Somerset County Council, the Province of Zeeland (the Netherlands) and the Agency for Maritime and Coastal Services – Coastal Division (Belgium) were successful in 2011 for securing European funding for a European joint project ‘Interreg IVA 2 Seas project Flood Aware’.
The project was successfully launched in October 2011 and is aimed at raising awareness about the risk and impacts of flooding on their communities. The project partners believe that a lot of experience, knowledge and expertise already exist within the three regions and this could be shared with the public in order to raise awareness about the risks and impacts of flooding.
The major floods in 1953 known as the North Sea floods was caused by a heavy storm on the night of 31 January 1953 lasting until the morning of 1 February 1953. A tidal surge with water level exceeding 5.6 metres above sea level caused sea defences to be overwhelmed by waves resulting in severe flooding. Several Countries were affected including the Netherlands, Belgium and parts of the United Kingdom. This natural calamity claimed over 2,500 lives, with 1,836 deaths in the Netherlands which most casualties within the Province of Zeeland.
In the English counties of Lincolnshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk a total number of 307 people lost their lives. 28 people died in the West Flanders in Belgium, 230 were killed on watercrafts at sea and along the Northern European Coasts. Although the floods did not affect mainland Ireland, the North Channel east of Belfast claimed 133 fatalities when many fishing trawlers sank including the ferry ‘MV Princess Victoria’ which was lost at sea.
Fifty nine years later sea salt still remains within the walls of buildings causing corrosion to pipes and causing the soil within the land affected to be non arable. Although high standard flood defences have since been built to reduce the risk of flooding, flood risks are still a possibility and residents could still be naïve in believing that they are risk free. This attitude provides a huge problem for the authorities who try to engage their residents to encourage those at risk to take adequate measures to prepare themselves in the event of a flood. In general most people do not know whether they are at risk and those who are aware of the risk only take action after their properties have been flooded.
Research and experiences gained from previous awareness campaigns shows that general campaigns aiming at large groups in a large area do not work. Whereas targeted campaigns aimed at specific groups are likely to be more successful. Therefore, the awareness campaigns developed in ‘Flood Aware’ will have a regional character and targeted at specific groups within each region. The Province of Zeeland will aim their campaigns at Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), whereas the Agency for Maritime and Coastal Services – Coastal Division (Belgium) will focus on children and Somerset County Council on its rural communities. These target groups will be invited to participate in the campaign development process. Furthermore, the use of modern communication tools such as mobile apps and social media could be employed in the three partners regions including 3D visualisation materials and equipment in the Zeeland Flood Museum.
The aims of the project will be achieved by providing an information back bone for both professionals and citizens to help both groups in their preparations for a flood. The back bone will consist of a wiki-based database, where anyone can easily share and access all the information they need regarding flooding. Furthermore, public information centres will be set up including a mobile one in Flanders and a permanent one in the Zeeland Flood Museum.
For further information visit the Flood Aware project website.
This project is being undertaken in partnership with the Province of Zeeland (the Netherlands), and the Agency for Maritime and Coastal Services – Coastal Division (Belgium). The project also involves working with other organisations such as the Watersnoodmuseum Ouwerkerk, Veiligheidsregio Zeeland and the HZ University of Applied Sciences.
Contact the team
Flood Risk Management Team
Somerset County Council