The Environment Agency has urged families in Northampton to register for a flood warning service as the 20th anniversary of the devastating Easter Floods approaches.
In 1998, a huge downpour led to severe flooding, with thousands of homes across the county affected. Two people lost their lives and over 150 people were hospitalised.
After the Environment Agency (EA) was roundly condemned for failing to warn people in the county two decades ago, the Government department has since invested £12 million protecting over 7,000 properties in the county.
A flood storage reservoir was built at Weedon and improvements were made to the flood defences at Far Cotton and St James.
But it says there are still thousands of property owners who have not signed up to a service that allows homes to receive free flood warnings via their landlines.
So far 4,500 people use the service, but EA area flood risk manager Ben Thornely said there needs to be more.
He said: “Although we can reflect on 20 years of progress being made since the significant floods of 1998, we also recognise that flooding remains a risk to local communities across Northamptonshire.
"Our staff and our partners work around the clock to protect people and their properties from flooding, but we can never stop the risk completely.
“This is why our free flood warning service is so important. Flood warnings give people valuable time to prepare for flooding - time that allows them to move themselves, their families and precious items to safety. Our flood warnings save lives and enable the emergency services to prepare and help communities.
“I’d urge residents across the county to check whether they are at risk of flooding and to sign up for flood warnings, by visiting www.gov.uk/flood or calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188.”
The EA is planning with its partners to invest a further £1.8 million by 2021 to reduce flood risk to even more people and properties across the county.
Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service’s deputy chief fire officer, David Harding, says the service is far better equipped to deal with flooding now than it was 20 years ago.
But he too urged residents to sign up to he flood warning scheme.
“Advances in both training and equipment mean we are well prepared and equipped to respond to all emergency incidents requiring our services, including flooding," he said. "But our aim is to help prevent incidents before life is at risk. In this respect, I urge everyone to help themselves and be prepared by signing up to the flood warning system.”