Natural hazards: floods

1.5 billion people across the world have been affected by floods

Floods have historically accounted for a significant proportion of total global losses arising from natural catastrophes, and the frequency of flood events is increasing. It has been estimated that more than 1.5 billion people across the world have been affected by floods, with highly developed nations just as much at risk as less well developed nations. With such a widespread and indiscriminate legacy, it understandable why many researchers have been engaged to develop a better understanding of the complex science that governs not just how floods are manifest, but also how floods impact the social and environmental systems that they inundate.

Enhancing community resilience

Plymouth University's Dr Andrew Fox, Lecturer in Civil Engineering, has been engaged in research that has explored the relationship between institutions involved in flood risk management and communities at risk from flooding. Much of this research has focused on exploring how institutions and communities can engender and mobilise social capital to enhance community resilience. Early work built on practical experience gained in the design and development of projects to mitigate the effects of floods in the UK, Seychelles and in Montserrat, but quickly evolved into the academic study of flood disaster mitigation in communities along the River Severn in the UK.

Protecting coastal communities

Dr Andrew Fox's engagement with the Canadian-based iRec group in 2002 prompted the development of a series of international conferences focussing on post-disaster reconstruction, from which elements of a system to improve the resilience of communities were distilled. Further work with the UK Emergency Planning Society and the UK Hazard Forum led to a deeper understanding of the importance of relations between communities and institutions in enhancing community resilience. Some of the lessons learned were incorporated into an EU-FP7 project (Innovative coastal technologies for safer European coasts in a changing climate: THESEUS) and most recently have been applied to learn further lessons from the winter storms of 2013-14, about how best to engage local businesses in actions to protect coastal communities from flood events.

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