to open early so we are better able to respond.”

Among those given a look round the centre at the official opening was Nick Hills, whose home in Earl Street, Oxford, has been flooded three times since 2000.

Mr Hills, who is a member of the Oxford Flood Alliance, said: “Anything they can do to reduce the level of risk and the capability of increasing the level of warnings is good.”

Last month the Environment Agency was forced to apologise to residents in Wendlebury, near Bicester, after issuing a flood alert six hours after the village started flooding.

Mr Tomes said: “The response to that was disappointing and I have apologised. That was a blip.

“We are off to see the parish council to see what else we need to do to reduce flood risk in Wendlebury.”

Sign up for Floodline Warnings Direct at environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/ Residents can also call the Floodline on 0845 988 1188 at any time for up to date flood warnings and advice. Pollution can also be reported by calling the Environment Agency’s 24 hour emergency hotline on 0800 807060.