SWIMS is a decision-support and data collection tool for Kent’s public-sector services to record and monitor the impacts from, responses to, and resulting financial cost of severe weather events.
Since the launch of SWIMS in 2012, there are 180 registered users, representing 129 services and 32 organisations in Kent. Over 80 severe weather events have been logged on the system, resulting in total costs and investments of £18.64 million. Impacts from severe weather recorded include road, rail and port closures, numerous flood events and structural damage. Kent County Council is continuing to improve the monitoring of impacts across partners through a newly designed SWIMS system to be launched in mid-2020.
SWIMS was developed as a decision-support and business planning tool for risk management as a result of findings from a 2009 Local Climate Impact Profile. Information was collected from partners showing the cost to local authorities from severe weather events was significant, but there was no coordinated system to record the impacts, responses and true costs of severe weather on the county’s public services.
With climate change, severe weather is likely to increase in duration, frequency and intensity. Kent will likely experience hotter drier summers and warmer, wetter winters. As such, SWIMS helps organisations to baseline, capture and monitor their impacts and costs of severe weather and will become increasingly important in building business cases to adapt to climate risks.
SWIMS aims to bridge the gap in understanding the risks associated with severe weather events and climate change through capturing data. It enables public sector organisations to capture a range of data (financial, impact, response) about how they are impacted by and respond to severe weather events. This allows them to build up a picture of their vulnerability to these events over time.
The system enables users to compile a clear and robust evidence base to inform risk management and develop effective business cases to demonstrate where services or funding may be needed into the future, as severe weather events become more common place.
In addition, SWIMS also generates severe weather reports. Users can produce a report for their organisations on how it has been impacted by and responded to severe weather. Highlighting areas of good practice and any common barriers to allow teams to learn from each other’s experiences and co-ordinate efforts to address vulnerability in partnership and make longer-term cost savings.
Since the roll out of SWIMS in 2012, the system has grown and now has over 180 users, representing 129 services and 32 organisations in Kent. Over 80 severe weather events have been logged on the system. Impacts recorded include road, rail and port closures, numerous flood events and structural damage. Services have experienced disruption for over 2000 days affecting over 135,000 service users and 3,600 staff. SWIMS users have logged total costs and investments of £18.64 million; this is still likely to underestimate the true costs. In addition, the data from the system has been used in a variety of ways, for example data recorded in SWIMS was used to support a financial claim from the Bellwin Scheme after the winter of 2013 – 2014 in which Kent County Council received over £900,000 from central government. The system also highlights areas of good practice and opportunities for joined up working to support longer-term cost savings.
How is the new approach being sustained?
Through the Interreg VA NSR FRAMES Project, Kent County Council are re-developing the SWIMS system. One of the primary barriers to data input and usership of SWIMS has been the IT system itself, originally developed eight years ago, which has made the system cumbersome to use and outdated in 2020. Several key improvements were identified to upgrade the IT system, such as ability to integrate location data facilitating GIS and map-based reporting, in-built financial analysis, easier to access user interface, greater administration of system-based mail-outs, and Word/Excel export services.
The new system has been under development since July 2019 and is due for completion in the coming months. Throughout the improvement cycle of the system, regular meetings have been had with key SWIMS stakeholders to ensure the needs of the system and its users are met. In addition to the new system development, Kent County Council are continuing to engage with stakeholders and users of the system to increase usership and improve the quality of the data inputted.
Accurate and easily accessible evidence is vital in making better decisions and business cases to take action to build resilience to severe weather. SWIMS effectively allows users to record and monitor their impacts and costs from severe weather events and integrate these into their business planning processes.