Advanced modelling could help mitigate flood risks, research finds

Using advanced models to predict danger areas could improve cities’ flood emergency plans and help safeguard the public, researchers have found.

Researchers from universities in Bristol, Newcastle and Florence looked at the impact of various perspectives of flood preparedness including pedestrian safety, access to hospitals and fire stations, and hazards posed by travel routes.

Those behind the study, published in the scientific journal Science of Total Environment, say that investigating potential risks before they occur could be particularly helpful to civil responders when it comes to keeping people safe.

Dr Maria Pregnolato, University of Bristol civil engineering expert, said: ‘For a city threatened by flooding, it is vital to know where pedestrians and drivers could be at most danger, and when the town centre is best accessible for rescue operations.’

Using high-resolution open data such as census data and terrain elevation, the researchers modelled a flood scenario in the Florence district of Galluzzo, based on flood incident planning used by the city’s Civil Protection Agency.

They found that 37% of people in the district lived near roads where they would be swept away by a flood, and 78% of people lived where parked vehicles would be swept away.

Worryingly, the study revealed that 22.5% of roads would be inaccessible to emergency responders if flooding were to get worse, while all hospitals, fire and police stations would be out of reach.

Richard Dawson, professor of earth systems engineering at Newcastle University and co-author of the study, said: ‘The research highlights the risks to the safety of pedestrians and drivers but also how flooding can limit the ability of emergency services to respond.’

‘To ensure our blue light services can quickly respond in an emergency and continue serving the public, we need to manage the flood risk on key access routes to hospitals and fire stations but also throughout the regions they serve.’

The results of the study will benefit those working in flood risk analysis and have now given Florence information to help adjust its emergency plans.

The findings have wider implications for cities across the world as they could be extended to investigate other flood-prone areas, such as Lancashire, Devon and Cumbria in the UK.

Flooding affects more people worldwide than any other hazard, with most fatalities occurring outdoors when people try to walk or drive through floodwaters.

It is projected that the magnitude and frequency of adverse weather events will increase over the coming years as an effect of climate change.


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