Researchers Present Final Report on the 2021 Floods

24/01/2024

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Crisis communication and crisis management can be improved in many ways

  Flooding sign Copyright: © IWW

After two years of intensive research, the results of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research’s (BMBF) “Hochwasserereignis 2021” project are now available in a final publication. This report explores in great detail the nature of crisis communication and governance during the devastating July floods in Germany in 2021. The publication offers comprehensive insights and assessments of the warning and management processes during the flood and provides essential findings for future crises.

The researcher’s work comprises a multidisciplinary analysis in which experts from the fields of water management, disaster research, communication sciences, administrative sciences, and natural risk research collaborated with the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance. RWTH is involved with specialists from the Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management (IWW). The key findings include:

Traceability of flood information, such as rainfall and water levels, is essential and should be urgently improved.
Flood forecasts are always subject to uncertainties, which makes it necessary to communicate these uncertainties clearly and openly.
Warnings should be individually adapted to the situation and the knowledge and skills of the addressees.
Preparation and training for handling complex flood scenarios must be improved.
Collecting, processing, and disseminating knowledge from crises such as the July 2021 floods is vital for future flood prevention and response.

A wide variety of recommendations are derived from these findings. Models should be used to improve prediction and recording of flood events. Threshold values are to be standardized, and reporting values are to be utilized immediately to calculate local hazards, among other things. Especially low mountain regions with fast-reacting tributaries present a major challenge due to the great potential for damage and the disadvantage of only allowing for short-notice warnings. “We were able to derive a large number of potential improvements and recommendations from the available results, which are relevant in practice to be better prepared for similar hazardous situations in the future,” says Jens Reinert, research associate at the IWW. It had also become clear that implementing the recommendations was a major challenge and could not be seen as the responsibility of a single actor – such as the German Weather Service.

The final publication of the BMBF-HoWas2021 project was published in German in the publication series of the “Deutsches Komitee für Katastrophenvorsorge e.V. (DKKV)” and, in addition to the research findings, it also contains concrete recommendations for policymakers and action.

Homepage of the Civil Security Research Programme of the BMBF.