Published On: January 19, 2023

Imagine a nation that is perfectly prepared for flooding. What does the social contract between government and citizen look like in this scenario?

Broadly, we might imagine that on one side there is a government providing the necessary infrastructure and environmental initiatives such as flood barriers, effective drainage, river management and tree cover. And on the other side, we might imagine citizens who are highly aware of the flood risk to their local area and are able to prepare their homes with defences; who have a clear awareness and understanding of what to do in a flood to protect themselves, their families and their vulnerable neighbours; and who have been able to participate in community level initiatives to make contingency plans with local emergency services.

British Red Cross (BRC) published a new research report in December 2022 called “Every time it rains: British Red Cross research on flooding in the UK”, which investigates the citizen side of this picture. The findings suggest that communities across the UK are alarmingly unprepared for floods. This is despite recent commitments from government to ensure stronger public awareness for building resilience (e.g., second meeting of the UK Resilience Forum in May 2022).

This BRC research found that even in areas at high risk of flooding:

  • Only 25% of respondents say they have a good understanding of flood risk in their local area.
  • Only 14% of respondents say they know what to do to prepare for a flood.
  • And 20% of respondents say their homes are uninsured against flood damage, meaning that for many citizens, the high risk of flooding represents a risk of financial ruin.

With 1.9 million people at risk of flooding in the UK (and this number is projected to double by 2050 in the context of climate change) the BRC report asks: “what can be done to ensure that individuals and communities across the UK are better prepared to face the growing threat of flooding?”

As a result of the findings in its report, BRC calls for government agencies and local authorities to:

  • Improve how information regarding local flood risk is communicated to the public.
  • Ensure that key steps on how to prepare for flooding in your home and local community are widely understood.
  • Ensure that insurance against flood damage is accessible to all.
  • Support communities, local authorities and local emergency services to coordinate and plan for flood response together.

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