Designing flood forecasting, warning and response systems from a societal perspective
Parker, Dennis John
Improving flood forecasting, warning and response systems (FFWRS) is now a common requirement in Europe and elsewhere. FFWRS need to be designed from a societal as well as a scientific perspective, but social preferences and needs are often not well integrated. This is one of the fundamental reasons for the underperformance of FFWRS, but insufficient flood warning lead time caused by communication time-lags is another. Several conceptual perspectives illuminate how a societal approach can aid FFWRS redesign. Recent experience of redesigning FFWRS in England and Wales using a societal approach is examined. Warning 'customers' require consistent and informative warning messages which they can confirm. New information and communication technologies (ICTs), including automatic voice messaging, dial-and-listen services and the internet, are being harnessed to improve direct warning dissemination and to increase warning lead times. These and other ICTs, including mobile telephones, open up new possibilities for reaching members of typically diverse and heterogeneous floodplain communities. England and Wales is moving towards a MultiMedia Warning Dissemination Service for flood warnings in which 'customers' will be able to select from a range of warning delivery methods those which most suit their different requirements. Increasing the public's awareness and knowledge of flooding, flood warnings and appropriate warning response is now critical to achieving significantly improved warning response and the strategy used in England and Wales is leading to progress.