Press Release

New tools to help communicate about flooding to at risk communities

Dusty Miller pub in Calderdale

Role play exercises are to be used to help overcome challenges of communicating about flooding to communities at greatest risk.

This is one of the tools that will be developed as part of a new project run by the Yorkshire Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP), in partnership with City of Leeds Council, City of York Council, the Environment Agency and the Living with Water Partnership. The project has just been approved by iCASP’s Governance Group, to help authorities that manage flood risk.

The exercises will be used to simulate scenarios during a flood incident and the development of flood defence schemes to illustrate the communication needs of communities.  Other tools will include ‘How to guides’ to help communicate complicated flood processes, a series of webinars to enable learning from leading academics and practitioners in the field and buddy systems to enable organisations and flood wardens in different geographical locations to learn from each other and develop best practice.

At the end of 2019, the key partners in the project approached iCASP to ask for help improving their communications to people at risk to enable them to become more resilient to flooding.

Through working with iCASP they have teamed up with academics from Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and Hull to find ways to overcome their communications challenges.

One in six homes in England are at risk of flooding and yet research commissioned for the Environment Agency’s latest Flood Action Campaign showed one in eight (12%) people have no idea whether they live in a flood risk area. This means that millions of people could be at risk of being caught out by a flood.

Dr Jenny Armstrong, impact translation fellow with iCASP, said: “It is crucial that we support those responsible for managing flood risk so that they can help residents and businesses to understand their own flood risk and what they can do to increase their resilience to flooding.

“Climate change is likely to result in an increase in extreme weather events so effective relationships between organisations and communities are extremely important for ensuring that everyone can work together to tackle flood risk.”

Dr Jacqui Cotton, Environment Agency Flood Risk Manager, said: “To reduce the terrible damage and impact of floods we need effective discussions about the causes, consequences and management of flooding. The tools being developed by iCASP will encourage these conversations and help authorities and those at risk to work together to reduce the impact of floods.”

Jonathan Moxon, flood risk manager with Leeds City Council, said: “We know flooding has a devastating effect on peoples’ lives, it can lead to mental health problems two years after the event.

“This project is really important because we give people the information they need to be as prepared for flood events as possible. It will help them to take the action they need to keep safe and mitigate the impacts of flooding.”

Dr Sam Ramsden, Research Associate – Community Flood Resilience at the University of Hull, said: “It has been essential to discuss the challenges of flood resilience with community representatives, flood wardens and flood groups across Yorkshire, and it is great the project is now developing useful tools to meet those challenges.

“We feel a role play exercise could be a really good way of helping communities and agencies work together and increase everyone’s understanding of what people need to do in an emergency. We will continue to work with communities in developing these tools.”

Steve Wragg, flood risk manager for City of York Council, said: “We are pleased to be part of the iCASP Communicating Flood Risk project. Our experiences of managing floods over many years in the city has given us an insight into how we can all work together to better inform people of the risks and consequences of flooding and ways in which we can adapt our messaging to speak to all communities effectively.”

Katie Kimber, flood warden in Luddenfoot, Calderdale, said: “I’m really looking forward to working with iCASP on developing this important tool in the future which will be useful for those working in a flood resilience role with communities.

“As flood wardens, we are keen for people to take action to protect themselves – particularly here in the Calder valley as flooding happens so quickly and with such ferocity, we have very little time and preparation is the key. 

“The public need simple and concise communication in order to prepare themselves, jargon free key information so it becomes second nature to allow people to easily understand their risk and prepare accordingly. The flood wardens can then use this resource to communicate to the communities.”

Eve Pierrepoint, Portfolio Manager for Education in the Living with Water team, said: “Over the past two years we have delivered over 500 hours of both public and digital education events and have a strong base in schools with our education officers who have developed a Living with Water lesson for key stage 2 & 3.

“Our focus is to use the successful foundations of this to broaden our reach to other communities across Hull and Haltemprice, to build both awareness of flood risk and resilience for the future.”

Some of the challenges to be tackled are:-

  • Communicating technical terminology and concepts to the public to clarify the complexities around the likelihood and magnitude of flooding. These include the level of protection offered by flood schemes, timescales for the development of a flood scheme, sources of flooding and the ways in which floods function
  • Using digital media effectively to communicate about flood risk especially whilst COVID restrictions limit face-to-face communications  
  • Getting the messages across to groups of people who are difficult to reach
  • Providing clarity around the roles and responsibilities of different organisations involved in managing flood risk, ensuring good coordination between them and signposting members of the public efficiently.

Interviews have been conducted by the iCASP project team with representatives from RMAs across the region, flood wardens and flood groups and members of the public to find out exactly what challenges they face.

The next steps will be to design and deliver these tools, which will take a community focused approach to communications, and they will be launched in Autumn. 

Find out more about the project and its progress on the iCASP website and also by following @YorkshireiCASP on Twitter.

For further details, contact Cath Seal communications officer for iCASP email: C.Seal@leeds.ac.uk or tel: 07862 254281.