The ability to view live images from existing CCTV cameras at strategic locations assists the Environment Agency in their efforts to prevent and manage flood situations.

Over 2.4 million (1 in 6) properties in England and Wales are at risk from flooding from rivers or from the sea. Changes in our climate, such as more severe storms and wetter winters, serve to increase this risk. Furthermore:

• A further 2.8 million UK properties are susceptible to surface water flooding
• Flooding costs the UK economy up to £100,000 and HOUR per major road affected
• Circa 40% of businesses do not reopen after suffering flood damage

The Environment Agency through the management of land, river systems, and flood and coastal defences can reduce the probability of flooding.

Following the summer 2007 floods and in line with the recommendations within the Pitt Review, the Environment Agency and the Met Office have been examining ways to combine their expertise to provide a comprehensive picture of national flood risk, from developing weather through to the actual flood event itself.

The Challenge

Within its overall measures to improve flood management and reduce the risk of flooding, the Environment Agency was looking for cost effective ways to leverage existing infrastructure existing infrastructure.

Councils throughout the UK now operate CCTV networks with the total number of CCTV cameras deployed estimated to be around 4.2 million. The ability of Environment Agency personnel to view live images from existing CCTV cameras at strategic locations provides significant intelligence and assists in their efforts to prevent and manage flood situations. The challenge was to find a viable solution that would enable Environmental Agency personnel to view these images from any location.

The Solution

A pilot scheme, conducted in partnership with Shropshire County Council, was undertaken. Under this project, Vemotion video compression technology was used to allow real-time video images to be streamed from the Council’s CCTV control room over low bit rate networks such as GSM. An interface from the standard mobile phone network was used to transmit the video over the Internet using GPRS, enabling Environment Agency staff to access these images on their laptops from any location.

The Vemotion Encoder provides a highly efficient video compression and transmission that ensures that the quality video images can be reliably transmitted over very low bandwidth connections. This resolves the issues of speed and, combined with the use of the internet, also resolves the high bandwidth costs as the Images are transmitted in a highly optimised form to make best use of available network bandwidth.

The same technology was implemented to stream live video images from mobile CCTV cameras owned and operated by the Environment Agency.

The pilot scheme identified a low cost solution that enabled Environment Agency staff to leverage existing CCTV networks to gain additional up up-to-the minute intelligence on areas prone to flooding in order to manage the situation and minimise the risk.

Following the successful trial in Shropshire, the Environment Agency is looking to roll out the solution to other areas across the UK.

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