Research, Evaluation & Impact

The experience of flooding in the UK | A research study Alison McNulty - Head of Research, Evaluation & Impact, British Red Cross Kimberley Rennick - Researcher, British Red Cross

> The authors would like to thank all those who took part in this research, especially the residents who were willing to share their experiences and the key individuals from organisations which made it possible to access these residents. > Thanks also to the supporting work of Huub Neiuwstadt, Anna Frayling-Cork, and Kurtis Garbutt.

Copyright © 2013 Any part of this publication may be cited, translated into other languages or adapted to meet local needs without prior permission of the British Red Cross, provided that the source is clearly stated. This publication does not necessarily represent the decisions or stated policy of the British Red Cross. ISBN 978-0-900228-14-8

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross Abstract Background: flooding in the UK Context The historical context of the research 8 11 11 11 14 14 19 21 23 24 27 27 27 28 29 29 30 30 31 31 32 32 34 35 36 36 37 41 44 45 50 51 54 59 60 64 67 71



Literature review Needs, impacts, and consequences of flooding Identifying and supporting needs Response and recovery The role of resilience Conclusions Method Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) Design Study site selection Community participation Data collection Recruiting participants and response rates Interviews Focus groups Young persons’ groups Questionnaire/survey Ethical considerations Findings Mode of data collection and response rates Respondent demographics The story of the flood Identifying the needs and impacts of the floods Impact of the flooding on everyday life Summary Roles and responsibilities throughout the flood event Summary Building resilience Linking assistance provided to enhanced community resilience Summary Barriers to preparation Summary Conclusions and implications for services References


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross



limate change and its consequences constitute some the greatest challenges currently facing the global community.

The British Red Cross corporate strategy for 20102015 – Saving Lives, Changing Lives – recognises that climate change is likely to contribute to increasing levels of vulnerability for people across the globe. In light of this, in 2010 the British Red Cross research, evaluation and impact team conducted a metaanalysis of existing research into the humanitarian impact of extreme weather. Following this study, the team commissioned further research to; > Identify the effects of floods on individuals and communities, and their resulting needs – particularly in the recovery phase. > Identify the range of services that need to be in place before, during and after flooding occurs to mitigate the impact on individuals and communities, and ensure an effective humanitarian response. > Assess the possible links between the types of support provided to flood-affected communities and the building of community resilience. > Assess opportunities for advocacy on behalf of flood-affected individuals and communities – specifically relating to what needs to be in place for communities to cope with the aftermath of flooding.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
The study utilised a community based participatory approach, and collected data via questionnaire (n67), in-depth interviews with flood affected individuals (n72) and stakeholders (n16), focus groups (n4), and document analysis. The study made 6 key recommendations from the findings. > Awareness of risk must be raised: This study, in keeping with the wider literature, supports the need for a ‘trusted voice’ to heighten awareness of the need to take action and prepare for the increasingly inevitable. > Individuals and communities must be supported in their preparations for flooding: key messages regarding flooding should come from a trusted voice, which provides accurate and timely information across a full range of issues. > Enhancing community relations is seen as key: it is vital to develop and maintain strong relationships between communities and organisations, ensuring community needs are known to organisations and that all available support is known to the community. It is also vital that communities foster more productive relationships with those individuals within the community who are not currently engaged with community activities. > Wider needs should be met: this study emphatically illustrates how addressing the effects of flooding cannot be limited to an emergency planning and response function alone. It is a recommendation that the remit of services expand across a floods trajectory, and also in periods without flooding. > Flooding should be viewed as cyclic: This study echoes existing literature that suggests flooding is a cyclic process – that is, recovery and preparedness are indistinct, over-lapping entities. Flooding should be viewed as a cyclic process, to ensure that the momentum of efforts in response and recovery contribute to activities geared towards preparedness. > Emotional and practical needs should both be supported: The need for both emotional and practical support beyond the immediate flood event has been evident in this and other similar studies. It is important to ensure that those responding to a flood are able to provide both emotional and practical support, and are suitably qualified to do so.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross


Background: Flooding in the UK

‘In 2010-2015, climate change is likely to contribute to increasing levels of vulnerability for people across the globe’
- Saving Lives, Changing Lives


limate change and its consequences constitute some the greatest challenges currently facing the global community.

The establishment of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre in 2002, attests to a growing acknowledgement that the humanitarian sector cannot afford to ignore the potentially devastating impact of weather hazards on human lives. The British Red Cross corporate strategy for 2010-2015 – Saving Lives, Changing Lives – recognises that climate change is likely to contribute to increasing levels of vulnerability for people across the globe. In light of this, in 2010 the British Red Cross research, evaluation and impact team conducted a meta-analysis of existing research into the humanitarian impact of extreme weather. Following this study, the team commissioned further research into the impact of flooding in the United Kingdom, and the needs of those individuals and communities affected.

The historical context of the research
More than five million people in the UK currently live in areas at risk of flooding. And with settlements developed on floodplains, over 12% of the UK population is thought to live on fluvial flood plains or in areas identified as being subject to the risk of coastal flooding (Environment Agency, EA, 2009). In addition, future weather conditions are projected to comprise wetter winters and continued increases in sea-level, thus increasing vulnerability to flooding over


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
the coming years (UK Climate Projections, 2009). Historical charting of responses to UK flooding demonstrates changing attitudes and views of such events. The way in which flooding is perceived is central in influencing how it is responded to and protected against. Set in the context of World War II food shortages, the protection of agricultural land from flooding was paramount through the 1940s. But it was the widespread flooding that occurred when coastal defences were breached in the 1950s that saw interest grow in strengthened defences to protect people and land, as well as raising awareness around flood forecasting and warnings. An emphasis on engineered solutions to flood problems led to a common belief that the environment could be controlled by constructing flood defences to prevent flooding. In addition, with an increase in industries and homes populating floodplains, simple flood avoidance approaches were no longer possible. As a result, by the 1980s and 1990s, the focus of flood prevention had moved from land drainage to the protection of urban areas using built flood defences. The aim of flood defences was to contain water and move it away from the site being protected as quickly as possible. In addition to a renewed impetus for an improved flood warning system, flood events of the 1980s and 1990s also brought about an emphasis on the social aspects of flooding, as evidenced in Bye and Horner’s independent report on the work of the EA (Bye and Horner, 1998). The first decade of the new millennium was characterised by a number of devastating flood events that resulted in loss of life. Alongside these events,there were developments in forecasting and alert systems, as well as updates to planning policies aimed at ensuring that flood risk is taken into account at all stages in the planning process to avoid inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding (c.f. Department for Communities and Local Government, 2010).

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
As a result of the Flood Warning Service Improvements Project implemented in 2008, the EA in 2010 made alterations to its own flood warning service. This involved changing the name and meaning of its flood codes, as well as publicising river levels on the internet. Since then, the EA has instigated a series of further developments including making flood warnings available on Facebook and the implementation of a groundwater flood warning service. Three day flood forecasts are publicly available, and the EA website shows the possible extent of flooding from reservoirs. However, perhaps the most influential wider policy developments since 2000 came as a result of The Pitt Review (Pitt, 2008), with the passing of the Flood and Water Management Act in 2010. The Pitt Review, commissioned to look at the vulnerability of infrastructure, the need to improve flood forecasting and warnings, and the need to clarify who is responsible for managing and responding to surface water flooding, came in response to the exceptional flooding of 2007. Among its many findings, the review highlighted a different approach towards flooding; one that promoted regeneration and not normalisation. A first test of Pitt’s many recommendations came with the floods of November 2009, when an early warning was successfully issued, illustrating the improvements made to flood forecasting since the establishment of the Flood Forecasting Centre. However, the flooding raised concerns about the ability of essential infrastructure – particularly bridges – to withstand severe flooding, and highlighted the need for public awareness of the disruption that the loss of such infrastructure can cause (c.f. Department for Communities and Local Government, 2010). Improved flood forecasting, better flood defences and warning systems, and increased emergency planning have all contributed to reducing flood risks in the UK. However, it is not technically feasible or economically affordable to prevent all properties from flooding. In spite of the vast amounts of money invested in flood and coastal defences, the financial impact of flooding remains sizeable with an average of £1 billion worth of damages incurred each year in the UK (EA, 2009).


‘When a community is flooded, the effects can be widespread – impacting upon schools, health services, transport networks and local businesses, as well as individuals and families.’
And of course, the impact of flooding is far broader than the resulting financial costs. When a community is flooded, the effects can be widespread – impacting upon schools, health services, transport networks and local businesses, as well as individuals and families. Moreover, the health, social and economic impacts of a flood can be long-lasting and extend far beyond the community that was originally flooded (Twigger-Ross & Colbourne, 2009; Shahab, 2010). As the historical context of flooding has shaped the response to flooding, so has the wider social context. Indeed, a more socio-technical framework has now been adopted which, according to Guy (2004), has seen science and technology evolving a sophisticated relationship with wider processes in society. Ultimately, flooding is no longer approached as a preventable issue, but as something to be lived through.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross

Literature review

‘More than 40% of Red Cross UK emergency response call-outs in 2009 were related to severe weather incidents, with 25% of these related to flooding’
- Shahab, 2010


esponding to severe weather comprises a significant component of the British Red Cross’ activity.

For example, more than 40% of Red Cross UK emergency response call-outs in 2009 were related to severe weather incidents, with 25% of these related to flooding (Shahab, 2010). Such data is captured and documented in a body of work that includes evaluations, learning reviews and monitoring reports, and was reviewed along with external literature to inform this research study. All literature reviewed related to UK flooding. The review focused on identifying the main needs and impacts that arose from flooding, as well as the supportive interventions aimed at mitigating or preventing them.

Needs, impacts, and consequences of flooding
The general sense across floods literature is that experiences of a flood event largely evoke feelings of not knowing what to do or uncertainty about what is happening (Sharp, Burns & Bass, 2008; Pitt, 2008). Furthermore, the needs arising are often not linear and are also long-lasting (Twigger-Ross & Colbourne, 2009). However, despite such common findings, it is often difficult to differentiate people’s needs following a flood from the impacts of the event. The two inevitably become intertwined, with impacts leading to needs and needs leading to impacts. Notwithstanding this dilemma, several key impacts emerged as resulting from flooding and these covered the main aspects of everyday life – health, social, and financial.

Health impacts
The effects on health – both physical and mental – are widely regarded as important dimensions of the human impact of flooding (Tapsell, Rowsell, Tunstall & Wilson, 2002; Tapsell, 2001), with 39% of people suffering physical effects and 67% suffering effects on their emotional health (Pitt, 2008).

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
Though such effects are consistently reported qualitatively in existing literature, health impacts of flooding are not commonly quantified or their causality extensively explored. This may be in part due to the fact that floods are not commonly thought of as public health events (Kundzewicz & Kundzewicz in Kirch, Bertollini & Menne, 2005); nor are health impacts easily measured for such purposes as epidemiological investigation (Fewtrell & Kay, 2008). Furthermore, some of the more qualitative studies on the health impacts of flooding suggest people may be reluctant to consult doctors about the impact on their health because of a perceived stigma attached to being unable to cope following floods, labelled ill, or gaining a reputation for having poor health (Burningham, Fielding & Thrush, 2008). This suggests there may be many health impacts of floods which remain undocumented. Although having respondents self-report symptoms and effects might overcome fear of health professional stigma, the subjectivity of attributing physical and psychological effects to the flooding event remains a challenge in fully understanding health impacts (Tapsell, 2001). This understanding is further challenged by current literature that does not fully capture concurrent or other health related impacts. Tapsell (2001) notes in her research findings from focus groups held a year apart, that flooding could have combined impacts – such as exacerbating a pre-existing health problem and causing a loss of perceived security – which together produced an overall negative effect. The following review therefore splits physical and psychological health impacts purely for ease of reporting, rather than suggesting they are so clearly differentiated. While fatalities and injuries can occur before, during and after a flood – for instance, as a result of moving (or being hit by) heavy objects during a flood or while cleaning after a flood – fatalities are most likely to occur early in the event, and outbreaks of disease usually occur after the event. Additionally, where floods have a slow onset, they are less likely to cause injuries and fatalities than fast onset floods. With this in mind, flash floods clearly present a particular risk to health given the high speed of onset and reduced possibility of forewarning the community. Fortunately, fatalities and serious injuries are relatively rare in the UK – 183 fatalities were recorded in the UK between 1985 and 2008 (Burningham,Fielding & Thrush, 2008). Similarly, there have been few incidents of postflood disease outbreaks, such as gastrointestinal illnesses, reported in the UK. However, given that figures for injuries caused by flooding are not systematically collected or collated, it is clear that these numbers may not accurately represent the true extent of the impact of flooding on physical health. Furthermore the causal relationship between flooding and poor health is not always clear, especially where there are indirect impacts on health, such as the worsening of pre existing conditions or, as Pitt (2008) identifies, increases in alcohol consumption. Information regarding indirect health impacts of flooding is therefore very difficult to collate or quantify. Most current available literature concurs that, excluding direct injuries and fatalities, flooding often exacerbates poor health that already exists prior to a flood event, rather than it being the direct cause of poor health (Few et al, 2004; Rural Payments Agency, RPA, 2005). For example, a recent and extensive project by the Tyndall Centre which included studies in England, Australia and America found that the health impacts of flooding are closely related to age and pre-existing health conditions of those affected (Few et al, 2004).


Physical health impacts
A 2004 study by Few, Ahern, Matthies and Kovats identified that the physical health impacts of flooding included fatalities, injuries and the occurrence of disease.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross Psychological health impacts
Most floods literature generated from industrialised countries such as the UK recognises that floods affect the psychological well-being of those who experience them. Reported psychological health issues include acute stress, clinical depression and anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Unlike physical health impacts, it is argued that psychological health impacts (such as anxiety and stress) occur post-event. In addition, a number of studies have found that the impacts of a flood are made worse by certain factors – for example, larger scale flooding, the increased time taken to return to normal and the ineffectiveness of actions and help received (RPA, 2005; Tapsell and Tunstall, 2000). Several studies have observed increases in stress and depression among those affected by various floods in the UK (cf. Tapsell et al, 2002; McKenna, 2010). Similarly, a joint British Red Cross and SOLAR report on the 2008 Doncaster floods indicates that flood impacts are not merely short-term, nor confined to immediate physical emergencies (Sharp, Burns and Bass, 2009). This resonates with external literature that echoes the importance of acknowledging ongoing mental health impacts such as stress and anxiety. Such impacts can last for years and, although the effects are likely to diminish with time, recurrence has been found to occur in response to triggers, such as flood event anniversaries (Tapsell, Tunstall and Wilson, 2003). Those previously affected by flooding may also adopt an attitude of constant vigilance relating to weather conditions (McKenna, 2010), resulting in additional stress. Triggers therefore have an important part to play in recognising key points for supportive interventions. For example, in a survey of one community comprising 32 respondents, 17% of respondents worried that the floods would happen again (Richards, 2011), suggesting future risk was a source for concern for some, but not all. However, immediate problems – issues facing residents here and now – are also recognised as triggers. The main causes of stress during a flood are cited as being loss adjusters (and insurers), builders and the loss of personal effects (Aberdeenshire Council, 2010). Equally Werritty, Houston, Ball, Tavendale & Black (2007) found stress and anxiety – as well as the time and effort needed to deal with insurers and builders – to have an immediate, intangible, and significant impact. There is however little literature exploring the types of longer term needs arising as a result. Indeed, Werritty et al’s focus groups assessing the impact of flooding on the attitudes and behaviours of people in Scotland, only reviewed activities taken in preparation of a flood and not those taken during or after.

‘The impact on health, both physical and psychological, can be both profound and long-lasting’
The impact on health, both physical and psychological, can be both profound and longlasting. It is clear from existing literature therefore that support would need to complement such trends. It is also clear that psychological health impacts, in particular, are affected by ancillary variables such as the length of disruption and perception of actions taken. This suggests the impact of flooding is both influenced by, and results in, other impacts within an individual’s daily life.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
In Perth, for example, 1,000 out of the 1,200 flooded properties were comprised of local authority housing. In the aftermath of the flood, it was widely thought by non-local authority occupants that these tenants had been provided with greater assistance and treated in a more favourable way than owner-occupiers and private tenants (Fordham and Ketteridge, 1995). However, while divisions in these communities certainly were documented, further exploration is needed to more clearly understand how perceptions of inconsistent treatment emerge (and how they might be mitigated), particularly where such divisions are influenced by the economic response of a local authority.


Social impacts
The literature reviewed provides a complex and sometimes conflicted picture of the social impacts of flooding on affected communities. On the one hand, in the aftermath of a flood, cohesion within the community can increase with ‘everyone pulling together’ – often termed ‘social fusion’’ (Gordon, 2004; Williams, 2008). Conversely, the impact on family life is reportedly negative (Pitt, 2008), as too is the impact upon personal relationships (Tapsell, 2001; Aberdeenshire Council, 2010). Furthermore, some literature indicates that the impact may have a divisive influence not just on personal relationships at home, but also on the community. As such, several potential causes have been highlighted – including social diffusion of pre-existing networks because of relocation and scattering of populations (Sharp, Burns & Bass, 2008). Similarly, fears over leaving their property unattended may force families to be separated (McKenna, 2010). An alternative cause of breakdown in community cohesion may come from the perception that particular groups are treated more favourably than others (Sharp, Burns & Bass, 2008). These perceptions can override social fusion, creating ‘cleavage planes’. Such incidences were noted with communities in Perth and Strathclyde, in 1993 and 1994 respectively.

Economic and infrastructure impacts
Flooding unquestionably has an impact upon the wider economy, not just through the longer term lowering of property values, but also through its immediate effects on local infrastructure (which may itself be flooded). Indeed, public transport and services such as hospitals are often affected directly by floods. This issue received recognition in the Pitt Review (2008), which recommended that communities should be encouraged to contribute towards such incurred costs themselves. Additionally, the review recommended the creation of a series of programmes designed to strengthen the resilience of essential services to flooding, focusing on critical sites such as water and electricity supply sites. The potentially devastating financial hardship reported as a consequence of flooding will often, unsurprisingly, have a negative impact upon an individual’s greater well-being. For example, decreases in economic well-being have been shown to have a strong negative correlation to the psychological health and well-being of those affected (Green, Emery, Penning-Roswell and Parker, 1985). Impacts upon economic well-being are numerous and can be brought about through a combination of negative impacts on an individual’s financial situation – including material losses, increased insurance premiums and declining house values.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
Much literature points towards the financial impacts of flooding at a property level, with widely reported decreases in house value (Yeo, 2003; McKenna, 2010; Richards, 2011). Indeed, as Yeo (2003) reports, the effects can last for several years after the flood; and with typical losses reported at 25% and rising to 60%, the impact is easy to quantify and attribute. Furthermore, decreases in property values have not only been linked with actual flooding events but also with the publication of flood risk maps. This has meant that sometimes even homes which have not been flooded experience a drop in value due to their location. Conversely, and far more rarely, there are also some cases of homes that have been flooded and yet have seen their values rise as the repairs have substantially improved the property (Yeo, 2003). In tandem, losses linked with recovery also have further financial implications. From the outset, there are costs associated with refurbishment, as well as eating out due to not having cooking facilities (McKenna, 2010). In addition, there is growing recognition of the (potentially longer term) issue of increased insurance premiums and/or difficulty with getting insurance in the first place. This has been highlighted both in research (McKenna, 2010; Richards, 2011) and at a local level with community flood groups (Stonehaven & District Community Council, minutes of 350th business meeting, 2010). As with health impacts, it is possible that the financial impacts of flooding aren’t fully understood because of the potential for stigma or negative perceptions associated with them. For example, Dooley (2009) found that those who did not have insurance prior to flooding, and were therefore arguably most in need of financial assistance to recover losses, were perceived in some parts of the community as less deserving. The same report also noted that the uptake of financial assistance may have been thwarted by the stigma associated with taking money from a charity. The cumulative and ancillary costs of flooding seem to be given little airing, in contrast to the amount of literature focused on the effects on property associated costs.

Although working life is infrequently mentioned in the reviewed literature, Pitt (2008) reports some 31% of the sample had to take time off work as a result of the flood. The same report also noted that, while house values may be decreasing, at an individual level arrears are increasing. What Pitt (2008) and Dooley’s (2009) examples highlight is that not only are economic impacts a sensitive issue to those experiencing them, but that this sensitivity might hide the true extent of how pervasive this impact truly is. More widely, the literature pertaining to economic impacts speaks of increasing costs, outlays, and arrears; all of which have the potential to impact on the ability of both individuals and communities to respond and recover.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross


Identifying and supporting needs
Though the literature reviewed identifies some of the impacts of flooding, there is little that explicitly explores the needs arising from such events. In particular, there are gaps in terms of what floodaffected individuals and communities perceive to be their own support needs and priorities. To address this shortfall, services and organisations involved in supporting people associated with a flooding event are encouraged to conduct needs assessments (Austin, 2007), and consult more constructively with individuals and communities (Pickett, 2010).

‘Identifying needs after a flood can be more difficult than initially appears in terms of appreciating who is affected, what their needs are, and how pervasive these needs will be’
In considering the response and early recovery period across a number of international and domestic flooding events, Nzegwu (2008) argued that both the statutory and voluntary sectors are unsure of exactly how to approach meeting the needs of people after a flood. Many practical issues can present challenges – such as recovering personal valuables (such as letters and pictures), dealing with issues of contamination, and addressing the psychological impact of the floods.

Identifying who is in need
Several uncertainties and presumptions challenge the response to emerging needs; not least who is actually in need. A clear example comes from the administration of a recent appeal fund during and after a flood event. While distribution began with one clear idea of who the recipients of the funds should be, this shifted as different vulnerabilities arose. While the recipient base had been identified as those directly flooded, it became apparent that others were also affected and felt themselves to be in need of financial assistance. These included landlords and community groups, who are not classed as households but whose properties had also been damaged in some way (Dooley, 2009). So being affected by flooding could not be defined as simply having water in one’s home. Such findings show how identifying needs after a flood can be more difficult than initially appears in terms of appreciating who is affected, what their needs are, and how pervasive these needs will be. The potential ramifications of not appreciating needs are clear: some individuals may not receive the necessary support. A lack of long-term assessment does little to remedy this challenge, and although there is recognition of the importance of emotional as well as practical support, a greater consideration of the longerterm needs that arise during the recovery stage of flooding is needed.

Challenges in identifying need
Identifying needs is not, however, without challenges. From the outset, existing literature details the logistical difficulties in identifying both needs and those individuals who have them. Sharp, Burns & Bass’ (2008) action research highlighted the need for a better understanding of vulnerability so individuals can be better sign posted to sources of help. To do this, they suggest the development of local knowledge and local information sources. However, it is not always possible to know all the needs of the community members. For example, Hencher (2009) notes that when people make their own private arrangements for accommodation (such as leaving the area) they disappear from view, and it is no longer possible to readily ascertain their experience of flooding. Even in flooding scenarios where dispersal of the community has not taken place, it can still be a challenge to identify those with needs. In one instance, council lists were used to ascertain which households might need financial support, but these lists were subsequently found to be erroneous (Dooley, 2009).


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross What is needed?
Even where people made vulnerable by flooding can be easily identified, their needs should not be presumed to be obvious. Intangible impacts, such as those on psychological health, pose a challenge to fully understanding the needs of those affected by a flood event. The literature reviewed highlighted that such intangible impacts of flooding are often priorities for individuals and communities. Clear examples of needs arising from such intangible impacts can be found within the behaviours of those experiencing a flood event. To illustrate, individuals often focus on alleviating their psychological discomfort (for example, by protecting sentimental items) rather than solely focusing on material property (Twigger-Ross & Colbourne, 2009). However, these intangible needs are less of a priority for statutory responders. Local authorities, service providers and emergency responders are more likely to be concerned with mitigating quantifiable costs and impacts such as concrete damage to properties, homes and human life. As a result, services aimed at dealing with intangible effects of flooding may not be fully appreciated as a supportive intervention (Shahab, 2010). For example, during the 2007 summer floods, some of the services offered by the Red Cross, such as providing therapeutic massages in rest centres, were not recognised as having immediate priority by local authorities. Such services are, however, often extremely well received by beneficiaries (Austin, 2007).

The needs of young people
Much of the literature exploring the needs of those affected by flooding focuses on the adult experience. However, there are specific studies that examine the experiences of young people in such circumstances, as well as specific interventions designed to help them cope. In one such consultation by Williams (2008), the insights of young people, aged 5-9 years, were used to help design future activities to aid young people in flood recovery phases. This study revealed that, just like adults within their community, they were concerned about practical and social needs, and the ramifications of such needs on their social and working (school) life. Notably, the young people could clearly identify positive social changes brought about by the flooding (such as increased camaraderie) but were equally able to point out where negative preflood behaviours (such as criminal behaviour) still pervaded afterwards. However, other changes were present that suggest some needs and impacts were not fully appreciated at the time of the flooding. Many young people reported negative feelings – such as how they had been affected or perceived avenues of blame – long after the flood rather than immediately after. Furthermore, Sharp, Burns & Bass (2008) note in their study that some children remained afraid of the rain, though it is not clear whether the children were directly consulted or these were the views of caregivers.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross


Response and recovery
Responding to the identified needs of those who require support forms the basis of response and recovery activities during and after the flood event.

Similarly, Twigger-Ross, Coates, Orr, Stafford, Ramsden & Deeming ‘s (2011) case study of two flooded communities showed how local institutions could help to increase confidence and provide better information, leading to more resilient communities. Partnership working also provides an opportunity for councils and organisations to demystify the cause of flooding and dispel any associated rumours. In one instance, a council gathered a series of questions from the local community, aimed at both themselves and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). These questions – and their responses – were then logged, along with a subsequent plan of action, and made available to the community. Who drives forward engagement is also a source of discussion within existing literature. In terms of building resilience through partnership working, as well as responding to flood events, it is proposed by Twigger-Ross & Colbourne (2009) that the EA would be well placed. They note how the EA should understand need at a local level, something achievable through further community engagement. However, this is not without debate, given the clear recommendations that voluntary sector organisations are better placed to facilitate such work (Sharp, Burns & Bass, 2008). And yet it seems engagement is not largely driven by organisations. Twigger-Ross & Colbourne (2009) found that, while partnership working was to be encouraged, examples of such successes very often came from individuals within the community. This obviously suggests that councils and organisations still have work to do before such partnerships can become established more widely and systematically. Rather than resting on the successes of individual initiatives, larger organisations should adopt strategic, well thoughtout relationships with the communities they serve to ensure an effective response to flooding crises.

The approach to providing response
An argument put forward in the literature, which aims to support individual needs, is the adoption of a person-centred approach. This bases itself on meeting the needs of individuals and communities as opposed to focusing solely on what can be offered. It is seen as a valuable approach to take during response and recovery efforts (Purdue, Evans & Hendy, 2008; Sharp, Burns & Bass, 2008; Hencher, 2009). Such an approach can be facilitated through the flexibility and adaptability of providers, and sits well with the British Red Cross’ warning against viewing vulnerability and resilience as static concepts (Nzegwu, 2010). In Sharp, Burns & Bass’ (2008) action research examining partnership working during the recovery phase of flooding, the effectiveness of the response was negatively impacted by the unpredictability of the flood. Nevertheless, this was to an extent mitigated by the flexibility and adaptability of the volunteers engaged; the service itself was able to overcome those problems associated with not being able to predict need in advance. Such a response echoes Pitt’s recommendation to view vulnerability as potentially shifting over time, with implications for the responding service (2008). Positive partnerships between agencies and communities (Sharp, Burns & Bass, 2008; Hencher, 2009, Purdue, n.d; Pitt, 2008), and between voluntary sector organisations (Greenwell & Howitt 2010) are seen as effective in the recovery phase following flooding. In one instance, where a one-stop shop was established for voluntary and statutory services, this created what the authors describe as a genuine partnership and a key to successful recovery activities (Purdue, Evans & Hendy, 2008).


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
review notes how resilience can be undermined by the failure to respond in a timely manner. In this example, the Red Cross was not called in to give assistance immediately. This delay was possibly due to uncertainties about which agencies were doing what, time scales for recovery work and a failure to recognise the severity of the flooding emergency (Sharp, Burns & Bass, 2008). Whatever the causes, such delays had inevitable ramifications for those in need of support, but the greater impacts are not detailed and are in need of further investigation.

What remains clear throughout the literature is that without such key relationships between responders and communities, needs may not be fully recognised nor negative impacts mitigated (cf Twigger-Ross et al., 2011). To this end, Purdue, Evans & Hendy (2008) report that not only is partnership working a key enabler to a successful recovery, but that the positive example of the voluntary sector can act as a useful interface between those affected by flooding and the responding authority.

Unexpected and unprepared
The unpredictable nature of flooding poses clear challenges, and highlights the need to shift towards looking at floods from a historical perspective in order to more fully predict, by inclusion of extreme flooding instances, a truer picture of the flood risk (Black & Burns, 2002). This shift would remedy one of the key challenges recognised within the literature reviewed – namely that, while flooding is often expected, its severity, speed of onset, or frequency is not (see Greenwell and Howitt, 2010; Sharp, Burns & Bass, 2008). A consequence of this unpredictability is the inability to prepare fully for any eventually (Sharp, Burns & Bass, 2008) and/or potentially suffer exhausted resources due to the severity of flooding (Greenwell and Howitt, 2010; Pitt,2008; McKenna, 2010). Other effects can be somewhat anticipated but may not be fully prepared for, such as a high, unanticipated demand for housing (Purdue, Evans & Hendy, 2008) and the loss of community infrastructure, resulting in a need for enhanced business continuity provision (Purdue, Evans & Hendy, 2008; Purdue, n.d.). Flood warnings were found to not always result in individuals taking action (Twigger-Ross & Colbourne, 2009; Neiuwstadt & McNulty, unpublished), but it cannot be presumed that all residents have the benefit of flood warnings, and even where warnings are in place there is evidence that individuals do not always take action in response to these. One community survey showed that, before the formal creation of a flood warden scheme, informal networks had not worked well at all, and almost all residents discovered the flood for themselves rather than having prior warning (Richards, 2011).

Early deployment
The first key enabler of responding to need was identified to be the speed of this response (Purdue, Evans & Hendy, 2008; Sharp, Burns & Bass, 2008; Greenwell & Howitt, 2010). During the 2009 Cumbria flooding, the Red Cross deployed its flood response and inland search and rescue team early as a result of weather intelligence; it is the early deployment of this team and other resources that they attribute to the success of the emergency intervention. In particular, the Red Cross made offers of support proactively rather than waiting to be called in by the relevant agencies (Greenwell and Howitt, 2010). The 2009 Cumbria floods report (Greenwell and Howitt, 2010) indicates that early deployment of staff and resources in flood emergencies enables a quick and comprehensive response when a major emergency arises. Likewise Sharp, Burns & Bass (2008) found that a speedy response was felt to better support recovery, but that such a response should also focus on restoring everyday activities. The consequences of not responding quickly are also noted. The 2008 Doncaster floods learning

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
A successful response would therefore appear synonymous with preparedness, and can be achieved by ensuring the people involved are aware of their roles. Obviously, an absence of such knowledge will cause problems (Pitt, 2008). In one instance, the success of a flood recovery operation was driven by the fact that all relevant documents were in place and those involved were fully aware of their roles in advance of the event (Purdue, Evans & Hendy, 2008). In short, the response services were felt to be ‘primed and ready to act’. West & Graham (2012) found that people previously affected by flooding are often well prepared for that aspect of the flood disruption which directly affected them (for example, a power cut). In light of this finding, they went on to recommend that messages given to flood-affected residents outlining what actions they might take should be accompanied with reminders of the total impacts and consequences of such emergencies (West & Graham, 2012). However, simply relying on past experiences will not provide a sound basis to prepare for future emergencies. The impact of such an approach will be that services, organisations and individuals will not develop sufficient resilience to cope with future flooding incidents. Additionally, community resilience is defined by the Civil Contingencies Secretariat as ‘communities and individuals harnessing local resources and expertise to help themselves in an emergency in a way that complements the response of the emergency services’ (Home Office 2011, p4). What is common to these definitions is that coping capacity and adaptation are considered core components of resilience. However, how a community or individual reaches this point, and how they can be supported by services, requires exploration.


Having a cohesive community
How a community is comprised plays a key role in defining its resilience – resilient communities are generally considered to be comprised of resilient individuals (Home Office, 2011). Additionally, the perception that communities are connected, with a sense of social support from its members, is seen as evidence of the presence of social capital, an indicator of resilience (Nzegwu, 2010; Cutter, Emrich and Burton, 2009; Norris, Stevens, Pfefferbaum, Wyche & Pfefferbaum, 2008, Gurwitch, Pfefferbaum, Montgomery, Klomp & Reissman, 2007). To this end, social capital is about belonging, rather than a specific action in itself, though other resilience factors may have a more applied basis.

The role of resilience
Understanding the role of resilience is clearly important when understanding how individuals and communities respond to floods.

Being prepared
Preparedness arguably provides a foundation to a resilient community. This belief in the community’s capacity to deal with an emergency, and the expectation for action, forms a key component of community resilience – namely, community efficacy (Daly, Becker, Parkes, Johnston & Paton, 2009; Norris et al., 2008; Sampson, Raudenbush & Earls, 1997).

Defining resilience
There are several existing definitions of resilience, which speak in terms of disaster response and recovery. Notably the Pitt Review (2008) suggested that resilience, in terms of flooding, can be defined as the capacity of a person to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impact of a flood. Similarly the British Red Cross defines resilience as ‘the harnessing of local human and material assets or resources to withstand or overcome vulnerability’ (Nzegwu, 2010, p3).


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
The Pitt review (2008) provided insight into how communities and individuals respond to flooding, highlighting their importance both in terms of flooding preparedness and response. It noted that there were many anecdotal reports citing the positive actions of both individuals and local organisations to mitigate some of the damage caused by the summer 2007 floods. While the review recognised the importance of increased personal resilience, particular attention was paid to the role of the community as a whole in enhancing resilience. In contrast, while those who had been previously flooded were found to be more risk-aware in Werrity et al.’s (2007) study, they were no more confident of what to actually do in a flood. Furthermore, it has been suggested that previous experience might actually decrease an individual’s perceived ability to cope with subsequent incidents of the same nature (Tapsell et al., 2002). These findings imply that learning from an event has not taken place fully, and it is this learning which is also noted as a necessary component of resilience (Nzegwu, 2010).

“Although resilience begins with the individual, greater dividends can be achieved if activities are organised at the community level.”
- Pitt, 2008
Engaging communities in preparedness and response work was identified in the Pitt review (2008) as key to promoting resilience. In particular, the utilisation of local resources and expertise was reported to complement the activities of other agencies in aiding response and recovery. Furthermore, it was recommended that such community-based work can be most successful when kept at a focused, local level, and where responsibilities do not require too much time commitment.

The literature review demonstrates much research evidence detailing the experience of flooding, especially in the early stages of the event. However, it is equally clear that gaps in knowledge remain. While some literature places the health and economic impacts of flooding within the specific timelines of the event, there is no such equivalent data for social impacts. Furthermore, there has been relatively little research regarding the support people may actually need following a flood event – or of the other, longer-term needs that may arise. Another shortfall in the current literature is that it often focuses on the service providers’ response at the expense of telling the story of individuals and communities – those actually living within the midst of the crisis. This inevitably leads to, at best, a partial understanding of how communities support themselves throughout the trajectory of a flood event. In addition to these gaps in knowledge, several methodological challenges were also present in the literature reviewed. These will need to be remedied if a fuller understanding of the experience of flooding is to be achieved. The associated stigma resulting from disclosing sensitive information about the individual’s needs,

Having past experience
Facilitating preparedness, and therefore resilience, is arguably enhanced by past experience. West & Graham (2012) found that those who had experienced disruptions to their energy supplies, due to extreme weather, within the preceding 12 months recorded both a greater degree of concern and also an increased level of preparedness. This finding suggests a clear positive association between previous experience and taking action to prepare. Similarly, Twigger-Ross et al. (2011) found communities were better able to cope with a flood if they had been through the process before, although some members of the community took action to move away.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
(e.g. economic) has been evidenced to mask their identity, the resulting impact, and the support required to overcome them. To counter this, research methods need to be adopted that engage with individuals and, as far as possible, gain their trust. Studies have also lacked diversity within their research populations. Reports infrequently focus on groups other than adults affected solely by floods. Fewer still report the demographic composition of the target population. In short, it is unclear whether hard to reach or representative populations have been included in the research – and, if so, how this may (or may not) have shaped the results. To conclude, while evidence exists to examine the impacts of flooding, a thorough picture of longer term impacts and how those impacts relate to needs - remain unclear. In response to the literature review, this study has the following aims: > Identify the effects of floods on individuals and communities, and their resulting needs – particularly in the recovery phase. > Identify the range of services that need to be in place before, during and after flooding occurs to mitigate the impact on individuals and communities, and ensure an effective humanitarian response. > Assess the possible links between the types of support provided to flood-affected communities and the building of community resilience. > Assess opportunities for advocacy on behalf of flood-affected individuals and communities – specifically relating to what needs to be in place for communities to cope with the aftermath of flooding.



The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross




his study utilised a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach, and collected data via mixed methods design.

Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR)
It is generally agreed that CBPR is a systematic research approach, rather than a method, which is conducted in partnership with the community being researched. CBPR aims, at its core, to generate sustainable research findings (Israel, 2000; Minkler, 2000) through mutual ownership and co-learning (Viswanathan, Ammerman, Eng et al., 2004; Israel, 2000). This current study aimed to work with communities to understand the full extent of the consequences of floods on all those affected. For this reason, CBPR was chosen as an appropriate approach for the research design.

This study adopted a mixed methods research design, within the framework of the CBPR approach. Among the data collection methods agreed were: questionnaires and focus groups with flooded individuals, as well as some people who were at risk of flooding; interviews with flooded individuals; interviews with stakeholders (such as representatives of the Environment Agency and resilience group leaders); and focus group activities with young people affected by flooding in their communities. In addition, document analysis of relevant reports was undertaken for each study site area.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross

Study site selection
The study aimed to examine the needs of those flooded on a national scale by identifying a representative sample of flooded communities across the UK. There were two main criteria for including study sites in the sample: the site had to have been flooded at least once since 2000, and each Red Cross Territory needed to be represented (Scotland, Northern Ireland and Isle of Man; Northern; Wales and Western; South Eastern1). Several other characteristics were also identified: > The nature of the site (rural, urban or a combination of both)

Locations were then ranked according to greatest severity, highest frequency and risk of future flooding, and the presence of a known flood group. Once the top 15 sites were identified, discussions were held with local Red Cross staff and key stakeholders (such as residents, local authority emergency planners, and the EA). They shared their own perceptions of flooding in their respective areas, and specified which towns, cities, or villages they felt would be suitable for the study.

A typical course of selection is described in Box A. Box A Aberdeenshire was identified through the ranking exercise. Discussions with Red Cross staff revealed three potential towns within this area, and through conversations with the local council’s emergency planning officer, this was narrowed down to two possibilities. Following a further meeting with the Scottish Flood Forum, residents, and local council representatives, a town was finally selected. From the flooded sites list, six research sites were chosen. The six study sites were located in: 1. Merseyside 2. Cornwall 3. South Yorkshire (split across two sites within the same town3) 4. Northumberland 5. Norfolk (non-flooded4) 6. Aberdeenshire

> The frequency of flooding in each site since 2000 > The type of flood (fluvial, pluvial, flash, coastal or a combination) > The severity of flooding (based on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the most severe. This scale was based on factors such as the area of land flooded, number of injuries/deaths, number of houses affected, and cost of damage/recovery) > The risk of flooding in each area, based on whether it was cited in the relevant community risk register as having a high or very high risk of flooding > The presence of known local flood groups, identified through the register of community flood groups recorded by the National Flood Forum2

1. In the event, it was not possible to engage a study site fully in Wales although all other UK countries were represented. 2. Based upon the register of community flood groups recorded by the National Flood Forum. Available here: http://www. &id=7&Itemid=34

3. Discussions with the community revealed that although a large area of the same district was flooded in the same flood event, experiences were felt to be different across two communities. For this reason the communities, each having its own flood group, were engaged separately. 4. It became clear however during these discussions that while some areas had not flooded, others had.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross


Community participation
Building on contacts made through site selection, discussions were held with local flood groups and resilience forums in order to encourage local communities to help shape the research. In addition, posters, local newspapers and social media were utilised to invite other community members to become involved at this stage.

Data collection
The method of collecting data varied due to the CBPR approach. Table 1 illustrates the data collection mode utilised at each of the 6 sites. Table 1: Data collection mode by study site Study site 1 2 3 (a) 3 (b) 4 5 6 Interviews (n) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Questionnaires (n) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Focus groups (n) Yes Yes -

Designing data collection materials
The aims of the research were defined prior to engaging with communities. Although questions for data collection methods had been drafted to help fulfil these aims, in accordance with the CBPR approach these questions were still shared, discussed and edited as the community felt appropriate. In the event, the drafted core questions centred on discovering the following: > Needs before, during, and after a flood event > Supportive interventions encountered > Levels of community resilience > Thoughts about future flooding

Few changes were made following discussions with community representatives, and where changes were made they were to either add or delete – as opposed to amend – questions. (For example, study site 2 asked for questions around housing to be added, and study site 5 asked for questions around specific perceptions of the flood depth and cause.)


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross

Recruiting participants and response rates
After the questions and data collection mode were agreed, the recruitment strategies for each site were jointly decided upon.

In two of the sites (1 and 2) it was evident that very few children, if any at all, were involved in the floods, and it was not possible to arrange a young person’s group in one further site (6). Where groups could be arranged, an invitation to participate was sent to the identified head of school. Following negotiation, a session lasting one hour was designed and conducted with the young people identified as having been affected by floods. Three groups were held with children across three sites.

Questionnaire and interview recruitment
Addresses of homes affected by flooding were sought from community representatives, local councils etc. These were given as the address alone – residents’ names were not included5. All homes were sent an introductory letter about the project in advance of any data collection method (questionnaire, interview or focus group). To source interviews with stakeholders (e.g. representatives of organisations), an approach was made to communities to ask who had been involved during past flood events. For this reason, the stakeholders differed across sites; for example, the British Red Cross were not active in all communities and therefore were not interviewed in all study sites.

Interviews with flooded respondents
The interview schedule used for individuals affected by flooding comprised a mixture of quantitative and qualitative questions. In total, approximately 476 questions were asked of each respondent in this semi-structured interview, the themes of which are detailed in table 2. All interviews were digitally recorded, provided consent was given, and transcribed. Each interview took place face-to-face in the respondent’s own home.

Focus group recruitment
In sites 3a and 5, focus groups were held with participants invited through the existing community groups.

Young persons’ group recruitment
Capturing the specific experiences of young people was felt to be important in providing a more complete understanding of the experience of flooding. For this reason, access to young people’s views was actively sought in each study site. As with the recruitment of adults, existing networks of contacts were utilised, particularly the British Red Cross youth and schools department.

5. Except in site 4 where full postal addresses were given.

6. As with the questionnaires, some variations were present across sites. Interviews would cease as soon as the interviewee expressed a desire to do so.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
Table 2: Themes of interview and questionnaire questions > Demographics > Experience of flooding


> How they felt the community reacted to the flood > What they felt the community could do to help themselves to prepare better > What they felt the community could do to help themselves to respond better All interviews were recorded, with the participants’ consent, and transcribed.

> Impacts on health, family, work and finances > Information required/received before the flood > Sources of support and responsibility before, during, and after the flood > What may have helped during the flood > What was immediately supportive and what was supportive in the long term > Flood group membership > Steps taken to prepare for flooding and perceived barriers to taking these > Thoughts on future flooding > Community resilience7, broken down by social capital (the sense of community and watching out for each other), community efficacy (the willingness to take action and be relied upon), learning (the knowledge gained and sharing of this knowledge) and readiness to respond > Recovery activities and involvement in these > Three words that respondents associate with flooding

Focus groups
In two of the study sites (3 and 5), focus groups were chosen as the primary data collection method. Participants were asked a series of exploratory questions, with responses recorded on flip charts to aid the facilitation of the group. The group discussions were also recorded, with consent, and transcribed. A total of five focus groups were conducted; four with previously flooded, and one with non-flooded, participants. The non-flooded group was asked to imagine what would happen if they were flooded.

Young persons’ groups
Approach one In two of the study sites, the young person’s groups took part in three activities, preceded by a welcome and introductions. These groups began by the facilitator presenting the young people with three posters, each depicting a different theme: hobbies, school work; and socialising and friendship. The young people were given post-it arrows and asked to arrange the arrows in a direction they felt represented the effect of the flood on them. (So for example, they would place the arrow pointing downwards to represent a reduction in their socialising). This was followed by a discussion.

Interviews with stakeholders
The stakeholder interview schedule differed in length and structure from that used with flooded respondents. In contrast, this semi-structured interview schedule focused on four questions: > Their involvement in the floods of (year) in (town)

7. Alpha scores for each of the scales revealed the question grouped by each community resilience factor were internally consistent: social capital a = .76; community efficacy a = .69; learning a = .78; readiness to respond n/a.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
The next activity involved asking the group members to write down on a poster the words that popped into their mind when thinking about the rain, rivers or water. The final activity encouraged the young people to design a class that could be usefully given to other young people recently affected by floods. They were encouraged to think about sorts of activities that should take place and what should be said during this class. Approach two In the remaining study site, the young persons’ group was structured slightly differently. This was in part because the head of school felt the younger children might be more sensitive to flooding issues, and risked being upset. In addition, the school was already taking part in an EA sponsored project that aims to increase awareness and understanding of flooding through schools. Since the Red Cross and EA were working towards similar goals, the two organisations decided to combine their efforts. The external evaluator then held a focus group with the pupils, two of whom had experienced flooding. Questions were asked of their knowledge and feelings about flooding, the work they had done in school on the topic and whether it had affected their perceptions of flooding.

Ethical considerations
In order to gain informed consent, written invitations to participate in the research were sent in advance of any data collection. The invitation comprised a letter explaining the aims and nature of the study, the voluntary nature of the study, and assurances of confidentiality and anonymity. It also allowed a choice of data collection modes that recipients could take part in, should they wish to. The letter included contact details of the researchers, instructions on how to take part and an assurance that, whether they participated or not, this would have no effect on any current or future support they may receive from the British Red Cross. Immediately prior to the interview and focus groups, the information contained in the invitation was repeated verbally. Participants were also assured they did not have to answer any questions they did not wish to, and that they could withdraw at any time and without giving a reason. In addition, it should be noted that a key part of the CBPR approach is that communities are owners in the research; they are engaged in the study largely on their own terms. This significantly addresses issues relating to an ethical approach to conducting research.

A questionnaire was developed to complement the qualitative data collection methods. This allowed the research to reach a greater number of people and also generate quantitative data. Much like the interview structure, the questionnaire comprised approximately 48 questions on the themes relayed in table 2. It featured core questions that could be used in any area, and some additions and alterations that were more community-specific. (For example, the town in site 2 had received an individual property protection grant following the flood, so some questions on this topic were included in that version of the questionnaire). Altogether there were four versions of the questionnaire.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross



The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross



he results of this research are compiled from the following:

> A total of 678 completed questionnaires, 72 faceto-face interviews9 10 and four focus groups11 12 with people who had experienced flooding. > Five completed questionnaires and one focus group with people who had not been flooded (from study site 513). > A total of 16 stakeholder telephone interviews across the study sites, who were representatives of community groups, voluntary organisations, the Environment Agency (EA), and other statutory organisations.

8. Three were removed as the questionnaires were not completed beyond the first page. 9. One flooded individual was also a stakeholder and has been analysed as a stakeholder primarily, with other qualitative data referring to their own flooded experience being analysed as a flooded resident. No quantitative data is available therefore for this person. 10. One interview was conducted when only one person attended a focus group. For this reason different questions were asked of this individual and no quantitative data were collected.

11. Through work with the community group questionnaires were conducted in five study sites, focus group were conducted in two study sites, telephone interviews in one study site, and face-to-face interviews were conducted in five study sites. 12. Through work with the community group in study site 6, a questionnaire was not felt appropriate. 13. Large areas of site 5 were flooded in the devastating floods during the 1950s.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross


Mode of data collection and response rates
How data was collected varied due to the CBPR approach. Chart 1 illustrates the number of questionnaires and interviews conducted14 15.

Chart 1: Frequency of questionnaires completed and interviews conducted

14. Four focus groups were conducted in site 5 and one in site 3.

15. Stakeholder interview comprised site 1 = two church reps; site 2 = one council, one community leader; site 3 = one EA, one council, one BRC, one Salvation Army, one charity organisation; site 4 = one council. one EA, one church rep, one community group leader; site 5 = one council; site 6 = one council.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross

Respondent demographics
As table 3 indicates, the age of participants ranged from 24 to 92 years, with the mean oldest population found in study site 416, and the youngest in site 117. Residents were often found not to have lived in the area for their whole lives, with site 2 housing residents for the shortest mean time at 24 years18 and the longest mean time observed in site 3 at 49 years19. Table 3: Demographic Information Mean (sd) years Age Years living in the area 64 (14) 34 (21) Frequency (%) Gender > Female > Male Housing status > Owner > Private rental > Local authority/Housing association > Rental Living arrangements > Family with children > Living alone > Living with partner/ spouse > All other Employment status > > > > > > Full time (FT) employed Part time (PT) employed FT self-employed PT self-employed Not in paid employment Retired 24 (19%) 12 (9%) 10 (8%) 2 (1%) 11 (9%) 68 (54%) 29 (22%) 47 (36%) 49 (37%) 7 (5%) 83 (78%) 7 (7%) 16 (15%) 81 (60%) 55 (40%)

The story of the flood
> For the majority of interview and questionnaire respondents in the study, this flood was the first time they had been flooded (72%). On average, they had been flooded to a point where it had affected their daily routine, between one and two times20. > For many, the floods were not expected far in advance of their occurring. Those who had been warned reported being warned close to the event, either through official channels (such as the EA) or through their neighbours. > On a few occasions, the flood came without perceived warning during the middle of the night. In two places especially, this had resulted in people coming downstairs in the morning to discover water. In one instance, people discovered they were flooded when they saw their home on the news while on holiday. > When asked which parts of their, or others, property were affected by the floods, respondents reported as follows21: > > > > > > Home (82%) Garden (43%) Garage or outbuilding (28%) Car (15%) Business (4%) Own home not affected but houses nearby (11%)

16. x̅ 66 years; sd 14 17. x̅ 55 years sd 18. sd 17 19. sd 21

20. Number of times affected ranged from 1-8, 1.4, sd 1.1 21. In study area 5, specific questions were added to cover some descriptions of the floods, and this revealed how differently the same flood could be experienced or perceived. For example, the length of the flood was reported as lasting between two hours and six days, reportedly having reached depths of between one inch and four feet. However, although diverse in their reports of these details, all but one respondent reported that they felt blocked drains were the cause of the floods, along with additional causes linked to the torrential downpour and pumps not working. So it appears that, while specific recollections of the details differ, sources of blame do not.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross


Identifying the needs and impacts of the floods
Interview and questionnaire data revealed a number of interesting findings concerning the periods before, during, and after the flooding occurred.

Need to disseminate knowledge and provide information
Where there were communication structures in place, miscommunications were limited. For example, in sites where phone trees22 were used, there were fewer reports of miscommunications over flood warnings and incidences of inaccurate information being relayed through unofficial channels. > The problems associated with relying on second-hand information were highlighted by residents and stakeholder respondents. > In a few instances, it was felt that more information was needed to help the emergency services deal with the flood, so they would be better able to offer advice or know the location of old flood outlet gates. To remedy this would require closer working between such organisations and the communities they serve. > The need to directly and accurately communicate messages during a flood to individuals who were particularly vulnerable was clearly evident, but often made difficult according to stakeholders because information was unavailable or out of date. This issue could be addressed by community groups holding such information: “We have a resilience group [here] which came about due to the 2007 floods. We sent out questionnaires, we have names and addresses of people who will need help in getting out.” (Focus group 2, site 5)

Need to know the risk of flooding
> With hindsight, many residents wished they had known more about the flood risk to their property upon buying it, so they might have explored the impact on insurance and flood protection measures prior to purchase. > However, when residents were informed of flood risk presented as the chance of flooding within a number of years (e.g. 1 in 115 years), this was not always fully understood.

Need for a timely warning system
> Many residents valued the EA warning system, and although some reported receiving no warning there was a feeling that this service had improved over the years. > However, not everyone understood the system, which operates on two tiers. The first tier is an alert (to make people aware) and the second a warning (a call for people to take action). The ‘alert’ is aimed only at those who might need to make decisions over the course of time – for example, schools and farmers. The ‘warning’ is for everyone. > Furthermore, signing up for the EA system online automatically gives access to ‘alerts’. This can cause unnecessary panic if individuals interpret these as a call to action and go on to spread inaccurate information among other residents.

Need for information to be in place before a flood
> Questionnaire and interview data revealed that before the flood, only 21% of respondents knew enough information about flood related matters. A quarter of questionnaire respondents felt they knew enough to be able to prepare effectively for the flood.

22. A phone tree is designed so that messages are passed on through the community (one resident to another) rather than being the sole responsibility of one person or organisation.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
> Furthermore, where the flood had occurred quickly or there was no knowledge of it having happened before, residents mostly reported that they wouldn’t have anticipated needing such information, or wouldn’t necessarily have read it as they thought such an event wouldn’t happen to them. “We never thought it would be an issue, we’d never heard of flooding here before.” (Flood resident - interview 6004) > This resonated in stakeholder interviews also; “I think that first of all there needs to be an acceptance of that responsibility, and then there also needs to be an acceptance that you live in an area that could be at risk.” (Stakeholder 1, site 6) > Those who had previous experience of being flooded were significantly23 more likely to have enough information than those flooded for the first time24, and less likely to have no information at all25. However, the proportion of those with some information who still wanted more did not differ widely according to experience, illustrating that experience alone doesn’t satiate information needs26. > The information needs of non-flooded respondents were based squarely on prevention. However, those who had been previously flooded were generally more concerned with knowing when the flood would be coming. This demonstrates how residents’ previous experiences affected their perception of necessary information. > Making sense of the flood event gives people a sense of reassurance, and brings knowledge about what they should do – for example, what is available (e.g. sandbags), help with finding accommodation and knowing who to turn to. > For these reasons, some residents within a flood group or forum have created information packs with tips on how best to protect belongings, reputable insurance companies, and what to do when the water hits. Indeed, those people who had gone, or were going through, a flood event were often cited as providing valued support, emotional as well as practical. “In hindsight, since the flood, I’ve joined the flood committee and I’ve done a lot of work and we’ve outlined details of the kinds of things you should have in your house, like torches or candles, waterproof boxes that you can pack things into, which I’ve now got in the garage. All those kind of things would have been useful, because I perhaps would have been more prepared…” (Flood resident - interview 40I15) > For one interviewee, this lack of knowing what was happening during a flood was especially worrying as she has a disabled son and felt uninformed as to what was going on.

Need for practical support and advice
> Where there was a perception that flood warnings could have been given, residents wished they had been provided alongside more practical information (such as who to contact). Many didn’t realise the physical impact of the floods would be so great, nor what they could do to help themselves (e.g. some were told to block their toilet) or what would happen next; “I don’t think I really had considered the fact that you had to move out of your house for months, that you had to have…drying machines in the inside of your house, plaster off the walls, floors up, I just had no idea about that.” (Flood resident - interview 40I28)

Need to know what to do during a flood
“You are panicking and you haven’t got the faintest idea what you are doing.” (Flood resident - interview 6008)

23. X2 =6.11, p< 0.05. 24. 38% flooded more than once vs 18% flooded once.

25. 31% flooded more than once vs 54% flooded once. 26. 31% flooded more than once vs 28% flooded once.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
> During and immediately after the flood, there were many very practical needs. These included the need for help to move heavy items and vehicles to higher ground; the need for accommodation, clothing, sustenance (a hot meal and a cup of tea) and a source of money; and the need to secure property. > With hindsight, respondents may have done some things differently, such as moving things upstairs and prioritising irreplaceable, sentimental items. > Road traffic was cited as a real concern for some residents. Drivers not only took unnecessary risks to themselves, such as driving over raised manholes, but in some areas the traffic caused bow waves and forced water to re-enter residents’ homes. In one area traffic, signs had been ‘acquired’ to redirect traffic and prevent this from happening. > In the first 48 hours after the flood, respondents needed physical help, predominantly manual labour and refuse collection associated with clearing and cleaning their home, and the removal of waste afterwards. Some wished for a lorry to come and take damaged goods away along with other refuse such as food waste, which was often also affected by the flooding. > Practical needs were often addressed directly to organisations. Some residents felt that the emergency services didn’t always know which areas had been flooded, leaving them without support. Similarly, where the emergency services had been drafted in from surrounding areas, their lack of local knowledge impacted upon the consequent advice they could give residents (e.g. which areas had been affected). > In contrast, respondents largely spoke of how valuable their family, friends and neighbours had been during this time in providing practical help, such as moving items and stacking up sandbags. In some instances, residents preferred to decamp upstairs, sometimes feeling they had no other option.


> Others were supported in their evacuation by the emergency services, sometimes by dinghy. But not all evacuations involved the emergency services. There were several reports of people being helped to escape their homes by neighbours with boats, kayaks, and tractors, or of neighbours and family breaking down doors and windows to help evacuate trapped residents. > When people did leave, they stayed with nearby friends and family, as well as at rest centres. In leaving without aid they took a risk, although perhaps not much more than if they had stayed at home. One lady, for example, accompanied several others who were trying to find dry ground: “We then waded through water that was up to my armpits…There was a couple of teenage boys, and I had to hold on to one of them to avoid being swept away because the water coming down the street was such a great force.” (Flood resident - interview 40I31) > Security was a concern both to those who left their homes or decided to stay during and after the flood. There were reports of break-ins and of security alarms rendered unusable by a lack of power. To remedy this fear, perceived or realised, some residents returned prematurely to their homes just to keep them safe. > Additionally, some people decided to stay in their homes because they were prohibited from taking pets into hotels or rented accommodation. In some cases, they were not allowed to leave them unattended in hotels, which was problematic for those who needed to go to work. “People are very unwilling to leave their homes unless they can take their pets. There has to be some thought about what to do with pets.” (Focus group 4, site 5) > However, staying at home during the flood and in its aftermath was, for some, a decision that with hindsight would not be repeated.

Need for support during evacuation
> For some, evacuation was a necessary part of the flood experience, but not everybody advised to leave their property actually did so.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
“We didn’t want to inconvenience anybody. So we put up with it. I wouldn’t do it again though – if there was a flood tomorrow, I would move out. It was horrible…” (Flood resident - interview 20i6) > Notwithstanding concerns over pets, security, and the need for support during evacuation, many respondents had to leave their homes eventually for drying out purposes. During this time, the need for accommodation arose for some.

Need for accommodation
> Finding suitable accommodation for pets, the general inconvenience of moving away from home, and a lack of available suitable accommodation characterised the decision to remain at home. > With the high demand for accommodation following a flood, several respondents faced difficulties securing a property, even when costs could be recouped through insurance. “It was like a bullfight really – people running, literally running, to the estate agents and running around to properties checking if they were okay, running to the bank to get £1,000 to pay a deposit – it was hugely stressful actually.” (Flood resident - interview 40i28) > Furthermore, housing was sometimes offered that was far away. This proved an inconvenience where reliable transport was not readily available. It also exacerbated feelings of isolation and homesickness following the flood. “It was a block of flats and I just felt totally isolated. Like, here you’ve got a good community, you know, and it was just awful.” (Flood resident - interview 40i21) > Equally, there were examples where community members rallied to help support those who could no longer live in their own homes. One local pub opened its doors to provide accommodation to residents of a local flooded care home.

Need for expert advice and clear information
> After the flood, the volume of information available increased vastly, though some issues still remained unclear. For example, understanding legal and insurance information proved to be too complex and time-consuming for many residents. It required a lot of organisation and a level of skill and knowledge they did not possess, leaving some feeling like they were ‘in a blur’. “It is very traumatic, by any standards, and then with all this information, it is difficult to take it all in, plus you are trying to do your job.” (Flood resident - interview 1043) > Confusion also stemmed from comparisons with other flooded residents. While neighbours were cited as keeping each other informed on the one hand, they also caused mutual confusion through comparisons of building work and insurance matters. This resulted in people often not knowing whether they had received correct or incorrect advice from their insurers and builders. > In other examples, the EA gave information about flood warnings that was not clearly understood. Several interviewees stated that the representative from the SEPA or EA wasn’t knowledgeable enough about the cause of the flood and forms of defence.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
> Others felt happy with the information received. For some, this was because they didn’t know what they needed but everything had been done that they had wanted. For others, there was a feeling that the emergence of community flood groups had kept them ‘in the picture’. were ‘caught up’ in, had dissipated. For some, the effect was cumulative. “For me it was all after - the anxiety, after, and the loss, because you are dealing with an amazing amount of loss…you can replace material things…But it’s the loss of your home, but it’s also the loss of your individuality and being able to do things because you are now out of control because somebody else is controlling you. It’s the loss of the power of life really.” (Flood resident - interview 6002) > Unsurprisingly, the rain was a debilitating and inescapable trigger for feelings of stress and worry, often resulting in behavioural changes. For instance, some residents would not leave their house if it was raining – or if they were already out when the rain started, they would return swiftly. > In the long-term aftermath of the flood, for some the associated anxiety led to health risk behaviours such as smoking or drinking which carried a subsequent financial cost. Others sought prescription medication or complementary therapies, and found both to be helpful. “I was very unhappy, you know. At the moment you see me looking at things, you know, I didn’t even want to get up. I started drinking…” (Flood resident - interview 20I9) > Interview respondents reported the need for both formal and informal interventions to help support their mental health. Formally they wished for psychologists or GPs to support them, as well as for mechanisms to enable prescriptions and the collection of medications. Informally, support was needed in the form of pastoral care and reassurances. “I think assurance, a bit more assurance that, you know, we are going to do something. I know they’re only words, but it is still nice to hear some words so you know somebody else is on your side.” (Flood resident - interview 20I1)


Impact of the flooding on everyday life
While the research revealed a great many needs associated with flooding, such events also resulted in significant impacts on health, and family, financial and working life.

The impact of flooding on health27
> Not all respondents felt their health was affected overall by the flood, with an almost even split between agreement and disagreement28. However, 85% of interview and questionnaire respondents felt stressed, anxious or depressed after the floods. This finding was echoed by the qualitative data, where reported effects on health were in the vast majority psychological and likened to those experienced following bereavement. > During the flood, respondents reported feeling fear and shock – some were scared of drowning, fearful of the speed of the rising water and anxious of the panic caused in their children. In the immediate aftermath of the flood, moving out of home was cited as a source of anxiety and stress, as too was returning home. “Since we’ve moved back, it doesn’t feel the same. I’m not happy here, it doesn’t feel like my home. I’m just grinning and bearing and getting on with it.” (Flood resident - interview 1047) > In the long term after the flood, there was a definite sense of dealing with a loss. This took time to be realised and only came to light once all the immediate activities that affected residents

27. Between 33-72 responses to this section of the questionnaire.

28. 55% agreeing and 45% disagreeing.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
> A part of this was ensuring that people were frequently asked how they were – that someone checked on their welfare and made sure they were not forgotten. > There were fewer physical health effects reported during the floods, and those that there were centred primarily on concerns over hygiene and sanitation. These included concerns over the lack of advice given on the safety of piped water, and the time taken by the council to sanitise the area after the floodwater had abated. > It was heartening that no more than ten injuries and 12 instances of worsening of existing ailments were reported in questionnaire and interview data. Nevertheless the work endured during the flood, the moving of furniture and bailing out, was described as exhausting. > Interviewees occasionally spoke of how they felt the floods had affected the health of others through increasing ailments, such as coughs and colds. For some elderly residents who were never to return to their home, the effects of the flooding were believed to be fatal. “They say that nobody actually died in the flood but I think there is a lot of older people who died because of it.” (Flood resident - interview 4018) > Information garnered from trusted official sources was felt to be occasionally contrary or incomplete. Loss adjusters and insurers were reported to have changed agreed courses of action, or provided information that did not ring true for respondents. In the following example, the adjustors could not inform the gentleman concerned whether the nail holes, out of which water had emerged, were hygienic. “I worked down the sewers London many years ago... while I was down there the rigmarole we had to go through to get clean after work. I asked why there was such a stringent procedure... Every screw hole that will leak in water will have all kinds of pollution in it, and they still haven’t done anything about it.” (Flood resident - interview 1043)

The impact of flooding on family life29
> The effects on family life were complex and diverse. Though 61% of respondents felt the floods had an effect on their family life, 26% of those reported it caused friction whereas 71% felt it had actually brought their family closer – illustrating the positive and negative impacts a flood event can bring. > Qualitative findings also revealed that the stress caused by the flood put pressure on family life in general, highlighting that the effects of flooding did not solely lie with those directly caught up in the event. > The psychological effects of flooding extended to family members who hadn’t been flooded themselves but who exhibited concerned and anxious behaviours, such as checking if previously flooded individuals were okay at the first fall of rain. > Group sessions with young people also revealed the effects on their social life, with concerns that future floods might affect their ability to communicate electronically with friends.

The impact of flooding on working life30
> Seventy-four per cent of respondents reported having to take time off due to the floods and, while no one was made redundant, two people reported that their place of work had closed. However, fewer respondents (50%) felt it had affected their work overall.

29. Between 51-62 responses to this section of the questionnaire.

30. Between 33-48 responses to this section of the questionnaire.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
> Interviews revealed that, where respondents were supported in taking time off work, this was highly valued and reduced the cumulative negative effects of dealing with the flood while continuing everyday life. Not all were so fortunate. > Self-employed workers inevitably lost business as a result of the flood and, where business properties had been damaged, they were sometimes forced to close while repairs were made. One business owner noted that the situation was not so bad however, since staff members had opted to take their annual leave while the office was out of use and they were unable to work. > Others moved their businesses after the flood, but while they were able to continue operating there were other financial implications. “After the flood we actually decided to move the business outside and we’ve moved it to a unit up [there] which has a great deal of financial implications because obviously you are paying a bigger rent…” (Flood resident – interview 6007) > Hobbies and school work were affected, according to the young people consulted in this study. In particular, there were concerns about maintaining physical (at school) and electronic (social media) interactions with friends, school friends and even remote family members. > Young people were also concerned about how flooding might affect the standard of their school work, their ability to complete successful examinations and even their future, post-school, life. 72% reported having to move out of their home because of the floods, while 44% reported having problems rebuilding their property. > In site 2 only, responders were asked whether they had put their house on the market as a result of the floods; 31%32 reported that they had. However, interviews at all sites revealed the prevalence of housing market concerns, due to impacts incurred by the depreciating value of homes and soaring costs of insurance. > After the flood, specific needs for information emerged for those seeking legal redress. Many reported a lack of information about how the process was going and how much money they might expect. They felt ‘in limbo’. > Where multiple insurance companies were operating in the same area and streets, this led to confusion between residents. Similarly, loss adjusters were likened to ‘ambulance chasers’ in their relentless pursuit of securing custom, sometimes entering people’s home to loss adjust without the resident knowing who they were or where they were from. “There were about six or seven {insurance] firms in one street and you thought: why couldn’t they have just given one street or houses to one firm? They were tripping over each other trying to get things done. Things could have been done in a more systematic way. People were comparing notes: ‘What’s your contractor done, why are you getting this and that?’” (Flood resident – interview 40I1) > The increasing costs of insurance premiums and excesses were also a concern. In one study site, where respondents were directly asked about insurance, 50% had made a claim through their insurance with a resulting increase in their premiums. Some felt they no longer had the money to pay the excess should they need to. Even those who were able to afford the costs nevertheless found they were a serious burden, and had a detrimental effect on their material wellbeing.


The impact of flooding on financial life31
While 39% felt the floods had no effect on their financial life, others disagreed. 69% of respondents reported that not all costs were covered by their insurance.

31. Between 64-71 responses to this section of the questionnaire.

32. n8


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
“Financial compensation would be a big thing and that is not because we’re money grabbing, it certainly isn’t. It is because we’ve got no value in our properties and we’re going to struggle to sell. It would be just a way that we could possibly get out. Yes I can sell my house, I can sell it for £50,000, but I wouldn’t be able to go and buy anything for that money. That would be a big thing, but it has got to come from the right people as well, I don’t want to see charity funds being used for this, because to me that’s not right. It should come from the authorities that have contributed to the problem.” (Flood resident - interview 20I2) > The usual result of having a greater claim was a higher premium, in many cases prohibitively high. > Other immediate physical losses also impacted upon finances. Respondents reported losing cars as well as household goods during the flood, not all of which were replaced by insurance. In addition to these larger concerns, small items such as pots and pans often amounted to a considerable sum on their own. “There’s lots of little things that when you are making out your list of what you’ve got to replace – things that you never think of. But when you are doing something, you go to your drawer to get it and it’s ‘Oh, I don’t have those’ – so it costs.” (Flood resident - interview 40i34) > Where items were replaced, sometimes the quality of the new goods or the workmanship was not up to the standard of the original. For example, sometimes replacement items did not match what was already in the house, so residents had to pay extra to get additional items; “When I had my kitchen units all replaced, I had the bottom units replaced and obviously the ones on the top of the wall were not damaged but if you’re having all the bottom ones renewed, the top ones then don’t match…. So I had to pay half.” (Focus group 1, site 5).

Key findings
> People didn’t feel they knew enough about flood related issues to prepare fully, if at all, and they wanted more information. Those flooded for the first time reported the least information prior to the event. > But if people were flooded for the first time, they were not likely to have seen flooding as a risk, nor the information provided before the event as being salient to them. > Information needs occurred throughout the flood, including at the point of warning, during the flood event itself and beyond. > Needs included, but were not restricted to; o Where to go for help o How to maintain and protect personal items of sentimental value. o Clear health-related messages, such as the safety of drinking water o Finding alternative accommodation > There was also a need for stronger messages and support during evacuation, given not all those advised chose to evacuate for reasons including: not wishing to; fears over the security of the property; and pet care.

Key learning points
> If you can help people to understand risk, they can do something about it. > Conveying flood risk messages could be facilitated through the following: o Partnership working between organisations and the community o Advice centres within the community o A trusted, expert voice o The voice of individuals and communities previously flooded

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross


Roles and responsibilities throughout the flood event

> Respondents were asked to name their top three sources of support before, during and after a flood event33. As can be clearly seen, family and informal sources provided the most help. Statutory and formal services had less impact, except for the fire brigade during the flood and the charity sector afterwards. Table 4: Top three sources of help for non-flooded and flooded respondents, before, during and after a flood. Rank 1 Help to prepare (non-flooded) Community group (14%) / Local authority (14%)/ Church (14%) / Government and relief funds (14%)/ Charities (14%) / Other (14%) Help to prepare before the flood Volunteer (20%) Helped during the flood Family (43%) Helped after the flood Family (58%)


Local authority (18%) Local business (12%)

Neighbour or friend Neighbour or (37%) friend (49%) Fire brigade (31%) Charities (45%)


> On further probing, non-flooded respondents felt the most supportive sources of help before a flood would be receiving help with sandbags and the community group itself. They felt their own family and also the police would be supportive in these actions. This echoed to some extent the responses of the flooded respondents. > No single agency or activity dominated the responses. Neighbours, friends and family were the most popular agents listed as providing support, and their most important supportive activities were providing advice and practical assistance, such as help with moving things.

> When asked whose responsibility it was to provide protection from the effects of floods, the results differed somewhat from what sources were found supportive34. > 89% of respondents felt ‘individual households’ were to some extent responsible for protecting themselves against the effects of flooding. An almost equal number felt that the emergency services were also responsible for this protection (88%). In contrast, markedly fewer felt it was the responsibility of their own community (67%) or charities (29%).

33. 65 responses across all questions.

34. 38-57 responses across question section.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
> Before the flood, the local authority was cited as supportive in 18% of responses, yet 98% of respondents felt that the local authority was responsible for protecting them from the effects of floods to a great or moderate extent. Several interviews echoed criticisms of the local authority, which may be fuelled by a sense that they have a responsibility. > Two key criticisms of the local authority were evident: sandbags and planning. Sandbag distribution in particular was criticised, with some respondents unable to either get them or move them. In some cases, they were distributed in the water and were therefore not accessible. > Council planning systems, and specifically the granting of planning permission to build new homes, were heavily criticised not only for contributing to increased surface water (by reduction of natural drainage) but for causing an increase in waste volume through drainage systems. > An underlying commonality in the attribution of blame was the feeling that officials didn’t care, and that residents had been abandoned. “No one gives a stuff, because everybody has got a job with a salary, but nobody actually cares, we are just numbers.” (Flood resident - interview 20I13) > Other public services were also criticised. During the floods, some respondents felt officials did not help as much as they could have – for example, by carrying bags or helping with their children. > Drainage systems, and specifically the water companies, were most heavily blamed during the floods. In study site 2, some level of responsibility had since been acknowledged by the water company following video footage by a resident, which showed over-flowing drains rather than surface water was causing the flooding. A later excavation of some 40 tons of debris from the drainage systems confirmed this. > However, amid such criticism, some positive actions arose. The strength of feeling among disgruntled residents occasionally led to a relentless pursuit of relevant companies in order to get answers. In other words, negativity drove communities to concerted action that resulted in getting answers, which were then positively received. > During the flood, respondents garnered support from statutory agencies as well as their own families. Getting practical help was the main priority: approximately a quarter of responses related to practical support, such as help with evacuation and provision of hot meals. > Accommodation was another key area where people were supported. Several respondents also mentioned receiving emotional support, such as ‘people just being there’ or ‘talking’.

Individual actions and responsibilities
> When asked about the steps individual respondents had taken to prepare for a flood, the answers related broadly to two separate time spans: those steps taken far in advance, and those undertaken immediately before a flood event.

Individual steps taken in advance
> For some residents, preparation began at the point of moving into their home with the installation of flood prevention mechanisms and products (including flood doors and barriers to windows), a personal supply of sandbags, a pump installed in their garden, and non-return valves. “We had non-return valves put on the toilets previously and outside we got a sealed sewerage manhole, so that we had no problems with any of that.” (Flood resident - interview 40i20)

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
> In addition to outright purchases, certain actions and behaviours were also taken to reduce potential flood damage. Some residents spoke about how they were meticulous about maintenance, such as keeping their drains clear, and many kept valuables and important documents upstairs where they would be less likely to be affected by floodwater. A few people also mentioned keeping a ‘grab bag’ of important items – such as medications, a torch and a change of clothes – which they could take if they needed to evacuate in a hurry. Several residents had also signed up to the EA flood warning scheme. > Young people were found to be working with an external agency to create flood preparation messages and toolkits – these have since been turned into fridge magnets to further enhance flood preparedness. > Though little mention of flood plans was made by the adult participants, some young people had, through activities at school, contributed to making flood plans for their school. > Others had taken safety and survival measures. Provisions of food and water were taken upstairs with an intention to wait out the flood, though on realising the extent of the flooding most residents abandoned this plan. Action was also taken to switch off electricity and gas supplies when the imminence of flooding became apparent. > There was a sense among some that it was too late to take steps and they could do nothing at this stage, but others blocked up the gaps around the doors with towels or sheets, and those who had sandbags put them into place. These measures were reported to have only very limited success. “We just had to sit and watch, there was nothing else we could do after that.” (Flood resident - interview 6007) > A number of people stated they had not been able to take any steps to prepare for flooding, but then alluded to spontaneous preparatory measures such as moving items upstairs or onto high pieces of furniture. This suggests that not everyone perceived these steps as preparation, thus calling into question what preparedness is. > There was also much variation in the kinds of things people attempted to salvage, with some going for larger, expensive items (televisions etc) and others for items of sentimental value (photographs). However, without much time to think, many people just took whatever they could easily carry.


Individual steps taken immediately before the flood
> Almost all individuals took steps immediately before the flood, and these focused much more on damage control rather than prevention. Where respondents had not reacted, this was due to extraneous circumstances such as not being at home when the flood hit or being asleep. > Some people also took measures to move pets which might be in harm’s way – for instance, bringing rabbits indoors and taking them upstairs. One respondent filled the bathtub with fresh water then transferred his fish from the pond outside. Another respondent received help from local teenagers to catch fish after their pond had flooded.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross Actions of family, friends and neighbours
> Much useful support was elicited from family, friends and neighbours, particularly in the form of practical advice and assistance. “People were into their gardens, were into their garages, were into their shed, ‘I’ve got a wheelbarrow over here, we’ll turn it up and put a door over and that should do that and that should do that.” (Flood resident - interview 6014) > More extreme examples of action were also cited. In one instance, a tractor was used to help evacuate people35. In another, local men were reported to be ‘propping up the barricades’. “It was quite difficult for them because of the force of the water, but we’re quite fortunate in that…we’ve all got quite big, strapping men, so they could brace themselves against it. They were all frozen obviously, and we were handing out tea to try and keep them [warm]. They were all out there.” (Flood resident - interview 6014) > While these rescue efforts were selfless and community-spirited, many people nonetheless placed themselves and others at risk – for example, by entering homes under water while the electricity was still live. > Beyond practical help, communities also worked hard to help prevent issues from occurring, most notably by identifying those who might be more vulnerable to the effects of flooding. To this end, community members had the advantage of being part of a community, rather than external to it. “We identify potential problems prior to the flood. We identify at risk or high risk individuals – the elderly, the sick the infirm, those with learning difficulties. We identify where there might be a need to immediately evacuate someone.” (Flood resident - interview 6014). > In some communities, the areas presided over by a warden were small enough that they felt able to know and communicate with everybody living there, staying aware of each person’s circumstances. “We’ve got a routine here; we go away on holiday and we know where each other’s [flood] boards are. We’ve got keys for each other’s houses. We try as far as possible not to all go away at once. If we are to go away, we tell each other.” (Flood resident - interview 6014)

Actions of others
> Both stakeholder and resident interviews revealed a range of supportive interventions by other organisations and individuals. Voluntary organisation members assisted in a number of ways. They helped man or set up rest centres for those who had been flooded, provided practical help with evacuation and offered emotional support. > The church was cited as offering assistance, as was a local fire brigade (for pumping water and helping with evacuations). The Red Cross was also cited as helping ‘with sympathy’ and asking if residents were okay. > Several statutory organisations were involved in similar activities such as providing information, where they were able to draw upon their technical expertise. For example, the Environment Agency provided flood warnings and monitored flood levels. > The church, in particular, was cited in some areas as playing a key role, both in terms of physical and spiritual support for the community. At no point did people feel the church only reached out to its congregation; instead, it was acknowledged as coming to the aid of the whole affected community. Additionally, some of those offering help came from outside the community.

35. The same action was found in McKenna (2012) where a farmer not only delivered supplies to those left isolated by

the floods, but also helped to transport individuals.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross


“It was just the most terrible, the town was so unprepared. If it wasn’t for the church community and my friends it’d be horrendous.” (Flood resident - interview 6006) > Other organisations and individuals were also cited as providing assistance. Local councils were sometimes commended for their provision of sandbags. In one area, a local councillor had gone beyond the call of duty by giving out her personal mobile number, although she too was a resident. > Local councils and the environment agency were also instrumental in helping to set up, or support, some of the community resilience and floods groups. Other public service providers had also built up working relationships with these groups. > Such was the value placed on engaging with communities to elicit knowledge, one community flood group leader conducted a household survey of those who had been affected by flooding. The resulting information helped identify vulnerable residents who might need more support in future, as well as those who were more self-reliant.

> Some stakeholders mentioned steps that had been taken to help communities be more financially prepared for emergencies such as flooding. In one community, where a lot of people lived in social housing and didn’t have insurance, a housing company set up a low cost scheme to encourage residents to take out contents insurance. In another area, an insurance model specifically aimed at flooding claims has been developed. > There are two key areas where public services are perceived to have taken strong positive action – better maintenance of drainage systems and improvements to the EA flood warning system. > In some areas, flood defences for homes were made available at discounted prices, and meetings were held to provide information and advice about flooding. “The environment agency and all the other associated bodies held a session in the town hall yesterday, showing what developments had progressed and the future defences for the town.” (Flood resident - interview 40i32)


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
> But not everyone felt assisted. Some people felt they had received no help as the flood happened so quickly. “Oh yes, a lot of people come round and offered, but there was nothing anyone could do. You can’t hold back water.” (Flood resident - interview 6013) > Others felt that they missed out on assistance because they had left their home. Notably, people didn’t always feel there was someone official to direct their questions to, in light of their increasing information needs. > A number of participants also voiced frustration at public services taking a long time to put plans into action, especially with regard to building flood defences. Although there was recognition that this was in part due to the time it took to obtain the necessary finance, people nevertheless felt things could have moved along a bit quicker. “It’s been three years since the flood and only this year I’ve seen them cutting the trees down that could block the river…the flood defences are taking a very long time to get started.” (Flood resident - interview 40i10) > People who had not been flooded projected that more practical sources of support (such as sandbags etc) would be needed, and considered that such sources should be provided by specific organisations as opposed to friends and family. > Altogether, 98% of respondents felt the local authority was responsible for protecting them from the effects of flooding, and 89% felt it was also the responsibility of the individual householder. Yet fewer (67%) felt it was the responsibility of the community. > Where support was found to be lacking, criticism was levelled most specifically at statutory services for either not helping in the way the community would have wished or actually being a cause of the flood.

Key learning points
> Not all needs (such as help with moving objects or cleaning) required professional assistance or a defined service. In such instances, neighbourhood support was highly valued. > Messages concerning what support might be needed, and from whom, during a flood should be made clear to those not previously flooded. This means they can be made aware of all support available to them, and understand the full range of needs they may encounter. > Respondents recognised their own respective roles in helping prevent the effects of flooding. However, they gave less recognition to the role of the community, despite it being noted as a source of valuable support. A greater understanding of the links between community and individual ought to be as much of a priority as making links between organisations and communities.

Key findings
> Not all respondents had taken steps in advance to prepare for flooding, again possibly due to not appreciating the need. However, almost all took steps immediately before; they did not sit back to wait for others to do this for them. > Flooded individuals felt that informal, family and community-based support was most valuable at the time of a flood event. However, the support of others (including the local council and EA) was also valued – particularly where it focused on preventative measures and working with the community.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross


Building resilience
Community resilience is defined by the Civil Contingencies Secretariat as “communities and individuals harnessing local resource and expertise to help themselves in an emergency, in a way that complements the response of the emergency services” (Home Office, 2011, p4). Understanding the relationships between the community and their resilience to floods was key to this study.

> For some, the notion that they were coping better than others inspired them to join a flood group to help their wider community. This group membership was felt to be both beneficial on a community level as well bringing individual benefits. “I think it was a bonding experience for all the neighbours. But I think that the flood prevention group has actually meant that has continued, so...I’ve met other people and actually talked to a wider community than I would have ever done, had it not been for the lots of ways, it has really bonded the community.” (Flood resident - interview 20I12) > Some individuals took action to help by making refreshments, helping to clean in the aftermath, carrying sandbags, providing accommodation, and helping move objects upstairs. Some also took it upon themselves to disseminate information to their neighbours or warn when the flood was happening, often during the night. > A sense of prioritisation regarding those who most needed help seemed to emerge naturally, with help purportedly directed towards those perceived to be suffering, or most at risk of suffering. “Those people had nothing, they’d lost everything and then the next night it’s happening again. They filled up with water again, after all that cleaning. We all mucked in with them as well, helping other people, doing their cleaning.” (Flood resident - interview 1043) > Beyond individuals, the community at large – as well as institutions embedded in the community – also helped provide support during the floods and afterwards. One street mobilised itself to form a supportive network with younger men making barricades for doors, others filling sandbags, and all agreeing to move cars to higher ground to avoid damage. “[We were] making sure that everybody’s property was about as safe as it could be.” (Flood resident - interview 6014).

Social capital
> 98%36 of respondents felt they were a member of the community that had been flooded. Of those, 82% felt the floods had an effect on their community, but perceptions of the nature of this effect were split between bringing the community together and driving people apart. > Social capital was evident in the flooded group, with 85% of respondents stating that most members of their community knew them, that they knew their neighbours (93%) and that the community would be willing to help in an emergency (89%). However, the figure was lower when it came to who felt a sense of belonging (73%) and who felt that community members would watch out for each other (76%). > The ability of a community to come together and provide mutual support was evidenced throughout the research in many ways. Those individuals taking action to help others were also as likely to be in receipt of helping actions from others in their community. > A flood can be a bonding experience for affected communities and elicit a ‘Dunkirk spirit’. Stakeholder interviews acknowledged the community spirit that emerged, and the generosity and sharing of local resources that they witnessed. They also noted the efficiency exhibited by community members when helping each other out.

36. 54-56 responses across section.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
> Not all actions enhanced community resilience. Evacuation from the area and a lack of involvement in restorative activities both negatively impacted resilience. > Perhaps the most damaging effect to community resilience was prompted by evacuation from the community; several residents spoke of having to leave a good community for isolated temporary accommodation. Such was the strength of feeling towards the community that some did didn’t wish to move in spite of the flood risk. > Respondents were also asked whether they had been involved in any of the activities connected with the flood (from preparations through to recovery). Forty-six per cent of respondents said they had wanted to be involved in such activities, and of these 76% actually felt involved. > Evidence suggested that where people had been involved in flood groups they had gained not only social capital and community efficacy, but also self-efficacy by occupying a stronger role in their community; “I would obviously feel more in place to be a more key member of the community, because I feel that I have been involved a bit more now. So if somebody said’ I need help’ or…they needed something, I would feel more able to go and knock on doors...So I think I would be a bit more proactive, whereas before I would have probably helped my immediate people, but not others.” (Flood resident - interview 20I12) However, in particularly resilient communities, information was shared either by newsletter or between those who could and could not attend flood meetings.

Community efficacy
> Community efficacy37 was less strongly felt than social capital, though still clearly evident. This might imply that while people have a clear sense of watching out for each other, they may not always take this to the point of action. > But some individuals and communities did take positive action – by making refreshments, cleaning up in the aftermath, carrying sandbags, providing accommodation, sweeping pavements and helping to move objects upstairs before the flood. > There was evidence that people felt others could rely on them better since the flood (78%) and, in return, fewer felt they could not rely on each other (24%). Similarly, there was a sense that the community would come together to work as a team in an emergency (67%). Many felt it was very likely therefore that their community would take action in a flood (54%). > Businesses were also notably affected by the floods, and again provided evidence of a community working together – in this case, the workplace community. In one instance, employed staff worked beyond their paid hours or took voluntary leave during the floods to help ensure the business survived.

> There was much evidence to suggest the flooding event brought people and communities together. However, in instances where not everyone got involved, community resilience could actually be undermined. > There were often sound, practical reasons why some people were not as involved as they might have liked to be. Active involvement could sometimes be prevented by life events and everyday occurrences, such as child care needs and work shift patterns.

37. 51-56 responses across section

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross Learning
> 72% of respondents felt information about flooding flowed freely within their community, and 86% feel they know someone to turn to if they need assistance. These are both learning aspects of community resilience38 and imply it has strong presence within the relevant communities. > Learning from the flood event not only centred on the drive for information. It also suggested how things could be done differently in future (such as moving things upstairs early) and presented an opportunity to reflect on priorities (for example, saving sentimental items first rather than those covered by insurance). > When asked to design a lesson to give to their peers who might be flooded, several groups of young people proved eager to share what they had learned. Some felt the lesson should incorporate their own experiences of flooding and what had worked for them. All felt the lesson should include information on what preparatory steps to take – including how to protect possessions and what to do in an emergency. > People felt better informed once they had been through a flooding experience. Furthermore, most people thought they would feel better prepared to cope with future flooding events having been through it before. This was both due to active measures they had taken to prepare themselves, and a familiarity with the experience. “Just the experience of having done it before and knowing what to do, knowing what the protocols are, knowing what is important and what is not important.” (Flood resident - interview 40i28)


> A readiness to respond was evidenced most strongly at an individual rather than community level, but there was a sense that respondents felt better prepared due to actions at a community level – such as flood warden schemes, telephone trees, Individual Property Protection (IPP) devices, pilot warning systems, and the works conducted by the EA and water companies to remedy (and maintain) blocked drains and culverts. > When reflecting on which steps individuals would now take (or had taken) to help them cope in a flood, the responses varied. Nearly a quarter related to behavioural changes that would be implemented at different times during the flood event. For example, where defences had been put in place in advance of a flood, movement of possessions and asking for help might occur during the flood. > Others noted that they now kept important documents in plastic folders, and had key telephone numbers by the phone in case of emergency. > Most communities had also set up a flood, neighbourhood or resilience group. One study site had no group. In this latter case, a plausible reason is their strong belief that they do not feel at risk of future flooding

Readiness to respond
> The community resilience measure of readiness to respond was less supported39. Just 19% of flooded respondents reported their community had taken steps before the flood that might have helped them during or after. In fact, when asked which steps were currently being taken, the responses still showed a lack of preparedness. > For those taking action, preparedness largely consisted of having access to materials to protect their home – but only 31% had this in place. Regarding other measures: 26% had been encouraged to seek insurance, 11% had invested in flood barriers, 8% had taken steps to reduce risks to health and safety, 15% had taken other steps (such as having sandbags and a pump). Some 23% reported having no preparatory steps in place, while an additional 13% didn’t know whether anything was in place.
38. 54-56 responses across section

39. 47 responses


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
> Where community groups were in place, they were reported as being instrumental in taking steps to prepare for flooding. These included having flood wardens, putting together flood plans, and raising awareness of the kinds of things (flood boxes, home flood defences) people should already have in place. Some groups also put together registers of people who are willing to help out in a flood situation – for example, those who don’t mind looking after pets or cooking meals. > Conversely, there were frustrations where community groups had not yet succeeded in effecting actual improvements or the implementation of flood defences. However, this frustration seemed to be less directed at the group and more towards the public services they were liaising with. “There is a flood action group that have been pressing for flood defences and so on and I think they have been fantastic. But in terms of practical changes that they have managed to effect, nothing has happened.” (Flood resident - interview 40i28) “I think it is the emotional support. Because… when it has been really bad rain, they’ve come around and knocked on the door and asked ‘Are you and [your child] okay?’ So that again, that is the emotional support they give you, and I think when that’s there that kind of helps a lot... having thousands and thousands of pounds spent on the area is nothing as near as having the emotional support of your neighbour.” (Flood resident - interview 20I10) > Social activities were found to be helpful and also aided emotional wellbeing, through recognising the hardship that individuals and community had endured throughout the flooding. In some areas, special events or dignitary visits were arranged. For example, a fun day was organised in two sites (4 and 6), and in site 2 the residents of a care home were able to meet Prince Charles, much to their enjoyment. “My residents lived on that. So it was really good for them.” (Flood resident - interview 20I7) > During stressful and anxious times in the immediate aftermath and the recovery phase, more formal support was highly valued and aided in the restoring of a sense of psychological well-being. “We tried to run meetings for people and talk about what had happened, and I think that was useful. Actually, a psychologist who was doing her own research…came over and we did a session on the psychological effects of flooding for people in the area. It was as people were going back to their homes nine months down the line, and how they might feel, so that was helpful.” (Flood resident - interview 40I8) > Conversely, if emotional support was absent, emotional health tended to be negatively impacted and resilience depleted. How people are dealt with after a flood event, especially concerning their material possessions as well as their home, should not be underestimated when supporting residents’ psychological well-being.

Linking assistance provided to enhanced community resilience
> Several activities were noted as being particularly helpful to flood affected residents in the recovery phase40. Where these activities were occurring, resilience was arguably being built both on an individual and community level. > The assistance received after a flood was often an extension of that received during the flood. There were many reports of friends, family, and neighbours helping each other practically, physically, and emotionally.

The value of emotional support
> Emotional support was paramount for some, as was not being forgotten – something that some residents felt acutely. Reassuring visits were made by church, charity and council representatives to check that the residents were okay. These continued for some time and were particularly valued.

40. After the initial response is over

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
“So there are people out in one room throwing things in the back of a skip and I don’t know what’s gone and it is my’s like you’ve been raped a couple of times of your identity, your privacy, it really is...because nobody gives a damn, nobody respects you or your space. I ended up with about eight people in this house all at once. And they took everything from me, they take your dignity.” (Flood resident - interview 20I13) o The church was pivotal in setting up soup kitchens and providing warm food for residents who had either lost use of their cooker and fridge or were staying in accommodation with no cooking facilities. In at least one area (site 4), a soup kitchen has remained in place to date – with a small charge for a hot, healthy meal. o The EA and Red Cross were also commended for providing cleaning materials to help people restore their living environments. > Several meetings were organised along educational or promotional themes, and these were designed to reduce gaps in knowledge and provide useful information. They featured talks and exhibits from the EA, and some meetings also afforded opportunities for lobbying. One meeting included demonstrations of individual flood protection devices that were either available for purchase (site 6) or could be secured through IPP41 funding (site 2).


The value of practical support
> The practical support respondents received was largely positive and this was found to bolster their resilience. > There were very practical benefits in the assistance provided by neighbours living close to flood-affected people. Some residents put flood defences in place when there was heavy rain and the owner of the property was away, and others kept absent residents informed of progress and the weather conditions. > Specific mention was made of key institutions that helped during the recovery: o The Red Cross was seen as being supportive during this time in those communities where it served. In particular, its role in drawing together existing, disparate work that was being conducted across the area by a number of agencies gave a sense of someone knowing what they were doing. “I was personally pleased when the Red Cross came in because the Red Cross gave us an outside organisation that could tie all the bits together...It just seemed to work.” (Flood resident - interview 40I34)

> One study site was able to secure funding for an IPP scheme, which meant each house was assessed for IPP needs then supplied with the necessary products. These included flood doors, pumps, and non return valves. That the products were all free of charge to the resident, particularly given the concerns raised over the costs of such products, was highly valued among them. “So 100% happy with what they’ve done and we’ve been provided with, because I think without that, I wouldn’t be able to afford it.” (Flood resident - interview 20i10)

41. In 2011, the Environment Agency made £2m available to provide individual household flood protection measures, such as air brick covers and flood barriers for doors. Following an application, a number of communities across the country, including site 2 in Cornwall, were granted a portion of this grant.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross The value of financial support
> Financial support was highly valued and residents made use of charitable pots from Rotary Club, the British Red Cross, Lions, local churches and other agents. This was provided either as cash or in voucher form. > Financial support enabled people to begin to repair their lives and their property. > For almost all respondents, items of furniture were unsalvageable or, in some cases, discarded because they hadn’t known what was salvageable. As such, the provision of furniture during the recovery phase was welcomed. This was primarily organised through local charities and church groups. “The Rotary and the Lions together immediately started to collect money for the flood victims… then they had the idea of opening a furniture store because they realised, people like myself renting somewhere unfurnished, I had no furniture...people were really, really generous and donated. They are all things you might have bought one at a time, but all of a sudden you have to buy the whole a lot altogether…you signed up and the Red Cross helped doing that. We couldn’t have managed without that really, it was an absolute godsend and the community was involved.” (Flood resident - interview 40I31) > The ease with which people were able to make insurance claims, and the satisfaction with the amounts awarded, varied greatly between respondents. > In some cases, a number of factors emerged as contributing to making the process easier. For instance, those who had a broker or claims assessor to help with their claim seemed to both find the process less stressful and manage to recoup more costs than they otherwise would have done. “Before he came on board, the insurance company were going to settle on £8,500 worth of contents and the amount of work they were going to do amounted to £4,000. So it was a £12,000 claim prior to me employing the claims assessor. Once I had employed the claims assessor, we then got a £6,500 rebuild and I got £8,500 in contents. So it worked out so much better having a claims consultant.” (Flood resident - interview 20i13)

Facilitators of support - relationships between organisations and the community
> There were several instances of specific individuals playing a compelling role in helping their communities react to flooding events – in many respects they became the ultimate facilitators of community resilience. The difference these individuals made should not be underestimated. “There are a couple of individuals who are very good because they have got a background in engineering or whatever, and so they keep on at the EA and don’t let them get away with anything. That’s excellent – we need people who’ve got that kind of knowledge.” (Flood resident - interview 40I8) > Flood groups also acted as a conduit for both information and action, through their relations and links with organisations. These relationships resulted in bringing several benefits including: the procurement of bulk amounts of IPP devices that residents could purchase at a discounted price; a grant awarded to provide IPP free of charge; and Big Lottery funding to support the sustaining of flood warden skills. > In order for community groups to be as effective as possible, there was a reported need for strong relationships with public services. “We have built up quite close relationships with all the agencies, especially [the area] emergency planning, because without them we would not have got as far as we are now.” (Focus group 1, site 3) > Where these relationships had been forged, community members described having more control to take action. For example, they could liaise with police to have roads closed if necessary, and were on the receiving end of early warnings that they could then cascade.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
> According to the survey42 the majority of respondents were not members of a flood group (81%). Just over half of the flood groups had been set up after the floods (54%). However, over a quarter did not know whether or not a flood group had been set up, suggesting a proportion of the community may not be benefiting from any direct input. > Throughout the data, flood groups are largely mentioned as embodying a positive aspect of the flood recovery. Not only did they lobby, often successfully, for funding (for community wide flood defences or IPP devices), they also helped raise awareness of flood issues within the community. > The introduction of flood wardens in some communities helped overcome challenges both in relaying communications out to the community, and also to statutory services regarding those needing extra help. On the one hand, some respondents did not worry since they felt there was no point in getting worked up about something that was out of their control. “I certainly don’t worry about it. If it’s raining, I don’t sit here thinking ‘Is it going to flood in my house?’ There is no point, is there?” (Flood resident - interview 6009) Conversely, other respondents worried a lot because they felt there was nothing else they could do. “It’s always in the back of your mind because there is nothing you can do about it.” (Flood resident - interview 40i12) In line with this, some respondents indicated that the less control or ability they had to react to a flooding situation, the more they worried. For example, some people worried more at night because they felt they could be easily caught off guard when asleep. They were equally likely to worry during spells of heavy rain. Proximity to one’s home also played a role. A number of people were more concerned if they were away from their home, as they would then be unable to put up flood guards or move their possessions. “I’m going away on holiday on Monday and it does concern me what happens if there is a flood while I’m gone. Should I be moving everything in my house before I leave, or is that being paranoid?” (Flood resident - interview 40i31) > A number of other factors were found to influence the extent and intensity of people’s worry. Where flood prevention measures had been taken, where the event was seen as a oneoff, and where time had passed since the flood event, the level of worry consequently reduced. In contrast, wet weather, flood warnings and even the thought of being flooded again were reported to increase worry.


Preparing for future flooding
People who had been flooded for the first time tended to worry more about future flooding than other residents previously flooded more than once before (50% vs 34%). However, this was not significantly different43. No matter how many times they had been previously flooded, 18% of all respondents reported worrying about the possibility of future flooding all the time. Furthermore, of those who worried about future flooding all or most of the time, 61% felt they had not been given enough information prior to the event. Worry was also very evident in the non-flooded group, with 86% reporting worrying sometimes or all of the time, and 71% feeling not very well informed. There was a strong feeling of helplessness among respondents when thinking about future flooding, which manifested itself in two very different ways.

42. 55-60 responses

43. Fischer’s exact, p =n.s


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
When respondents were asked which three words they most associated with their own experience of flooding, the majority of words were overwhelmingly emotive. Figure 1: A word cloud depicting the most common words associated with the experience of flooding.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
> When young people were asked for their thoughts on the subject of rain, their responses were equally emotive. Many expressed sadness, specifically relating to losses of property and pets. Almost all expressed some form of worry. “[I’d be] worried because you wouldn’t know how badly it would affect your home and your life.” (Young person group, site 3) > In one area, which relied on tourism, young people worried that the tourist industry would be negatively affected by flood events. > Assistance received after a flood was often indistinguishable from that received during the flood, and all was received positively.


Key findings
> Community resilience was enhanced though a variety of actions: o Keeping people informed - where involvement in community actions could not be achieved, often for logistical reasons, community members were kept in touch with via other means, such as information letters. o Identifying those made most vulnerable by the flood - where communities worked together, a natural prioritisation of needs and of identifying those most vulnerable to the effects of flooding emerged. This was enabled by the internal knowledge of the community. > Community resilience was challenged by: o Not belonging and not acting - a lack of sense of belonging and taking action, in spite of the presence of knowing and watching out for other members. o Not being present – evacuation away from the geographic community can negatively impact the resilience of an increasingly disparate community.

> Practical support varied most in the ways it could be delivered – for example, from cleaning and the provision of cleaning products, through to providing sustenance or kitchen facilities that people could make their own. > Financial support enabled people to begin to repair their lives and their property. > 20% felt worried all of the time about future flooding. Many felt they hadn’t received enough information to help them prepare, and thus arguably allay at least some of this fear. > Worry, stress, fear, loss and shock characterised the flooding experience.

Key learning points
> Greater links need to be made between individuals and communities, to progress ‘knowing people’ to ‘belonging’ and ‘watching out for people’ to ‘taking action’. This is also needed in order to increase the passage of information within the community. > The demonstrable benefits of flood groups centred on their ability to facilitate a community working together, but little is known about whether and how their role can be further extended when the community is not in immediate risk of flooding. Do they have another role? > Acknowledgement of the flood event and its effects supported emotional well-being. > Communities, and their leaders, have a strong collective power to secure funding and promote positive changes.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
> Emotional, practical and financial support are entwined and, where provided, promote resilience. > The relationships of key individuals and flood groups to organisations was key in facilitating support and enhancing community resilience by promoting greater learning and community belonging. but were at risk, also made efforts to carry out advance preparations and encountered similar barriers.

Lack of engagement with risk
> Where risk was not seen as salient, adequate steps were not taken to prepare. Not accepting this element of risk also prevented preparation. “Some residents don’t want to admit to living in a flood area, so don’t equip themselves.” (Focus group 4, site 5) > For some, their perceptions of responsibility led to them to rely on those in authority and other agencies to protect them from the effects of flooding44. > Several residents projected that some other people in their community didn’t prepare for floods because they didn’t want to accept the real risk of flooding. > Conversely, where there was a high frequency of warnings for possible floods which then did not occur, some people felt it resulted in a sense of complacency about taking preparatory action. “We were all getting these flood warnings repeatedly. It was a bit like a car alarm. The first time you heard a car alarm everybody ran because they thought the car was being stolen, but now they go off and you are just like ‘Aw well’. Everybody becomes quite apathetic, and that was happening with the flood warnings.” (Flood resident - interview 6014)

Barriers to preparation
Despite the various barriers to preparation that have been reported, it’s important to note that all residents did actually respond in some way. Some waited for information, where others actively sought it. Some waited to be helped to leave their property; while others left on their own. Some shared their knowledge and checked on their neighbours, and others did not. “I would then go and knock on [my neighbour’s] door and I would go and see [another neighbour], just to check if they were okay. And, if they were worried, we would get them up here [to me].” (Flood resident - interview 20I4)

Barriers to preparation immediately before the flood
> Data revealed an array of barriers that could prevent those at risk from preparing for a flood event effectively. These barriers (for example, an inability to adequately prepare or to take up offers of support) directly impacted upon the resilience of both individuals and the affected community.

Lack of warning and time Barriers faced by individuals to prepare for future floods
> Following a flood event many people took steps to prepare for future flooding but, in doing so, encountered a range of barriers to doing this effectively. Those who had not been flooded,
44. See ‘Roles and responsibilities across the flood event’ section.

> Even among those who had taken steps to prepare, most felt they had not been able to prepare adequately because of a lack of time.

Lack of prior experience
> Where people had not previously been flooded, this lack of experience was sometimes perceived as a barrier to preparedness.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
“Since then I have bought a floodgate to put on the door, which I never knew we needed.” (Flood resident - interview 6k01) “There was somebody who said it can do some damage if the force of the water is so hard it pushes things in, so maybe it’s better not to have them.” (Flood resident - interview 40i6 R)


> Costs were identified as a leading barrier in preventing people from effectively preparing for floods, both for those who hadn’t previously been flooded (100% reported costs as a barrier) and those who had (83%). > Those who had received information about flood protection generally felt that the cost of purchasing such products was prohibitive, not least because of the multiple entry points for flood water to enter their property. “It’s just not conceivable unless somebody says ‘Here’s a grand, do what you can with the house to protect it.’” (Flood resident - interview 40i9) > Where people live in rented accommodation, some reported their landlords were reluctant to take measures to protect the houses.

Perceived inadequate communications played an important role in hindering preparation efforts.

Volume and accessibility of information
> Not everyone knew where to access information, or felt they were reliant on information from others in the community. > Overall, 68% of those who had been flooded and 60% of those who had not reported lack of information as a barrier. Pointedly, when flooded respondents were asked whether flood related information flowed freely in their community, only three quarters felt that it did (72%). > Some respondents felt they didn’t have enough information about what they could do to prepare. Though others did have some idea about what to do, not all were clear about how to implement this. “We had to buy flood doors. We’ve got them in the little bedroom but I wouldn’t know where to start to put them on.” (Flood resident - interview 40i11)

Perceptions of flood defence efficacy
> Although some people had put measures in place to offer protection in case of flooding, they had not necessarily checked that they were adequate. “I did have a flood box...but in fact the torch didn’t have the right batteries so it was useless.” (Flood resident - interview 40i8) > The efficacy of individual property protection measures against more than a minor flood was a concern to some respondents. Consequently, some didn’t deem it worthwhile to purchase defences at substantial cost. > A few were also concerned about the potential for structural damage, resulting from the pressure of water trying to get in and being prevented by flood protection measures.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
> Stakeholders recognised their own difficulties in disseminating information, with social media noted as a forum for both accurate and inaccurate information. In particular, the speed with which inaccurate messages could spread was recognised, highlighting the necessity of prioritising a timely, accurate response. “We realise that these kind of messages can get out and about on Facebook and Twitter very quickly. We need to be ready to respond to these kind of rumours, or sometimes it is accurate information…It just shows how quickly rumours and misinformation can be spread, and that we need to be ready to respond quickly to that information.” (Stakeholder 1, site 5) was more severe than they expected. Others managed to prevent water entering one way, but it came in another. “I sandbagged the front of the house, not realising that all of the air vents are actually on both sides of the house.” (Flood resident - interview 40i8) > Those who had been flooded were far more likely than those who hadn’t to cite skills required as a barrier to preparation (76% flooded vs. 25% non-flooded45). That flood preparation is viewed as a technical matter among those previously flooded suggests a need for greater support in the practical aspects of recovery and preparedness.

Timeliness of information
> In some cases, useful information about modifications that could be made to improve homes was reportedly not received until after houses had already been repaired, or repairs were in progress. Frustratingly, it was then too late to implement this new knowledge.

Language as a barrier
> Where there were large numbers of non-English speakers in a community, there were concerns that language would act as a barrier. However, efforts had been made to make communications accessible in a number of languages and to build links through inclusive resilience groups.

Clarity and understanding of information
> Some people weren’t confident they fully understood information about ‘flood proofing’ alterations that could be made to their properties, or that those working on their houses would have the necessary expertise to implement modifications. “They give you all these recommendations that you half understand. I’m not technical, and the people who are coming in to do your house might not understand.” (Flood resident - interview 40i8) > A lack of knowledge about the floodwater itself also contributed to the ineffectiveness of some preparations. For example, some people moved items onto higher pieces of furniture, believing they would be safe, only to find the flooding

Community-based barriers to preparation for future floods
A number of barriers were identified that impacted flood preparations for the community as a whole.

Community flood defence deliberations
> Plans for implementing flood protection at a community level were subject to delays and cuts in some cases. It has been reported elsewhere that some 254 cuts have been made to previously agreed flood defence works by the Government (Carrington, 2012). > Delays in discussions, and subsequent actions, on community flood defence mechanisms were perceived as frustrating. For some, this led to delays in taking individual action.

45. X2 (1) = 8.06, p<.05 (Fishers exact p<.02)

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross The actions of others in the community
> Having neighbours who did not prepare for flooding could impact negatively on others, as floodwater could enter through neighbouring properties. “We were advised to take these measures, cover the airbricks and things… but we haven’t for the simple reason that, because we are a terrace, unless everybody does it, it won’t be effective.” (Flood resident - interview 40i29) > There were reports of opportunistic crime following flooding, particularly when people had to leave their homes and leave them insecure. “I had valuable jewellery robbed from my home while we were flooded out… and I found out later it was a neighbour. One of the rings found in a pawn shop, I had to get the police involved, but there was no security. We had police at the back, but we had none on the front here, there was no alarms because there was no electricity.” (Flood resident - interview 1040) > Not being at home at the time of a flood could mean that flood defences were not engaged, unless neighbours’ help was elicited. Leaving floodgates and airbrick covers in place when away from home was felt to pose a security risk; advertising that the house was empty. “Within days the general public were out, coming to watch and see and comment. You know, stood at the end of your drive and commenting on all your stuff.” (Flood resident - interview 40I21) > Where residents who weren’t flooded continued with their daily lives, this was sometimes seen as showing an absence of community spirit.


Resentment and tensions within the flooded community
> There was a perceived sense of blame associated with flooding. Some residents, albeit a minority, felt that people blamed them for living in a flood risk area. > Those perceived to be at fault for their losses were thought to be less in need of help than others – for example, where it was perceived that insurance had not been paid through choice rather than necessity. > Perceived divisions in support also negatively affected community relations. Some individuals felt excluded from sources of help – for example, homeowners felt excluded in comparison to local authority supported tenants. Similarly, some were resentful that a fund was established for the uninsured whereas the insured received nothing. > Several residents felt excluded from some supportive interventions because of their geography, since they were slightly apart from areas of flooding that they perceived were getting more attention and help.

Perceived insensitivity of those unaffected
> Stress and anxiety were aggravated by the voyeuristic tendencies of the general public and some local, unaffected community members who viewed the disaster as a spectator sport. “We had lots and lots of people who came down here from down that street and did circles in 4x4 vehicles when the water was there, which of course caused a wave to deflect, so even though we had up barricades the waves would plop over the top and at one point I called the police. For a short time the police came down and barred it off to traffic, which helped but then of course as the situation worsened around the town they couldn’t have a police car sitting there...There was just no getting through to people, please don’t do this.” (Flood resident - interview 6014)


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross Relationships and cohesion within the community
> Half of the non-flooded respondents felt that the need for others to cooperate presented a barrier to flood preparation; this rose to 73% for those previously flooded46. In other words, a reliance on others was felt to be a barrier to preparedness, especially among those speaking from experience. While this question did not hone in on exactly who those people to be co-operated with were, it most likely included surrounding community members. > In some cases, the flood and community groups were criticised as overly negative. This led some to leave their group – and any benefits they might have gained there. “I did go to a couple of the flood action meetings immediately after the flood, but I stopped going to those because there were a lot of people at those meetings that were very angry and very upset. The meetings tended to be hijacked by those people… and it just brought it all back. And I thought actually I would rather park this and not keep revisiting it all the time. So I stopped going to those.” (Flood resident - interview 40I28) “The community got together pretty well. All the neighbours were in the same boat, so they went and had a communal moan to each other and it went on from there. It has since then dropped back to its original place with very insular people and we don’t get together very much.” (Flood resident - interview 40I32)

Key findings
> Respondents noted several barriers that they felt prevented them from preparing for a flood. Some were barriers affecting the individual, such as high costs. Others, such as delays and cuts to flood defence activities, affected the wider community. > Both individual information and individual action dominated the theme of barriers. o Not everyone appreciated the risk of flooding and many took no action. Even among those who did, there were reports of people not having enough information nor knowing who to turn to. o Uncertainties around the effectiveness of flood protection products put people off investing in them. Many considered that, until they were tested, it simply couldn’t be known whether they would work properly. This was felt to be a gamble for such a high-cost investment, and would require a greater trust in their efficacy. o Notable barriers included: the perception of flood preparation as being a technical matter among those who had been flooded before, and evidence that protection measures were sometimes not engaged properly.

Sustainability of community support
The length of time for which community-based support was sustainable following a flood event was called into question. > Participants spoke of a reduction in the sense of community support between flood events, when the issue was not felt to be quite so predominant, despite flooding being repetitive in all but one of the study sites.

46. X2 (1) = 6.84, p<.05 (Fishers exact p<.03)

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
> Wider community barriers related to breakdowns in relationships. Where community cohesion and support structures were weakened – through perceived divisions, disrespect of those flooded, and negativity within flood groups – this undermined community resilience. In turn, this negatively impacted on the ability of communities to prepare for and respond to flooding. > The community contains valuable information, but couldn’t always be relied upon to share it. This suggests that learning from flood events by those who have previously experienced them, or sharing of information among other community members, was not always happening.


Key learning points
> Previous experience of flood events clearly helps in overcoming information barriers. However, the challenge is to discover how best to instill the same levels of knowledge in those who are at risk of flooding but have not yet been flooded. Similarly, the momentum of prevention activities between flood events must also be maintained to ensure flood risk awareness does not reduce. > Information needs dominate barriers to flood preparedness. Therefore, having inclusive, informative communications that cover a range of topics (including what to do, where to go, and technical advice on flood prevention) is a necessity. > It may be that those with past experience are best placed to ensure information needs are met. However, this relies upon several factors: enhancing cohesion within the community, and avoiding resentments and divisions; maintaining positivity within established networks; reducing voyeurism and the damage it causes.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross


Conclusions and implications for services
Raising the awareness of risk
A key finding of this study is that taking action to prepare for a flood depends on individuals or communities appreciating the level of risk and giving flood preparation messages sufficient attention. Without this necessary step, people simply won’t act – regardless of the amount of information available. If you can help people to truly understand risk, then they can do something about it. Systematically targeting flood-prone communities with information, advice and skills that can help mitigate the impact of floods would represent a big step forward on this front. However, such steps would also need to be accompanied by engagement activities with individuals and communities, to ensure those risk messages are understood and acted upon. Additionally, preparedness messages are also still needed by individuals and communities who are only too aware of flooding issues. To this end, flood risk and preparation messages could be facilitated through the following: > Partnership working between organisations and the community > Advice centres within the community > A trusted, expert voice working with communities to develop messages > The trusted voices of those with past experience Recommendation one: This study, in keeping with the wider literature, supports the need for a ‘trusted voice’ to heighten awareness of the need to take action and prepare for the increasingly inevitable.

Preparing to act
This study identified two key needs, both around increased awareness. Firstly those at risk need to be aware of what actions they can take in order to mitigate potential flood damage; and secondly they need to be aware of what to do during a flood. Just 21% of respondents reported they had enough information about flooding matters prior to actually being flooded. This lends evidence to the need for clear and effective communications (including warnings, steps to prepare etc) that will offer easyto-follow guidance through all the time points of a flood event. The clearest way to achieve this is by combining appropriate methods of communications with an equally appropriate strategic approach. Getting the message right in flood information is critical. This study revealed significant levels of confusion around content and advice, despite the wealth of information in existence. Such information needs to be accurate, clear and inclusive. It should also cover all the timeframes of a flood event and include advice on those key aspects of people’s lives – health, financial, practical and social – that will most likely be affected. Furthermore, messages should focus beyond preparedness and also advise where support can be accessed. However, in doing so, they should be careful not to remove the impetus for individual or community action. It is important that such communications should enhance, rather than undermine, community resilience. Nor should the recovery stage, and the need for information during this time, be neglected. Recommendation two: key messages regarding flooding should come from a trusted voice, which provides accurate and timely information across a full range of issues.


The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross Enhancing community relations
This study also revealed the value of community partnerships with other organisations as a way of building support for communities and the individuals within them. It also revealed the collective power of such partnerships in securing funding and promoting positive change. Although the reliance of respondents on information from non-official sources brought challenges with regard to ensuring accurate information, there were nonetheless clear examples of how communities can effectively put across messages, both to those within the community and outside of it. In contrast, there were fewer examples where organisations directed information into communities (for example, the EA pilot), and no examples of community engagement in shaping communications strategies. Obviously, this isn’t desirable. Organisations that engage with communities should ensure that all flood information is provided in a manner that is most useful, accurate and relevant to their needs. This information would then be embedded within the community and have an increased sense of relevance among residents. However, individuals did not always recognise the role of their wider community. This suggests a greater understanding is needed of how some individuals, perhaps not active in flood groups, could link with their own community. Enhancing the relationship between individual and community is vital if community resilience is to grow – most notably through the sharing of information, stronger cohesion, and also helping each other in times of need. One route to achieving this is by focusing on the abilities of flood groups to bring communities together, and explore whether this can be used as a template in non-flooded communities. It would also be useful to further explore the role of young people in aiding community resilience. Research evidence suggests that young people can be an effective vehicle of change, both within the family and community, once they understand the message of change. The young people involved in this study fully appreciated the impact of flooding on people’s lives and designed innovative approaches to communicate important messages, not only for their peers but also their families. Recommendation three: to develop and maintain strong relationships between communities and organisations, ensuring community needs are known to organisations and that all available support is known to the community. Recommendation four: to help communities foster more productive relationships with individuals who are not engaged with community activities.

Meeting wider needs
This study emphatically illustrates how addressing the effects of flooding cannot be limited to an emergency planning and response function alone. Given the health, social, financial and practical implications of flood events, there is also a great potential for partnership working between organisations and communities – both to meet immediate flooding-related needs and broader community needs not specifically brought about by flooding. This study revealed the difficulties inherent in maintaining the momentum of flood preparation activities (such as flood groups) in times between flooding. Having partnerships not specifically associated with flooding, but which could be called into action during flood events, would enhance the resilience of the community. Recommendation five: expand the remit of services responding to flooding in the immediate response period, or else work in partnerships, in order to capture wider needs throughout the floods trajectory, and also in periods without flooding.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross Viewing flooding as a cyclic event
This study echoes existing literature that suggests flooding is a cyclic process – that is, recovery and preparedness are indistinct, over-lapping entities. Operationally, and for capacity reasons, response and recovery responsibilities are managed separately, although with overlap in terms of the time-frame (for example, the recovery process begins before the end of the response). However, it is not clear to what extent the cyclic process is embedded in working practices. This needs further investigation. Recommendation six: to view flooding as a cyclic process, and thus ensure that the momentum of efforts in response and recovery contribute to activities geared towards preparedness.


Taking on the insurance world
One area of great concern during this study focused on the financial implications of flood insurance. For significant numbers of people affected by flood events, steep insurance premiums and excesses, along with degraded house prices, suddenly become a harsh – and seemingly inescapable – reality. The end of the Statement of Principles between the government and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) over household insurance takes place in 2013. We believe this will significantly affect even more people’s ability to get insurance, protect their homes and effectively move beyond the flood experience. We have conducted a separate piece of work on the impact of changes to floods insurance, and are currently preparing to advocate with these findings.

Supporting emotional and practical needs
The need for both emotional and practical support beyond the immediate flood event has been evident in this and other similar studies. This study also found young people were still enduring the emotional effects of the floods, suggesting an expansion of young people’s engagement beyond preparation and action, and into the recovery period. This all suggests a need for those providing support on an official basis to be suitably qualified. One stakeholder interview revealed the personal impact that supporting others had taken: “I found myself quite emotionally affected by it because it’s a community that I work very closely with and I really like. Seeing people who’ve been affected so badly - it was actually quite upsetting.” - (Stakeholder 1, site 6) Recommendation seven: to ensure that those responding to a flood are able to provide both emotional and practical support, and are suitably qualified to do so.

The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross
Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership (2010) Minutes from Stonehaven and district community council meeting, Stonehaven flood held on 10th November 2009 in the Cowie lounge of the Invercarron resource centre.



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The experience of flooding in the UK - British Red Cross


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