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glastonbury fire appliance
Glastonbury Festival Case Study

During June's 2005 Glastonbury Festival, nearly 300 tents were washed away in severe flooding when a month's rain fell in a few hours. Duncan White, New Dimension Assistant Regional Planner, explains how high volume pumping (HVP) equipment enabled the show to go on.

As part of the contingency planning arrangements made for the Glastonbury Festival by Somerset FRS, two New Dimension Assistant Regional Planners were based at the Glastonbury site, around the clock, between 22 and 27 June. Duncan White from Somerset FRS and Martin Wingrove from Cornwall County Fire Brigade, as New Dimension advisers, were on hand to provide information on resource capabilities when a flooding crisis hit the festival.

A river runs through it...

Severe storms, thunder and lightning hit the Glastonbury area at 6:30am on Friday 24 June, resulting in torrential rain which fell for nearly five hours. At the Silver Command meeting, held at 10am, reports confirmed that

  • a stream running through the site was rising rapidly;
  • tents were being washed away; and
  • flood water was rising around the site.

An assessment was carried out by a Bronze Command team member who was subsequently briefed on the capabilities of the HVP units. By 11am, severe flooding, up to six feet deep at one of the main access gates, was affecting the movement of articulated vehicles to and from the main stage areas. Electricity supplies to the main stages were cut and performances were postponed. The HVP from the South West region was called into action. Once deployed, the HVP quickly diverted the movement of the flood water, revealing that culverts had become blocked by debris washed down from the hillsides and through the site. Once this debris was cleared, water was able to flow away normally again.

Second site...

During the initial deployment, the HVP team received reports from another fire crew that water run-off from the surrounding hills was rising rapidly and that more than 200 tents were under threat from rising flood water. A water rescue team was sent to this area. The team carried out a systematic search of the submerged tents to check for occupants who might be trapped, as water rose rapidly to eight feet. Following a comprehensive search operation, lasting nearly eight hours, all tents were declared clear, with no casualties reported.

The HVP unit was then moved to the second site and, using two kilometres of hose, transferred approximately three million litres of water from the area, depositing it into another water course away from the festival site.

The build-up of water was the result of water running off the hills, carrying tents and rubbish along with it and blocking the culverts. The water was also contaminated by sewage as the portable toilets had been overturned by flood water. All in a day's work for the fire and rescue service.

Sea of mud

Throughout the operation, the New Dimension team remained at Silver Command, keeping in close contact with regional and national New Dimension teams, updating them on conditions and resource implications.

Additional HVP units from the Fire Service College at Moreton-in-Marsh were made available and Incident Response Unit (IRU) shower units were also offered, to assist with the decontamination of festival-goers caked with effluent and mud.

The IRUs in Devon and Avon were also put on standby. In the end, no additional equipment was required, as the contingency plans of the Glastonbury Festival organisers proved to be sufficient.

Keeping the show on the road

The whole pumping operation lasted 12 hours. Cleaning and retrieving the equipment began the following morning, Saturday 25 June, and took seven hours. The specialist fire crews remained on standby and did not leave the site until 6pm that day.

The HVP unit used by the fire crews was the same equipment that had already proved its worth in responding to the flooding emergency in Carlisle in January.

The specialist crews deployed by Somerset FRS for this incident came from Wellington, Taunton and Bridgwater and were assisted by the Somerset FRS crews already at the site. During the whole operation there were no major injuries resulting from the floods.

By early evening on Friday, it was very much business as usual. Thanks to the efforts of Somerset FRS and the HVP unit, power had been restored across the festival site, more than 120,000 festival-goers were drying out and the bands played on.

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