Flooding is a serious hazard across Europe, with over 200 major floods documented in the last two decades. Over this period, flood management has evolved, with a greater responsibility now placed on at-risk communities to understand their risk and take protective action to develop flood resilience. Consequently, communicating flood risk has become an increasingly central part of developing flood resilience. However, research suggests that current risk communications have not resulted in the intended increase in awareness, or behavioural change.
This paper explores how current risk communications are used by those at risk, what information users desire and how best this should be presented. This paper explores these questions through a multi-method participatory experiment, working together with a competency group of local participants in the town of Corbridge, Northumberland, the UK. The research demonstrates that current risk communications fail to meet user needs for information in the period before a flood event, leaving users unsure of what will happen, or how best to respond. It shows that participants want information on when and how a flooding may occur (flood dynamics), so that they can understand their risk and feel in control of their decisions on how to respond. It also presents four prototypes which translate these information needs into new approaches to communicating flood risk. Developed by the research participants, these proposals meet their information needs, increase their flood literacy and develop their response capacity. The findings of the research have implications for how to design and develop future flood communications, but also for how we envisage the role of flood communications in developing resilience at a community level.