Nearly one in six properties in England is at risk of flooding. However, many people who risk being affected by flooding are not aware of the extent of that risk. The Environment Agency (EA) identified a need to look at approaches to informing the public about flood risk, to improve understanding, response and community resilience.
In 2013 the EA commissioned public dialogue project on flood risk communication which was run in partnership with Defra, the Met Office, the Cabinet Office, Public Health England, the Flood Forecasting Centre and the National Flood Forum, and was supported by Sciencewise. The dialogue explored the meaning of messages about flood risk including understanding the risk and taking action. It discussed new methods and techniques to help individuals and communities understand their risk of flooding.
The process encompassed workshops involving 95 members of the public at five locations (Leicester, Newtown, Oxford, Skegness and York) with a mid-week evening introductory session followed by a full day Saturday session, followed by a final combined workshop involving 28 participants from across all five locations to seek responses and actions.
By November 2014, the Environment Agency had taken on board many of the project messages and specific findings in mock-ups of flood risk maps and communication materials. In January 2016, three senior individuals from the Environment Agency gave evidence to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee one-day hearing on winter floods. The Deputy Chief Executive referred to the flood risk communications project and stressed that the Environment Agency would be using the results.
This public dialogue was delivered by 3KQ and evaluated by URSUS Consulting Ltd.