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The Environment Agency has signed a four-year, £4.6m contract for a new flood warning system from Fujitsu.
The system, which will go live at the end of this year, will improve the way the agency sends warnings to the public, using social media and mobile phones.
Fujitsu, the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales have partnered on delivering flood warnings since 2004, but Craig Woolhouse, the agency’s acting director for incident management and reliance, told Computer Weekly that after years of adding bits to the system, it was time to procure a new one.
“We launched the service in 2004, but we have added bits to the service year by year and that’s not a very cost-effective way to do it,” he said.
These days, people are notified by phone, email or text, with messages also being sent to the media, emergency services and local authorities.
“When we started the service, our only way to contact people with an alert was through land lines,” said Woolhouse. “That was the best way of getting messages to them. But people have now moved to mobile phones and are using myriad social media and digital services, such as Facebook and Twitter, and we need to adapt to that.”
The new system will reduce the agency’s spend on flood warnings by 40%, with half of the savings coming from moving the service into the cloud as a warning-as-a-service platform.
Natural Resources Wales will also use the system, with people being able to download a smartphone app that delivers flood warnings on the move, receiving more information and more notice before a flood is likely to happen.
Andy Wall, flood risk manager at Natural Resources Wales, said flooding would happen very quickly with fast-responding rivers in Wales.
“We need a flood warning system we can rely on to issue warnings quickly and reliably to our English and Welsh language customers,” he said.
The Environment Agency is also encouraging the market to create apps for different customer groups. “All the data we use on the system is open data,” said Woolhouse.