6 During a flood event

Practitioner’s Interview with Jerzy Weraksa

Jerzy Weraksa

Department of Security and Crisis Management Office of the City of Wroclaw, Section for Wroclaw Floodway System (WFS) and Flood Protection

“I am leading a team coordinating the activities of flood protection of the city of Wroclaw. Before a flood we prepare by developing a solid basis for the activities of the Crisis Management Team during the flood. It is essential to have a good Operational Plan of Flood Protection. Our plan needs to be updated.

Within the Wroclaw Flood Leaders programme, we organise training courses and meetings with Flood Leaders. They are local community leaders (members of the council of city districts) leading the response during flood events at the local level. Flood leaders organise and supervise volunteers, which for instance monitor the condition of dikes and place sandbags where needed. They cooperate with the Crisis Management Board and firefighters.

We also organise daily cooperation with the administrators of the existing flood defence infrastructure and other units related to the Wroclaw Floodway System. Another important task is the supervision of the flood warehouses. We store the necessary amount of material and equipment (bags, film, geotextile, wheelbarrows, etc.) and have six local, innovative sand repositories. We store ca 20.000 m3 of sand in the form of stocks piles covered with soil and integrated into the area. During a flood we prepare and coordinate the actions of the Crisis Management Team. During major floods our Section operates 24 hours per day.

An important issue in Poland is the fragmentation in competences and lack of supervision of institutions in the field of flood defence. As local authorities we cannot change this system. Therefore our actions are directed mainly toward good cooperation and agreement with these various stakeholders before and during the flood. Currently the modernization of the whole Wroclaw Floodway System is about to finish. The modernization has changed extreme discharges, inundations patterns and the condition and functioning of flood defences. Hence there is a need to adjust our operations: this must be reflected in our Operational Plan.

The other crucial issue is increasing societal awareness of what to do in case of a flood, by improving the work of Local Flood Leaders and by training a broader range of residents, e.g. by educating students. The daily conscientious work of my section staff allows us to achieve our goals despite the challenges we are facing.

It is difficult to give good advice to others responsible for flood protection, because each country and each region has a different hydrological situation. Wroclaw is a specific city with a very high flood risk. This is because the position of the city where the Oder is affected by four smaller but equally dangerous rivers. Still, I would suggest to others to develop partnerships with society. We did this by in a successful way by creating a group of Flood Leaders. Moreover, we are very willing to share our experiences with everyone who cares about the flood safety of their city.”