James Hutton Institute, the
A new report by Scotland’s Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW), highlights the profound and long-lasting impacts of flooding on individuals, businesses and communities in Scotland.
Researchers from the James Hutton Institute and the University of Aberdeen spoke to people living in communities that had been severely affected by flooding in North East Scotland during the winter of 2015-2016. Over three years, the team detailed the impact of flooding on individuals and communities in Ballater and Garioch. They found that the impacts of the flooding surpassed the immediate financial and physical damage experienced in the immediate aftermath of the floods.
Some participants reported negative impacts months and even years after the flood, and mental health impacts, in particular, appeared to perdure even until the present day. One participant from Ballater said: “Ballater isn't back to normal, it's not going to be back normal for a couple of years, in actual fact I would say the whole community is suffering from post-traumatic stress to be quite frank”.
Researchers and participants worked together to develop advice to others at risk of being flooded in the future. “[The flooding] has passed but I do get angry about it and that's why I am so glad to be able to be taking part [in the research project]”. I think there are things that could be done, there are things that will have to be thought-about because people cannot go through this and if we've got climate change and an awful lot more water, and we've got an awful lot of building on flood plains, it's all got to be considered,” commented a flooded resident from Garioch.
The report provides recommendations designed to enhance measures for flood risk management and personal and community resilience. The new guidance includes advice on having a household emergency plan that clearly sets out what actions should be taken in the event of serious flooding, what belongings to take and how to evacuate; considering options for making property more flood-resistant and resilient; ensuring adequate insurance cover is in place; and registering with SEPA’s Floodline service.
The report highlights the importance of clear communication before, during and after episodes of flooding. It recommends that flood alerts and warnings should use accessible language to help ensure that appropriate action is taken by members of the public. It also highlights the importance of using a variety of methods to communicate information, including traditional (print and broadcast) media, social media and other online channels.
During episodes of serious flooding, when the emergency services will be operating at capacity, home and business owners should be prepared to put their own emergency plan into action and to help neighbours and vulnerable members of the community, the report recommends.
Professor Bob Ferrier, Director of CREW, commented: “Once again over the last few days, we have seen communities being devastated by flooding as Storm Ciara passed over the UK. Such flooding continues to have a significant impact on people’s personal well-being, livelihoods, and property. This study reveals the consequence of such events on people and communities and the potential legacy of such increasingly frequent damaging storms, both now and into the future.”
Dr Mags Currie, from the James Hutton Institute and who co-led the work with Dr Lorna Philip from the University of Aberdeen, said: “Our research has demonstrated that flooding affects people for years after the event and recommends ways in which flooded households and communities can be appropriately supported in the immediate aftermath as well as the longer-term.”
Dr Rachel Helliwell, CREW manager, commented: “Flooding isn’t just about the physical and economic impacts on a community. This study has demonstrated, the significant long-term social impact of flooding on communities. Effective communication is essential in maintaining and re-building community cohesion and resilience.”
Dr Pascal Lardet, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) Flood Warning & Informing Unit Manager and member of the project steering group, added: “Every day the Scottish Environment Protection Agency helps Scotland prepare more powerfully for future increased flooding and the impacts of climate change. These impacts can be devastating, and this research offers unique insights into the experience of people and communities in Scotland following the major floods of winter 2015/16.
"SEPA has a key role to play to help people be better prepared and able to take action when flooding is expected. We are already learning and adapting our own services thanks to this research project, for example by improvements to our flood early warning and real-time water level information. We are keen to better design our services around customer needs, and this research output will help us do that.”
The Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, said: “I have seen for myself the immediate impact flooding has but this study helps us better understand how devastating flooding is for businesses, families and communities alike.
“This is why the Scottish Government has supported the Scottish Flood Forum since 2008. This year, we have made £190,000 available to the Forum to help communities prepare for and recover from flooding.
“I am grateful to the residents of Ballater and Garioch who gave their time to speak to the researchers about their personal experiences, and look forward to the findings from this study to help build on our resilience and minimise the impact of flooding across the country.”
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