Flood Hazard Management: British and International Perspectives

By John Handmer | Go to book overview

HAZARD RESPONSE WITH SHORT LEAD TIMES: SECTION SUMMARY

John W. Handmer

Flood Hazard Research Centre, Middlesex Polytechnic

Two major points arise from the flood warning chapters and subsequent discussion. The first point concerns the feelings of many Workshop participants that the Severn-Trent Water Authority (STWA) had failed to implement the results of the research outlined by Dennis Parker. Since the Workshop, however, the STWA has made available the document appended to Chapter 11. This shows that the Authority has considered the research findings. In fairness to the STWA it should also be pointed out that the report was made public on its completion.

The other general issue is also research related: that there are many social science research findings relevant to the dissemination of warnings and pre-flood publicity, although important issues remain to be thoroughly investigated. At the national and regional levels the British flood forecasting system is quite sophisticated in a technical sense, yet failures still occur. While occasionally warning failures occur because of technical inadequacies they frequently reflect deficiencies in warning dissemination. In addition we should remember that a significant number of English and Welsh flood prone properties are not part of any warning scheme.

It appears that once again institutional factors dominate the process in Britain. Dennis Parker asserts that flood warning dissemination inadequacy is primarily an institutional problem. The fundamental issue is the division of responsibility between the organisation responsible for hydro-meteorological data collection and forecast preparation, and the agency responsible for warning distribution to the public: the water authorities and Meteorological Office on the one hand and police on the other. The significance of this division is exacerbated by the funding arrangement whereby funds for research and policy initiatives go to the forecasting agencies, with the result that the dissemination process is largely ignored while forecasting is continually refined.

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