6.2 How can authorities organise themselves in times of flooding?

In times of crisis it is particularly important to know who can make what decisions, who needs to do what, and who communicates to whom. For instance, it should be clear who decides that an area will be evacuated, who communicates this decision, and whether or not citizens are obliged to leave. A challenge is to coordinate and collaborate in an environment with many stakeholders, including; the domains of water management, public safety, etc. In particular cross-country comparisons reveals the importance of established mechanisms for upscaling and downscaling emergency responses when relevant. This should follow the principle of subsidiarity, meaning that a more central authority should only perform those tasks that cannot be performed at a decentralised level (STAR-FLOOD Deliverable, 5.2, see §8.2.1).

Examples of good practice are the organisation of flood forecasting and warning and the multilevel organisation of emergency management in England. Other interesting coordination mechanisms can be found in Sweden as well, where intra-agency collaboration areas have been established (STAR-FLOOD Deliverable, 3.5, see §8.2.1).

6.2.1 Organising flood forecasting and warning: England




The Met Office provides a Public Weather Service (PWS) for England, offering forecasts free-of-charge to the public. Also provided is a National Severe Weather Warning Service to give advance notice of weather with the potential to effect public safety (either because it may lead to flooding or some other risk). Although the Met Office provides a public service, it is also a ‘Trading Fund’ within the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (a ministry of central government) and operates on a commercial basis under set targets.

Combining forecast capabilities within the Met Office and the Environment Agency, the Flood Forecasting Centre is a joint venture established in 2009 to provide forecasting for all types of flooding. The Flood Forecasting Centre also has a Stakeholder User Group, consisting of representatives from key partners in government, business, the scientific community and emergency responders. A key objective of the Stakeholder User Group is to provide feedback to the Centre’s management team to help shape their future direction.

Within the Flood Forecasting Centre is the UK Coastal Monitoring and Forecasting Service. This also has a number of partners and stakeholders. Partners include the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory which provides data inputs (notably tide predictions and surge modelling). Stakeholders include international organisations (e.g. the Dutch organisation Rijkswaterstaat responsible for flood crisis management coordination on the other side of the North Sea from England), shipping companies, port agencies, energy companies etc. Flood forecast recipients include some of these stakeholders together with members of the public, professional responders, infrastructure providers and other public and government services.

The importance and influence of the scientific research community working in flood forecasting and related science should not be underestimated. Both the Met Office and to some extent the Environment Agency have scientific research functions and researchers working within them. Furthermore, both organisations commission other organisations to undertake research. For instance, as part of the Met Office, the Hadley Centre was established in 1990 and is a dedicated climate change research centre. This is co-funded by Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and advises the Government on climate science issues. Another feature to mention is that the UK is playing its part in the development of the European Flood Alert System (EFAS) particularly through the medium term weather forecast centre based at Reading in England (STAR-FLOOD Deliverable 3.3, see §8.2.1).

Table 6.1: Flood warnings products available to the public, professional emergency responders and other stakeholders in England in early 2014

Type of warning Description Provider
Public flood warning service Warning for areas at risk of flooding from rivers or the sea, under the categories of Flood Alert, Flood Warning and Severe Flood Warning. Environment Agency
Flood Guidance Statements Guidance for river and coastal flooding available from the FFC. 3 to 5 day forecasts issued daily for very low and low risk; medium risk; and high risk. Flood Forecasting Centre
Extreme Rainfall Alerts Issued by FFC when probability of extreme rainfall is >20%. Alerts issued daily in the form of guidance and update statements. These warnings may indicate potential for surface water flooding Flood Forecasting Centre
Severe Weather Warning Met Office will issue warnings for severe weather events with the potential to cause disruption (based on the National Severe Weather Warning Service). Met. Office
Advisories Issued daily to indicate 20% – 60% confidence of expected severe or extreme weather. Early warnings: issued up to 5days in advance of an event and indicate 60% – 80% confidence of expected severe or extreme weather. Flash warnings: issued when confidence exceeds 80% and gives a minimum of 2hrs notice. Met. Office
Groundwater flood warnings Data on the status of groundwater in areas of England are provided on-line and for some areas groundwater flood warning alerts are available Environment Agency

6.2.2 Framework to coordinate local emergency response: England




As long as several decades ago, the basics of governance arrangements around emergency management were established in England. Flooding should not be isolated in civil protection legislation as a distinct problem, but rather enveloped within the broader concept of ‘emergency’ (as defined in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004). Still, there is a specific strategic policy framework called the National Flood Emergency Framework for England 2013, which is maintained by Defra.

England is organised through a single statutory framework for local civil protection, called the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and the Civil Contingencies Act (Contingency Planning) Regulations 2005 (as amended).

Two core groups of actors are distinguished in the legislation; namely Category 1 and 2 Responders (as listed in the Civil Contingencies Act). Category 1 responders (local authorities and the Environment Agency) are central to ‘front line’ emergency response and are subject to the full set of civil protection duties to assess, plan and advise the public and other responders about potential and emerging risks. In addition, Category 1 Responders have the duty to establish and maintain arrangements for sharing information, both with the public and other emergency responders. Also imposed on emergency responders is the duty to promote business continuity management and encourage businesses to develop recovery plans. Category 2 responders, mostly utility companies and transport organisations, essentially function as ‘cooperating bodies’ to the Category 1 response and have a duty to cooperate and share information and advice with all necessary responders involved. Also obliged through the legislation is the need for responders to have due regard for the voluntary sector, although specific mechanisms for this are not outlined.

Emergency planning is underpinned by periodic assessments of local risks recorded in Community Risk Registers (Cabinet Office 2013b). This task is a statutory requirement for Category 1 Responders functioning within Local Resilience Forums. Local Resilience Forums are established for every police district in England and consist of both Category 1 and 2 Responders (as required by the Civil Contingencies (Contingency Planning) Regulations 2005). This ensures that the wide range of emergency actors have a shared understanding of local risks. Local Resilience Forums produce a range of generic and hazard-specific planning documents. With regards to flooding, they produce Multi-Agency Flood Plans to support strategic and tactical decision-making (Defra 2011).

Overall, emergency management is guided by the legal principle of subsidiarity, which advocates the devolution of decision making to the lowest appropriate scale, with collaboration and coordination at the highest level necessary (Defra, 2013; Cabinet Office, 2011). This means that in the context of Flood Incident Management a range of different actors may become involved, depending on the scale of the flood event. Ultimately, emergency management is under the authority of the Cabinet Office and the Civil Contingencies Secretariat. (STAR-FLOOD Deliverable 3.3, see §8.2.1)

6.2.3 SEQUANA flood event management exercise: France




SEQUANA is a large-scale flood crisis management exercise, which takes place under the direction of the Secretary General of the Defence and Safety Zone of Paris, from 7th to 18th of March 2016. This project is partly funded by the European Commission.

For around the last ten years, the risk of a major flood in Ile-de-France has become a matter of real concern for both public and private stakeholders. This scenario is a major risk that the region will have to deal with one day. The Paris region is home to one-third of French economic activity. It is the second largest economic zone in Europe. All the central administrations are located here, as well as many major company headquarters. A major flood in Paris could directly or indirectly affect nearly 5 million inhabitants and impact a large number of activities, with considerable repercussions on a human, economic and social scale. 850,000 people currently live directly in a flood-risk zone. Over one million people would be deprived of electricity if such a major event occurred.

This exercise aims to test the capacity of all involved actors to manage a major rise in the levels of the Seine river, to coordinate the actions of everyone involved at flood zonal level, and to assess the relevance of the plans drawn up by the services and operators concerned. It must also lead to an improvement in the civil security services response capacity, and test civil-military cooperation with the use of Force Neptune. 1,500 military personnel out of the 10,000 provided for in the armed forces’ operational contract will be involved for the first time in a real exercise on the ground.

SEQUANA is also an opportunity to measure the scope of information issued to Ile-de-France residents, and raise awareness of the major role of citizens alongside the public authorities and other parties involved in crisis management. The participation of over 90 partners in the project allows for the communication to these partners and to the public about how to prepare and what to do in case of a flood, within their own area of competence.

To prepare this exercise in a collaborative way, a collaborative platform has been set up, allowing stakeholders to exchange ideas more easily. Participants have been provided with the tools to jointly develop a coherent strategy. The coordination is done by the Secretary General of the Defence and Safety Zone. The project began in early 2014 and will continue beyond March 2016 with the review providing the results.

A flood on this scale would exceed the zonal and national capacities in terms of human and material resources. Consequently, the exercise will also involve the European Civil Security Mechanism. The Préfecture de Police will benefit from the civil security resources of 4 countries: Belgium, Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic.

These type of flood event exercises can be very valuable in order to be prepared when a major flood really happens. Regular exercises are advisable to all flood prone regions (STAR-FLOOD Deliverable 3.7, see §8.2.1).