Robert Hall, Executive Director, Resilience First
While Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkut are recent examples of extreme flooding events on other continents, the UK has had its own experiences of and challenges from severe flooding.
A report by the independent Committee on Climate Change at the end of October said that the number of homes threatened by coastal erosion will rise to 32,000 by 2050, while a thousand miles of road and 400 miles of railway will be vulnerable to flooding by 2100.
London is uniquely placed with 1.3 million people living and working in areas of tidal and river flood risk.
Around a third of London’s approximately 80,000 basement properties are at risk of flooding during a severe storm.
Yet, London is well protected against predictable sources of flooding, with the iconic Thames Barrier, around 400 smaller barriers and movable flood gates downstream of the Barrier, and over 300 km of river walls and embankments stretching into Essex and Kent.
To coincide with London Flood Awareness Week, Resilience First held a breakfast briefing on 15 November to consider the problems in terms of making the population in many cities more resilient to the prospect of inundation.
A range of experts from business and the public sector discussed the threats and responses, drawing on international experience.
The main points that came out of the presentations and panel discussion were:
· Flooding with consequential economic impact will become more frequent as a result of climate change. This will be exacerbated by urban development.
· There needs to be shared mitigation investment by the public and private sectors acting together and with higher infrastructure performance standards.
· A holistic, systems-wide approach is required to develop resilience to flooding, combining top-down city strategies with bottom-up approaches. Currently, it is too top down and public-sector focused.
· Community engagement is a strong vehicle for delivering urban flooding resilience and requires a focus on changing behaviours.
· Business needs to be more closely involved in finding collective solutions and mitigating measures which involve landscape and building design early on.
· The challenge to developing flooding resilient strategies, particularly in London, is the disparate nature of responsibility between national, regional and local government.
In terms of practical advice for Londoners, the London Flood Awareness campaign highlighted four key actions:
· Prepare - Make a flood kit, with all you’ll need if you must leave your home.
· Act - Put important things in a safe place and move family, pets and vehicles away from danger.
· Survive - Call 999 if in immediate danger. Follow advice from emergency services.
· Lend a hand - if it’s safe to help others.
London Resilience has created a webpage (www.london.gov.uk/flood-aware) containing a comprehensive list of resources for people to be able to prepare for and cope with flooding.
They have also created a questionnaire (www.london.gov.uk/be-flood-aware) that challenges Londoners to think about what they would do during a range of flooding situations.