Temporary defences ‘integral part’ of dealing with floods

Government supports use of demountable barriers despite criticism from insurers

Floods at Wolfe Tone Terrace in Athlone. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Floods at Wolfe Tone Terrace in Athlone. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

Temporary flood defences – large metal screens to hold back rising water known as demountable defences – are an integral part of responding to floods, the Office of Public Works has said.

It was reacting to expressions of dissatisfaction with demountables, made earlier this week by Insurance Ireland, the representative body that lobbies for the industry.

“Insurance Ireland has always insisted that the fixed defence approach is essential when building flood defences and our findings continue to show that flood coverage rates are at their highest where fixed defences are built,” the organisation said in a statement.

Such defences, employed successfully at several locations during the recent flooding, had to be deployed manually and were of concern to insurers, it said. The body was responding to criticism of the industry for refusing to insure property in places where flood remediation works had taken place.

Following a January 12th meeting with the Taoiseach, and other State bodies concerned with responding to floods, Insurers Ireland said on Tuesday that for demountable flood defences to be effective, there needed to be accurate forecasting and alert systems, effective mobilisation and timely use of temporary barriers.

“While demountable flood defences are effective where correctly deployed, there are significant interdependencies, including manual intervention, which significantly increase the risk of failure, particularly over time,” said Insurance Ireland. Its members, it added, “have concerns about demountable defences”.

Reacting on Wednesday, the OPW, which has responsibility for all flood remediation work, as well as the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (Cfram) project which is nearing completion, said: “Flood defence schemes designed by the OPW are adaptable for climate change and demountable defences are an integral part of flood defence schemes in most jurisdictions.”

‘Cherry pick’

The industry statement rejected assertions that insurers “cherry pick” properties at low risk to insure, while refusing to cover other properties, even in areas where permanent flood risk remediation works have been completed and shown to work.

It claimed that flood cover “is provided in approximately 98 per cent of property policies nationally” which it described as very high by European standards.

The body claimed that 86 per cent of properties in flood risk areas where permanent flood alleviating measures had been installed were covered for flood risk.

The Department of the Taoiseach said: “The response from the insurance industry following the meeting with the Taoiseach and Ministers on January 12th will be taken into account in the Department of Finance review of insurance issues which will be completed by June 2016.”