6.1 Common challenges

thamesbarrierThis chapter addresses the flood preparation and response measures that enable good disaster management during a flood. These measures include developing flood forecasting and warning systems, preparing disaster management and evacuation plans and disaster management when a flood occurs. Thus, even though the chapter is called ‘during a flood event’, several measures have to be developed already before the flood takes place.

Flood forecasting is established in all analysed countries: Belgium, England, France, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden. Technological advancements have played a pivotal role in improving the provision of timely flood warnings. Timely warning is essential to create sufficient lead time to prompt action. All countries also have a system of communicating flood warnings to at-risk citizens and emergency responders in place. England has an advanced system with multiple pathways for disseminating flood warnings, including an opt-out service to maximise the reach of formal warnings. Voluntary community-based warning schemes that facilitate the communication of formal flood warnings are in place in England and Poland.

Emergency or disaster management is changing in several ways in the analysed countries; from i) civil defence to holistic risk-based approaches, ii) from reactive to proactive strategies, and iii) from command-and-control structures to more collaborative forms of multi-actor decision-making. Clarity of roles and responsibilities appears to be a fundamental condition for success.

All countries work with multi-hazard approaches to emergency management. This means that provisions for flood event management are embedded in broader constructs of ‘emergency’ and ‘crisis’ management. In order to clarify roles and responsibilities, and to respond to contemporary risks, emergency management has been significantly re-organised in the 2000s in all analysed countries. For example, the Security Regions Act 2010 in the Netherlands establishes Security Regions (i.e. specialized emergency management authorities) and provides a comprehensive organizational basis for integrated multi-actor emergency management. Besides clear roles and responsibilities, mechanisms are required to facilitate integrated, multi-actor collaboration. A final condition for success is the performance of periodic exercising to test emergency plans.

The research also revealed three issues related to emergency management that are to varying degrees in place in the analysed countries. In all countries there tends to be a lack of risk awareness amongst the public. Furthermore, the public has a tendency to depend on State intervention instead of helping themselves. Finally, in Belgium and Poland there is evidence of a lack of resources for emergency management activities especially at the lowest levels of management (STAR-FLOOD Deliverable 5.2., see §8.2.1).

In this chapter we describe good practices on how authorities can divide roles and responsibilities, on measures to increase risk awareness and involvement of the public in times of flooding, and on keeping awareness about what to do in case of a flood alive.

More common challenges and related good practices can be found in Chapter 4 on Integrated planning, collaboration and coordination, Chapter 5 (Before a flood) and Chapter 7 (After a flood).