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Building Community Flood Resilience Through Innovative Communication

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Grant Wright (Edinburgh, UK), Debi Garft, Lorna Bryce

Scottish Government1, SEPA2

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 7: Global challenges for water governance,

Scotland faces significant flood risk: at present, 4.5% of residential properties and 7.7% of non-residential properties are at risk, and average annual damages are estimated to be £720-£850 million. In addition to financial and environmental impacts, flooding also causes significant personal distress and health impacts. Although it can be managed, flooding cannot be entirely prevented and, given the future impact of urbanisation and climate change, it is clear that communities will continue to experience the impacts of flooding. Whilst institutional stakeholders have statutory duties to help reduce flooding, individual householders also have a responsibility to protect themselves. Accordingly, building flood resilient communities is now a priority for many areas and organisations.
This paper outlines some of the innovative education work that has gone on in Scotland to inform the general public about flooding. The overall aim of this work is to help bring about behaviour change by encouraging the general public to consider how all levels of society, from the individual through to water utilities and national governments, can have an impact on the causes and impacts of flooding.

Although the work described herein has "evolved" rather than being part of a single project, it has all centered around the use of interactive physical workshops. Such approaches have previously been shown to be effective in communicating complex, societal issues to a wide range of different audiences. Two main workshops have been used.
Sustainable flood risk management workshop ("In Deep Water", IDW) This workshop makes use of an existing EPSRC funded resource, originally developed to enthuse young people about engineering careers. The main element is an interactive model, incorporating a scale model of an urban area with a river, typical infrastructure (i.e. houses, shops, industrial units, roads and parks) and a sprinkler system to simulate rainfall. Workshop participants are able to change certain model elements to reduce the severity of flooding (e.g. replace tarmac with permeable paving).
Uncertainty and Property Level Flood Protection (PLFP) workshop ("Flood Awareness Through Engagement, FATE") This workshop was funded by NERC and the Scottish Government to help increase public awareness of uncertainty (applied to weather events), the benefits associated with PLFP and a call to action to sign up to get flood messages. The workshop incorporates a "wheel of fortune", split into segments to represent different weather scenarios. Participants manually spin the wheel to determine the uncertain weather conditions, and the weather "selected" by the wheel is used to determine both whether a flood will occur and the resulting flood depths. Industry standard methodologies are then applied to determine associated financial damages. To emphasise the benefits associated with proactive actions, such as the installation of PLFP, the impacts of specific events are dependent on "investment" choices made prior to each wheel spin. A web based version has also been developed for the Scottish Government's 2014 "Ready for Winter" campaign which focusses on preparing for flooding.
Much of the IDW and FATE workshop design has intentionally been focused on young people, so as to both "embed" the key messages in the householders of the future and to harness the enthusiasm of this demographic to communicate key messages to adults.

Results and Discussion
During the initial phase (2009-2011), IDW was delivered to ~5000 people at schools and science festivals. Independent evaluation "...yielded strong evidence for the learning that took place during audiences' interaction with the project" including "Learning about flooding, its causes and implications" and "Learning about steps that can be taken to mitigate flooding". Between 2011-2013, IDW was delivered at a wider range of events, reaching a truly diverse audience, ranging from school children through to professionals within the Scottish flood risk management community. Feedback was again positive, with SEPA commenting that "Over the last two years we have been involved in taking the interactive flood model out to different age groups, to build on that approach, and the feedback has been universally positive. Seeing how flooding happens, physically moving infrastructure about to reduce flooding and generally being hands on with water contributes considerably to the learning process, and complements our long term aims to make the next generation more flood aware." Since 2013, over 3000 children from 43 Scottish schools have participated in the IDW workshop. Although evaluation of this phase of the work has yet to be completed, feedback continues to be excellent, with the vast majority of schools stating that they found the workshop to be very/quite interesting/interactive/engaging/fun, as well as an effective way of raising flood risk awareness.
The FATE workshop has only recently been developed and so equivalent evaluation data is not currently available. However, following temporary installation at the Glasgow Science Centre, initial evaluation has highlighted its effectiveness with some key demographics, most notably families with young children. It should be noted that evaluation is an ongoing process, and more data will be available by the time of final paper submission and the conference itself.

As the primary aim of this work was to bring about long term behaviour change, it is not possible to come to definitive conclusions at this stage. However, the qualitative results outlined above, and general experiences throughout the work, point to the following conclusions:
People of all ages are interested in the type of complex, societal issues represented by flooding
People of all ages are capable of meaningful engagement in such issues
Successful engagement must be fun as well as informative and scientifically robust
Successful engagement needs to draw on a wide range of skills from different fields, including academics, government policy advisors, communication officers and exhibit designers
The interactive models continue to be used and evaluation is ongoing, both to "tweak" current approaches and help direct similar future incentives. In more general terms, it is relatively easy to envisage that the approaches described could be successfully translated to similar fields, and the work detailed herein has been the inspiration for a range of new interactive models, including one that explains why/how water companies monitor for bacteria in water.

2011 IWRA - International Water Resources Association - - Admin