Taking a cue from the heavy damage suffered from winter torrential rain in the previous season, Prime Minister Theresa May ordered up to 1,200 soldiers, or three army battalions, to remain on a 24-hour standby to deal with floods, if necessary. The decision comes after the government faced demands for an overhaul of the existing flood management systems.
A committee of MPs, chaired by Neil Parish, wanted the government to strip the Environment Agency of some of its powers. They also called for setting up of new coastal and river boards with a commissioner to oversee them all. "We propose a radical alternative to the current fragmented, inefficient and ineffective flood risk management arrangements," Parish reportedly said.
However, the government rejected the demands for organisational changes, arguing that the Environment Agency was better equipped this year to deal with emergency situations. The agency now had four times more mobile flood barriers than in 2015, ministers reportedly said, noting that army soldiers were also being trained to assist with the rapid deployment of these flood barriers.
Army will also assist evacuation measures during a flood situation. There is also a new 105 helpline for people hit by power cuts to immediately attend to outages.
The government also said that local authorities and Highways England have ample supplies of salt, about 1.7 million tonnes to keep the roads clear of flood water.
"We want to make sure that people across the UK keep safe, warm and healthy this winter. That is why we are working together to prepare for all that winter may bring, from providing flu vaccinations to specialist equipment and resources to deal with winter flooding.
"With the army standing by, we have the most comprehensive winter plan yet to keep people safe and the country moving," Ben Gummer, the Cabinet Office minister, was quoted as saying by The Guardian.