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Preparing for the Great Flood

01 September 2017 | Updated 01 January 1970
 

Build an Ark, inflate a rubber ring - there is considerable room for improvement in both public and private schemes that could help encourage risk reduction behaviours and reduce losses in future disasters, according to a study conducted across Austria, England and Romania.

The study, published in the journal Risk Analysis, provides a detailed look at different public and private incentives for risk reduction and their association with actual risk reduction behaviour.

"Currently neither insurance nor governments successfully encourage risk reduction. Increased and more targeted efforts particularly from local authorities will be important, and have the capacity to change the picture. This will be exceedingly important considering extreme events from climate change," says IIASA researcher Susanne Hanger, who led the study. "This in turn is important for insurance to remain viable and for governments to not overspend on disaster aid."

The study also finds little support for the idea that compensation for flood damage make people less likely to take personal risk reduction measures, such as taking actions to prepare for an eventual flood or installing structures or technologies that can help protect homes from damage. Instead, the study finds that neither private insurance nor public compensation after a disaster is linked to less risk reduction at an individual level.

In Austria for instance, post-disaster relief is available from the government in the form of a catastrophe fund. Yet Austrians had taken more structural measures to protect their homes (45%) than Romanians (23%) or the English (19%), who have less access to public assistance after disasters. For awareness and preparedness measures, Austrians were equally likely to have taken awareness and preparedness measures compared to the English and Romanians.

While the researchers found no link between post-disaster compensation and reduced individual preparation, they did find a connection between public infrastructure measures such as flood dams, which may be linked to a sense of increased safety. In both England and Austria, the researchers found that public risk reduction infrastructure, such as dams and levees, were associated with a lower rate of individual investment in risk reduction measures.

Interestingly, in Romania neither insurer nor government efforts showed any effect on household risk reduction behaviour. Hanger speculates that this may be a result of insufficient public capacity to provide this kind of support. In England, the study shows that national efforts by the UK government to inform the public about disaster risk reduction have reached many households, which is positively associated with preparedness. In Austria, where national level information efforts are limited, households respond almost exclusively to local awareness raising and support.

Across all countries, the researchers find room for improvement in both public and private schemes that could help encourage risk reduction behaviours and reduce losses in future disasters. Instead of increasing efforts to privatize all flood risk insurance, Hanger says, "We need to better coordinate public and private schemes in order to design not only efficient, but also socially just and politically feasible solutions."

 

A flood and coastal group will oversee spending of almost £22 million in the North-East as it sets out its objectives for the next year.

The Northumbria Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (NRFCC) has launched its business plan for 2017/18, which will include continued work at Greatham in Hartlepool, Killingworth in North Tyneside, Hartlepool Headland Coastal Protection Scheme, improvements to the Central Promenade at Whitley Bay and Monkton Village Flood Alleviation Study in South Tyneside.

The considerable sum will better protect around 743 properties from flood risk and another 100 from coastal erosion.

In its 2016/17 annual report the committee also announced that it had overseen 110 projects amounting to £24.5M over the past year, reducing the risk of flooding and coastal erosion to 1,291 properties.

Projects include Lustrum Beck flood alleviation scheme in partnership with Stockton Borough Council which now protects over 150 properties, and the Brunton Park scheme in partnership with Northumbrian Water and Newcastle City Council, which addressed sewer flooding issues and reduces the risk of flooding from the Ouseburn.

According to Leila Huntington, Flood and Coastal Risk Manager with the Environment Agency in the North East: "On completion of our £22M programme of work for the coming year, we will see a reduction in flood and coastal risk to around 843 homes and businesses in the region, as well as creating 30 hectares of new water dependent wildlife habitat.

"The committee is a great example of true partnership working, with all local councils, the Environment Agency and Northumbrian Water pulling together on behalf of communities in the North East. It has an essential role to play in developing and completing flood risk management projects which reflect local priorities and understand the needs of communities.

"This is the third year of our six-year programme – so far we have already better protected 2,045 properties, bringing significant benefits to communities, properties, businesses and the environment, and this work will continue."

Picture: Houston we have a problem - what will businesses do to mitigate flood risk this winter?

 

Article written by Cathryn Ellis | Published 01 September 2017

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