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4th December 2012

Care home staff brave floods to ensure residents' safety

Staff from a North Wales care home braved floods to make sure residents were safe when the River Elwy burst its banks in St Asaph recently.

The Old Deanery care home, which has 21 residents the oldest of whom is 98, was one of around 400 properties affected by the flooding in St Asaph which saw many have to leave their homes and take refuge with family and friends until flood waters subsided.

Manager, Lisa Bowen said: “I live in nearby Rhyl and there was no problem with flooding over there, so the first I knew that things were getting really serious in St Asaph was when my sister, who lives in the town, rang me about 6am to say the river had come over and that she had been evacuated by the emergency services.

“The river is not far away from the Old Deanery, so my first thought was for the safety of our residents.

“When I got to the bottom of the road the home is on, things looked pretty bad. The water was already very deep but I just knew I had to reach the home, so I waded in.

“It was really cold and the water was up to my waist but the adrenalin must have kicked in and I just kept going. Further along the road a firefighter shouted at me to stop because of the danger. But I told him who I was and that I was trying to reach the Old Deanery. He then led me the rest of the way there.”

Ms Bowen’s colleagues, Jane Heath Coleman and deputy manager Caroline Barker, also battled their way to the Old Deanery through the floodwaters. Ms Coleman, who waded through flooded gardens to get there, even borrowed two sets of ladders from home-owners to get over the perimeter wall and into the home.

She said: “I didn’t think about what I was doing at the time. I just knew I had to get to the home to see the residents were alright because I wasn’t sure who else from the staff would manage to get there.”

Ms Bowen added: “Jane got there 10 minutes before me and we saw the water was coming in through every nook and cranny. It wasn’t too deep but it was very worrying.

“I phoned the county council who sent some sandbags and we put them everywhere we could see the water appearing, which stopped it. By then other staff members, some of whom were not even on duty, started to come in, and a couple of them were wearing fishing waders.

“We got all the residents into the lounge, reassured them everything was fine, made sure they were warm and gave them their breakfast. There was no panic at all. By about 8.30am the firemen, who were brilliant, had pumped out all the water and outside it looked like nothing had happened.

“A few of the residents had to temporarily move out of their rooms because some water had got in, and we also had problems with the central heating boiler and the electrics of the lift but everything was soon fixed and we quickly got back to normal. I’ve never seen anything like the flooding before in my life but all the staff were incredible and just pulled together – it was the real Dunkirk spirit – and we are happy that not one drop of flood water reached our residents.”

Mario Kreft, chair of Care Forum Wales, the body that represents the independent care sector, praised the staff and said: “The staff of the Old Deanery certainly went above and beyond the call of duty.

“The response of Lisa and her team during the catastrophic flooding in St Asaph was nothing short of magnificent.

He added: “Their first thought was for the residents in their care. They are a shining example of all that is best about social care in Wales and I believe their heroic efforts should be recognised with an award. It is proof, if any were needed, of the calibre of people we have working in social care in Wales.”

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