Best Practices to Mitigate Flooding Impacts
The one-in-100-year flooding event has become a misnomer. For instance, eastern Australia saw historic floods in 2011 and again this year. And it’s not the only region – just ask India, Tennessee, China, and western Europe. How can communities prepare, to mitigate flooding impacts?
Why pre-emption is key to mitigating flooding impacts
Indeed, flood vulnerability is a fact of nature. Some climatologists have argued, though, that that vulnerability is greatly exacerbated by human intervention – often in the form of poor governance.
In urban areas, specifically, natural hazards reach disaster status often because of non-risk-informed planning.
Experts like Friederike Otto and others are saying that those hazards result from inadequate infrastructure, as well as a lack of social support systems that could reduce impacts or help with recovery from past disasters, and processes that push the most vulnerable groups of people to live in hazardous areas.
What can be done? Governments, here, must begin to address human-caused social and physical vulnerabilities. That will require a change in practice towards proactive risk management.
International best practice in flood mitigation
Best practice should inform government action. Blocs like the European Union have historically dealt with catastrophic floods within their jurisdiction. And the scientific community there has been pushing mitigation actions for over twenty years.
What have been some of the best practices suggested? They include:
- Taking a river basin approach. Effective measures for flood prevention and protection should be taken at the level of river basins, accounting for the interdependence and interaction of effects of individual measures implemented along the same water course.
To this end, water management systems, forecasting, flood defence measures, and crisis management must all be organised on a river basin basis, cutting across regional boundaries.
- Taking an integrated approach. Effective flood mitigation also requires structural measures, to limit human activity in known flood plains. Those measures include building codes and legislation to keep structures away from flood-prone areas and appropriate land-use policies for vulnerable areas.
In some cases, even relocation of extremely endangered activities and buildings may be advisable. When not possible, governments must bolster efforts to prepare populations on how to act during floods with correct risk communication and early-warning systems.
- Ensuring interdisciplinary co-operation. Such an approach requires everyone to be on the same page, though – that is at all levels of government to coordinate sectoral policies regarding environmental protection, physical planning, land use planning, agriculture, transport and urban development, and all phases of risk management.
- Creating a comprehensive action plan. All relevant parties will work together to compile a comprehensive action plan for reducing flood damage. That plan will be used to draw long-term conclusions for preventive action in water management, land use, settlement policy, and finance. It will also define the scope of responsibilities in the flood protection system at levels of the government and local administration, responsibilities of public (individuals) and business companies, to ensure permanent and integrated planning of functions and use of the river basin.
Of course, there must be a plan for response and recovery should flooding occur – as it is likely to.
There, best-practice structures such as the Australasian Inter-Service Incident Management System (or AIIIMS) come in handy. To learn more about AIIMS, download our comprehensive guide.