In a critical operation marked by foresight and rapid response, the deployment of Geodesign Barriers has played a pivotal role in protecting the Walham electrical switching substation from devastating floods, securing the electrical supply for over 600,000 residents in Gloucestershire and surrounding areas. Crucially, Walham also provides power to the nearby Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
A temporary Geodesign flood barrier system stands guard around a critical substation, providing a crucial bulwark against the floodwaters that have inundated the surrounding area, ensuring the continuity of power for thousands of homes.
The urgency and seriousness of the situation caused the government to hold a so called COBR-meeting (acronym for Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms) in London – this only occurs for matters of national emergency. As floodwaters rose to threatening levels, the Fire Brigade, Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and the Environment Agency joined forces to save the threatened substation, using Geodesign's temporary flood barriers. These barriers, known for their quick assembly and robust protection, were crucial in this so-called 'Battle of Walham,' where they were erected to shield the substation from potential inundation.
A Geodesign flood barrier successfully holds back rising waters, while emergency services ensure the safety and integrity of the inundated facility by pumping away water behind the barrier.
Neil James, Western Power Distribution’s distribution manager for Gloucestershire, recalled the tension-filled moments when the decision was made to switch off the Castle Mead substation, affecting 48,000 homes, to prevent long-term damage. However, thanks to the Geodesign Barriers, the Walham substation remained operational, narrowly averting a prolonged power outage for a vast number of homes and businesses.
"The Geodesign Barriers were a game-changer for us," said James.
"Their rapid deployment around the substation was a critical factor in keeping the lights on for countless communities."
Despite the rising floodwaters, vital electrical infrastructure stands safeguarded by flood barriers, pumps and the round-the-clock diligence of emergency services. The drama happens inside the switching rooms – the flood water must be pumped away and kept from entering through the floors, via the underground cable ducts.
The success of the temporary barriers at Walham has since prompted a reassessment of flood defense strategies by National Grid and other electric power providers. In the wake of the floods, a spokesperson for National Grid highlighted the importance of being prepared for such unprecedented events and the need for rapid deployment of mobile flood defences.
The 'Battle of Walham' stands as a testament to the effectiveness of innovative flood defence solutions like Geodesign Barriers and the importance of cross-agency collaboration in crisis situations. The 2007 summer floods caused "the largest peacetime emergency since World War II" according to Sir Michael Pitt, in his Review to the UK government. It has spurred further investment in flood defence measures, ensuring that the resilience of the UK's critical infrastructure against extreme weather events remains stronger than ever.