Natural disasters such as floods, their risks and impacts are very different in terms of predictability, ways of prevention and management. However, it is possible to develop a system that will act as a single source of information for all these risks and will help manage them, where possible, by means of the precautionary principle, based on the use of digital cartographic information, computational risk assessment models and (statistical) disaster prediction models.
Floods as a hazard have specific characteristics.
The specific characteristics of floods
It is statistically predictable (“a 50-years flood”)
It is statistically predictable (“a 50-years flood”) Therefore, sharing and simplifying existing knowledge is critical to taking effective decisions.
It is therefore closely linked to more general environmental issues.
It lasts much longer than an earthquake and (usually) longer than a fire.
Therefore, while the actions that we carry during an earthquake are basically precautions, and what we do during a fire are precaution and extinguishing, what we do during a flood are a precaution, damage reduction and adaptation, that is, the continuation of life under new conditions.
The intensity of its impacts is greatly affected by human activities. Unlike fire, which can be directly caused by human activities, floods are affected indirectly and in the long run by them.
Therefore, by looking at land use scenarios, we have ways at our disposal to prevent disaster and change the flood landscape in the medium to long term.
It has long-term effects on the environment, such as erosion and ‘earth filling’, which create new soil conditions.
Therefore, one of the by-products of our project will be the relevant long-term maps and land use scenarios that can support measures to prevent major disasters.
We have some warning time, usually a few hours: both from the weather forecast and from the current evolution of natural phenomena.
Therefore, it is necessary to implement an action plan, e.g. to provide information on who is at risk and how much. The ERMIS-F project provides the possibility of forecasting and therefore of focused response through notification of residents, and local action based on scenarios that have been prepared by competent bodies.
Information on the flood characteristics at a local level can be very useful for local communities to be able to protect a specific area at risk. It is important to know exactly what is planned to happen to take local, focused measures, immediately.
Flood characteristics provide allow the possibility to manage and prevent damages, unlike other natural disasters such as earthquakes.
Therefore, in some cases we can manage floods with engineering projects and other planning tools (urban planning, sewerage projects, dams, etc.).
We cannot reduce the water that causes floods, but we can
reduce the risk that this water might cause flooding
determine where the flood will go
reduce human, environmental and economic implications.
Like all natural hazards, however, the successful management of floods might lead indirectly to negative behaviours, such as complacency, reluctance to adopt prevention measure and to the acceptance of flood damages as inevitable.
Therefore, there is a need for continuous citizens’ information and training, and the integration of available information.
The ERMIS-F project will provide a number of applications, such as databases, social networking and crowdsourcing, and will make them available to local authorities, environmental organizations, professionals responsible for urban planning, but also to interested citizens, in order to be able to take decisions that could change the flood landscape of their region in the medium to long term.