Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-018-3273-4 ORIGINAL PAPER Rethinking ﬂood risk communication 1 1 1 2 • • • E. Rollason L. J. Bracken R. J. Hardy A. R. G. Large Received: 29 June 2017 / Accepted: 11 March 2018 / Published online: 19 March 2018 The Author(s) 2018 Abstract Flooding is a serious hazard across Europe, with over 200 major ﬂoods docu- mented in the last two decades. Over this period, ﬂood management has evolved, with a greater responsibility now placed on at-risk communities to understand their risk and take protective action to develop ﬂood resilience. Consequently, communicating ﬂood risk has become an increasingly central part of developing ﬂood resilience. However, research suggests that current risk communications have not resulted in the intended increase in awareness, or behavioural change. This paper explores how current risk communications are used by those at risk, what information users desire and how best this should be presented. We explore these questions through a multi-method participatory experiment, working together with a competency group of local participants in the town of Corbridge, Northumberland, the UK. Our research demonstrates that current risk communications fail to meet user needs for information in the period before a ﬂood event, leaving users unsure of what will happen, or how best to respond. We show that participants want information on when and how a ﬂooding may occur (ﬂood dynamics), so that they can understand their risk and feel in control of their decisions on how to respond. We also present four pro- totypes which translate these information needs into new approaches to communicating ﬂood risk. Developed by the research participants, these proposals meet their information needs, increase their ﬂood literacy and develop their response capacity. The ﬁndings of the research have implications for how we design and develop future ﬂood communications, but also for how we envisage the role of ﬂood communications in developing resilience at a community level. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-018- 3273-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users. & E. Rollason email@example.com Science Laboratories, Department of Geography, Durham University, South Rd, Durham DH1 3LE, UK School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK 123 1666 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 Keywords Flood risk Resilience Flood mapping Communication Participation 1 Introduction Flooding is a major hazard throughout Europe (de Moel et al. 2009), with over 2.4 million properties potentially at risk in the UK alone (Environment Agency 2009). Over the last decade ﬂood risk management (FRM) has evolved to develop and enhance community resilience to ﬂooding, rather than controlling ﬂood waters using engineering solutions (Van Alphen et al. 2009). Communication of ﬂood risk information is a key element of FRM which aims to ‘strengthen people’s risk awareness and to motivate the population at risk to take preventive actions and to be prepared’ (Hagemeier-Klose and Wagner 2009, p. 564). Communication of ﬂood risk is a valuable way to link expertise and management under- taken by practitioners with the development of local-level resilience in an at risk com- munity (de Moel et al. 2009; Butler and Pidgeon 2011). Flood risk communication encompasses two phases: ﬁrstly, identifying areas at risk of ﬂooding, and secondly, letting those at risk know when ﬂooding is likely to occur. Both phases are crucial to helping those at risk prepare for, anticipate and act to lessen the consequences of ﬂood events. This is a vital element of developing community resilience; ﬂood impacts can be signiﬁcant, extending beyond those whose homes are directly ﬂooded, and for prolonged periods following a ﬂooding event. For instance, research has demon- strated that ﬂooding can result in increased morbidity (Milojevic et al. 2017), increase the occurrence of infectious diseases (Waite et al. 2017), and cause signiﬁcant, long-term mental health impacts (Lamond et al. 2015) including depression, anxiety and post-trau- matic stress disorder (Munro et al. 2017). As well as helping people take action to reduce the impact of ﬂoods on their homes and to evacuate areas of high ﬂood hazard, ﬂood risk communications have also been shown to have a signiﬁcant impact on reducing longer- term impacts. For example, Munro et al. (2017) demonstrate that receiving timely warning prior to a ﬂood was the only factor likely to limit the impact of ﬂooding on mental health. Communicating ﬂood risk prior to, and during ﬂood events, is thus crucial to limiting ﬂood impacts and ensuring well-being in at-risk communities. This paper explores current ﬂood risk communications and their effectiveness in pro- moting resilient behaviours, and introduces new ways in which information could be presented to increase action to limit ﬂood impacts. This assessment focuses on the approaches adopted in Europe following the introduction of the European Union Floods Directive (EUFD) (European Parliament and the Council 2007), which has resulted in a uniﬁcation of communication approaches between countries within the EU. We employ a case study in the UK, where we work with a community that have previous experiences of ﬂooding to (1) examine existing approaches to ﬂood communications, (2) explore how we can work with at risk participants to develop new ways of thinking about the content of ﬂood risk communication, and (3) use participatory approaches to co-produce a series of prototypes for more effective ﬂood risk communications. Research in psychology has explored the way in which risk messages are translated into behaviour by those receiving them (for example, see Slovic et al. 1974; Fischhoff et al. 1993; Burns and Slovic 2012; Bubeck et al. 2012). However, in the translation of this research into risk communication practice, those at risk are often framed as needy, and reliant on experts to dictate what risk information is important and why (Willis et al. 2011). This means at risk communication users are often excluded from the processes of creating risk communications. By adopting participatory practices, and working together with those 123 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 1667 at risk, the research presented in this paper looks to circumvent this framing by allowing research participants to determine what information is important to them for understanding their risk and increasing their resilience. 2 Current approaches to communications in ﬂood risk management Across Europe, the 2007 EUFD established common standards for the preparation of ﬂood hazard and ﬂood risk maps (EXCIMAP 2007a). The UK provides a good example of these products, with the Environment Agency (EA) publishing a well-developed suite of dif- ferent mapping types available online (de Moel et al. 2009), alongside an array of sup- porting communications (Table 1). These include communication of real-time river levels, and ﬂood alerts and warnings intended to highlight the short-term potential for ﬂooding. The EA’s prime purpose for ﬂood risk communications is to encourage participation in local FRM and develop community resilience (Environment Agency 2011). EA research on resilience has previously focused on generating trusted, long-term relationships with at- risk communities (Twigger-Ross et al. 2011, 2014) (Table 1). As a result, communications have traditionally been supported by a network of local ﬂood groups and wardens, tasked with working alongside the EA to prepare local communities for ﬂooding (Gilissen et al. 2016). However, recent high-proﬁle ﬂoods have caused a shift of focus towards infras- tructure and property-based resilience programmes (McBain et al. 2010; Chatterton et al. 2010; Environment Agency 2011). As a result, community-based resilience has become somewhat of a secondary objective and the potential for risk communications as an enabler of resilience has taken on a much greater level of importance (Environment Agency 2010). However, the existing research suggests that current communications are having limited impact on driving risk awareness or resilient behaviours. O’Sullivan et al. (2012) examined the impact of ﬂood risk communications across Europe and identiﬁed low levels of information penetration and personal preparedness, often accompanied by a high level of Table 1 Flood risk communications approaches in England and Wales Communications Description and purpose of the communications approach Flood hazard and risk These online maps indicate areas of potential ﬂood hazard and differentiate maps high-, medium- and low-risk categories. Intended to raise awareness of the risk of ﬂooding of those living in at-risk areas Common to the majority of countries in the EU (EXCIMAP 2007a, b; de Moel et al. 2009) Real-time water level Hydrographs of ‘real-time’ river levels monitored at river gauging stations information provided online. During ﬂooding conditions these records are updated at 15-min intervals. These hydrographs also display the level over which ﬂooding can be expected and the highest level ever recorded. Intended to allow local people to monitor local river levels and decide when to take action in response to potential ﬂooding Flood warnings A ﬂood warning system is also implemented across England (Fielding et al. (Flood Information 2007). Three alert levels are provided, the intention being that those at risk Service) should begin to monitor local river levels at the Flood Alert Stage and begin to implement ﬂood-resilient actions at a Flood Warning Stage. Intended to instruct those at risk when to take action in response to a potential ﬂood 123 1668 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 distrust in communications and management organisations. In the UK, a 2016 EA poll indicated that only 45% of people living in at-risk areas appreciate their risk and only 7% identify any risk to their own property (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee 2016). Similarly, independent polling by the ‘Know Your Flood Risk’ campaign (Davies 2015) reported that 31% of at risk households surveyed had no ﬂood plan and would not know what to do in the event of ﬂooding. 3 Risk communication approaches and the adoption of resilient behaviours Research has therefore identiﬁed that the existing UK model of ﬂood risk communication is not functioning as intended, with communications failing to meet user needs or match their experiential knowledge (Environment Agency 2010; Meyer et al. 2012; Fisher 2015). It has also been argued that by centralising and professionalising the production of risk information, local communities lose their ability to properly understand their local risk situation (Lane 2012; Bubeck et al. 2012). The outcome is that both the practice of communicating risk information and how information receivers interpret information may not actually be aligned with the stated purpose of ﬂood risk communications in the UK. In this section we explore the fundamental research that underpins risk communication and examine why this might be the case. Callon (1999) and Demeritt and Norbert (2014) have both proposed models for how risk is communicated, considering the direction of communication, the roles of the commu- nicator and the receiver, and the purpose of the communication (Table 2). Flood risk communications have a joint purpose of both transmitting information and also altering behaviour (Hagemeier-Klose and Wagner 2009) and can therefore be seen as a hybrid of the risk message model (RMM) or the public education model (PEM), and the risk information model (RIM). Research driving RIM-focused communications has explored a wide range of potential factors which inﬂuence the translation of risk infor- mation into behaviours: examples include previous experiences of a threat (Fielding et al. 2007; Hopkins and Warburton 2015); cultural, geographical, and socio-economic factors (Burningham et al. 2008; Bubeck et al. 2012); reliance on public ﬂood protection (Terpstra and Gutteling 2008); trust/distrust in communications from a management authority (Terpstra 2011; Wachinger et al. 2013); or a need to protect an individual’s sense of personal security against high levels of future uncertainty (Harries 2008; Willis et al. 2011). An alternative approach to examining individual variables is proposed by Rogers (1975), who presents the protection motivation theory (PMT) model (Fig. 1). PMT explains and provides an overarching framework for the interplay between the disparate variables which may contribute to triggering behavioural responses from risk information. Rogers argues that individuals make their decision by appraising the severity and likeli- hood of their exposure (the threat appraisal) against the potential efﬁcacy of potential protective behaviours (the coping appraisal), with their protection motivation representing the intervening stimulus which determines their actions. Grothmann and Reusswigg (2006) and Bubeck et al. (2012) build upon Roger’s work by expanding the sub-components of the threat and coping appraisals (Fig. 1), as well as identifying the potential for non-protective responses such as denial or wishful thinking, in situations where threat and/or coping appraisals are negative. This concept is supported 123 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 1669 Table 2 A comparison of the deﬁning characteristics of risk communications models proposed by Callon (1999) and Demerit and Norbert (2014) Model Direction Role of Role of Purpose of communication communicators receivers Demerit and Norbert Risk message One Educator Passive To inform Risk instrument One Educator Passive Behavioural alteration Risk dialogue Two Active participant Active To inform participant Behavioural alteration Risk governance Integrated Active participant Active Encourage participation participant Create new knowledge/ viewpoints Callon Public education One Educator Passive To inform Public debate Two Active Active To inform d e participant participant Co-production of Integrated Active participant Active Create shared knowledge/ knowledge participant viewpoints Assumes rational action from receivers Who should participate, why and how is seen as contested and dependent upon the purpose of the communication Blurring of roles between knowledge producers and receivers Privileged knowledge producers Local knowledge intended to enrich scientiﬁc knowledge Development of knowledge and viewpoints which are developed through the participatory process and are therefore shared by all participants by research on ‘learned helplessness’ (Paton and Johnston 2001), where individuals see disaster events as uncontrollable and therefore assume that their impacts are in turn uncontrollable, triggering feelings of despair or helplessness (Paton and Johnston 2006). PMT demonstrates the complex, contested, and highly personal nature of the linkage between communication and the adoption of protective behaviours. Comparison against the models of communication reveals the likely limitations of current communication approaches based on the RIM or PEM. These approaches, which assume a rational response from the receiver, are unlikely to address the complex nature of the threat and coping appraisals. 4 Using participatory approaches to developing new ways to communicate ﬂood risk We suggest that participatory working (Kindon et al. 2007) offers an opportunity to rethink how information can be communicated to those at risk by positioning people at the heart of ﬂood risk communications. Participatory working re-imagines the traditional roles of experts and lay people (Bucchi and Neresini 2008; Landstro¨m et al. 2011; Lane et al. 2011) and considers circulation of different forms of expertise (Whitman et al. 2015), with participants working together as equals to co-produce shared knowledge and outputs (Mees 123 1670 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 Fig. 1 The protection motivation theory model. Factors inﬂuencing a decision to take protective or non- protective action in response to a threat. Shaded areas denote the PMT as proposed by Rogers (1975) and developed by Bubeck et al. (ﬁgure adapted from Bubeck et al. 2012), whilst unshaded areas denote individual factors which have been shown to impact on threat and coping appraisals and therefore an individual’s protection motivation et al. 2016). Participatory working approaches have been applied to a variety of envi- ronmental problems, including the co-production of options for managing local ﬂood risk (Lane et al. 2011), the breaking down of borders between different organisations, pro- fessionals, and lay people involved in catchment-scale land management to manage ﬂoods (Bracken et al. 2016), and developing end-user speciﬁc research outputs regarding agri- cultural pollution (Whitman et al. 2015). To date, however, participatory practices have not been applied to ﬂood risk communications, with recent research concluding only that participation was a useful approach for raising awareness or communicating ﬂood risk complexity (Environment Agency 2012), or as a way of providing limited feedback on current communication approaches (Fisher 2015). These limited approaches to participa- tion fail to exploit the potential of participatory working to open up the debate on what risk information is important and why. Here therefore we look to expand the participatory approaches demonstrated by previous studies into exploring the efﬁcacy of current ﬂood communications and, working together with a ﬂood group of ﬂood-affected locals, to co- produce alternative communications better suited to driving resilient behaviours. 4.1 The Corbridge study area Corbridge (Fig. 2) has a long history of ﬂooding; approximately 70 properties in Station Road and The Stanners are situated on the ﬂoodplain and are vulnerable to ﬂooding. River level records date back to the 1700s (Archer et al. 2007a), and the area has a long history of 123 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 1671 Fig. 2 The River Tyne catchment and Corbridge study area. The inset highlights the extent of the area considered during the research ﬂooding, including ﬂooding in 2005 resulting from the collapse of a ﬂood defence embankment (Archer et al. 2007b). This earlier damage led to ﬂood defence improvements being carried out by the EA prior to a major ﬂood on 5 December 2015, an event with an estimated return period of between 100 and 200 years (Marsh et al. 2016), which exceeded the design standard for the defences leading to serious ﬂooding. All 70 at-risk properties were reported to have been ﬂooded (Environment Agency 2016), some to depths of [ 1.5 m. 4.2 The research approach In the summer of 2016, we undertook research to explore local knowledge about ﬂooding in the Tyne Valley based on working together with local people to develop new approaches to communicating risk. Our aim was to blend academic research expertise with the experiences of Corbridge residents to re-imagine what ﬂood risk information could be communicated and how it might be best presented. Figure 3 shows the multi-methods participatory approach developed. 4.2.1 Understanding local knowledge and ﬂood experience: workshops with the Corbridge Flood Action Group In Phase 1 we conducted several group mapping and discussion workshops with members of the local Corbridge Flood Action Group (CFAG). The purpose of these meetings was to assess local knowledge and experiences of ﬂood risk. Using a grounded theory approach, following Charmaz (2011), the material produced by these workshops, the maps, the researchers’ notes and the group discussions were integrated to identify key themes arising 123 1672 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 Fig. 3 The multi-methods research process from the local experience of ﬂooding. Using this approach we developed an understanding of the level of knowledge about, and engagement with, the ﬂood risk problem, as well as developing a trusting relationship between the researchers and the CFAG. 4.2.2 Adopting a participatory approach to developing new ﬂood risk communications: the Corbridge Flood Research Group The relationship developed between the researchers and the CFAG during Phase 1 was instrumental in developing the Corbridge Flood Research Group (CFRG), which was developed through Phase 2 of the research. The CFRG was a group loosely modelled on the Environmental Competency Group used by Lane et al. (2011). Similar to Lane et al. the CFRG was set apart from traditional focus or consultation groups by its focus on the practice of knowledge creation as a collaborative process and the integration of local ‘non-experts’ into a practice of ﬂood management usually carried out far removed from the local scale. The CFRG consisted of six, self-selected members of the wider CFAG who had per- sonal experiences of (ﬁve members), or interest in (one member), ﬂooding at Corbridge. One of the researchers (Rollason) also took an active role in the group as a member, as opposed to a more traditional role as facilitator or group leader. Local members of the group contributed their experiential knowledge of ﬂooding and ﬂood communication, whilst Rollason (as an academic specialist and former professional ﬂood manager in industry) brought expert technical knowledge and experience. By blending these two perspectives, the group was able to consider both the CFRG’s communication desires and the practicalities of what could be achieved. CFRG meetings were framed speciﬁcally to explore ﬂood risk communications. The group met three times; only the theme of the ﬁrst, ‘how ﬂood risk is currently communi- cated?’ was predetermined. Subsequent meetings were driven by the group discussions and were predominantly unstructured, with participants determining what should be discussed and how. Meetings were audio–recorded, and ﬁeld notes taken. After each meeting key discussion points were summarised, notes circulated to the group; all members thus 123 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 1673 participated in the iterative and ongoing development of the narrative being developed. Analysis of the material was undertaken throughout the process by adopting a ﬂexible, mixed-method approach, situated within the principles of grounded theory (Knigge and Cope 2006; Charmaz 2011), for identifying and linking key areas of discussion. The discussions held with the group during CFRG1 and CFRG2 allowed Rollason to prepare a series of prototype interfaces for communication. The technical skills employed involved ﬂood risk mapping using GIS software and running two-dimensional ﬂood models to capture and present information. The prototypes were presented for group deliberation at CFRG3, with the group jointly choosing four concepts and then working together to produce a ﬁnal, shared version which represented the agreed outputs from the group. 4.2.3 Testing the prototypes outside the CFRG In the ﬁnal stage of the research the prototypes were presented to a larger focus group consisting of eight members of CFAG (new to the research), Rollason and one original member of the CFRG. The design and purpose of the concepts were outlined, and the focus group discussed what they thought of the ideas, how they might be used, and any alter- native ideas. The key aspects of this discussion were recorded during the focus group. No further amendment of the concepts was deemed necessary following discussions. 5 Current ﬂood risk communications: Do current approaches meet users’ needs? 5.1 Understanding local knowledge and experiences of ﬂooding The initial CFAG workshops and CFRG1 revealed that local participants had a wealth of experiential knowledge about ﬂooding. Many also had an understanding of wider catch- ment processes developed through hobbies, such as ﬁshing, or work. Despite this, few participants had expected the ﬂooding to occur despite the receipt of an ofﬁcial ﬂood warning (see Sect. 5.2), with many assuming that the recently completed ﬂood defences would protect them, as one participant stated: To be honest I didn’t really believe it, because we had such faith in the ﬂood defences that I actually didn’t think we’d ﬂood (Participant GW44) Based on this commonly held belief, several participants made the decision not to evacuate, even when contacted by the emergency services (Oliver 2016). That participants were surprised by the ﬂooding, and unsure of how to react to it, demonstrates that ﬂood communications had not developed the resilience of the Corbridge community to respond to ﬂooding after the 2005 ﬂood. These ﬁndings highlighted the need to examine in more detail how current ﬂood risk communications were used by participants and how they might be redesigned to better develop resilience. 5.2 Reﬂections on current methods of ﬂood risk communication The CFRG members were familiar with the principle communications provided by the EA and several had used them before the 2015 ﬂood. Table 3 summarises the group’s attitudes towards the current ﬂood communications, and these are expanded upon below. 123 1674 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 Table 3 Summary of the CFRG perspectives on existing ﬂood risk communications Communication What the group thought about current What the group wanted from a future type approaches approach Active - Useful but lacking in explanatory - Forecast water levels communications context and therefore difﬁcult to - Forecast of how serious a ﬂood is likely • Live gauges interpret to be • Flood warnings - A lack of future prediction makes it - Water level information viewable at a difﬁcult for people to know when and catchment scale how to respond to a potential ﬂood Passive - Too simplistic to be of any use except - Detailed impacts on individual communications when buying a house properties • All non-live - Complex probabilistic language is - Integration of active and passive ﬂood maps difﬁcult to interpret or place in context communications - Communication of ﬂood dynamics and timings rather than just extents to provide explanatory context Members classiﬁed the approaches into ‘passive’ (the static, online ﬂood maps) and ‘active’ communica- tions (the live river level gauges and ﬂood warnings) during the group discussion held during CFRG1 The CFRG felt that current approaches did not provide them with enough information to understand their ﬂood risk or make an informed decision of what to do when they received a ﬂood warning. In the case of the passive communications, the simple presentation of a ﬂood risk extent, lacking any information on how ﬂoods occur, provided them with no information that they could actually use to understand what the stated ﬂood risk meant. Participants stated they only used these maps for buying their homes or negotiating insurance; other than this participants thought that the maps told them nothing that they did not know already: For me, I know I’m in a high risk area so all it [the ﬂood map] would tell me is what I know already (Participant GW44) Some participants also expressed a lack of trust in how the maps had been produced, as one participant explained: Originally, when they did the ﬁrst online extreme ﬂood map they drew the lines through the centre of the church […], and I said ‘‘if it’s getting to that level, it’s coming down my chimney’’ (Participant AK97) The church at Corbridge sits approximately 16 m above the ﬂoodplain. The group member still linked this experience and his distrust of those original maps to the current ﬂood maps which appear superﬁcially the same. The advancements in modelling and data since the production of the early maps are not evident in the way the maps are communicated, and information on how they are actually produced is not publicly available. Participants were much more engaged with the active communications, particularly the online availability of real-time river levels. Several CFRG members noted that they wat- ched gauges upstream of Corbridge to try and judge how river levels might change at Corbridge in the near future. However, all participants expressed frustration with the lack of forecast river levels, which did not allow them to judge when ﬂooding might occur, or how severe ﬂooding of their homes might be in comparison with past events. This was a particular problem when participants received ﬂood alerts, preliminary warnings that ﬂooding might occur in the near future. These alerts, issued some time before formal ﬂood warnings, are intended to prompt people to begin monitoring local river levels and prepare 123 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 1675 to take protective action. However, participants felt that the lack of forecast information left them unable to judge what to do and when. Fundamentally, participants felt that the information they were being provided currently told them when to act, but did not provide them with enough information to judge what it was feasible for them to do, or to what extent they should take action. As one participant noted regarding the 2015 ﬂoods: When we put things up high, not thinking that when the river comes over the water was going to be so high it would upend all those things, so everything I put up high to save we lost (Participant GW44) 5.3 What information do users want in ﬂood communications? CFRG2 focused on the information that people actually wanted from ﬂood communica- tions to allow them to understand their risk and take action, setting aside for the moment the practicalities of whether or not such information could be provided. The discussions reﬂected their initial criticisms of existing communications, focusing particularly on understanding the severity of the risk, and therefore what degree of action they could and should take (Table 3). Ultimately, group members wanted ﬂood levels to be forecast, and a speciﬁc linkage between what these ﬂood levels meant for their properties and what they could do in response, for example how high they needed to lift valuables: What you need is the starkest information, […] this level [in the river] means that level [on the ﬂoodplain], means this amount of water in your house (Participant MJ33) I want to know […] if it’s that high, I’m going to do this, if it’s going to be like 2005, I need to do that, because that was much less ﬂooding (Participant GW44) These discussions encompassed both passive and active communications, with participants generally agreeing that active communications, such as the river level graphs, should be more speciﬁcally linked to the passive communications, which could provide more in- depth and detailed information on property-level impacts. Some group members were concerned that providing more complex information would be confusing and potentially undermine responses to ﬂooding. As a result, the group discussed how it was necessary to communicate ﬂooding dynamics, for example how, when, and where ﬂooding might occur, in order to be able to effectively interpret local ﬂood risk. Participants referred to this type of information as contextual information, examples of which included where and when ﬂood defences might be over-topped and how ﬂood water might ﬂow across the ﬂoodplain in order to ﬂood their properties. This potentially reﬂects the relatively complex dynamics of the 2015 ﬂood, where the principle areas of defence over-topping were out of sight of participants properties, and therefore ﬂooding occurred from an unexpected direction. 6 Working together on new approaches to communicating ﬂood risk Between CFRG2 and CFRG3 a series of draft prototypes of alternative passive and active ﬂood risk communications were developed. Six prototypes were originally produced, exploring different types of information that could be communicated and different ways of 123 1676 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 communicating it (Table 4). Although the CFRG2 discussions had considered participants’ information aspirations without considering the practicalities of implementing them, the group felt that it was important, in producing the prototypes, to consider how these ideas might be implemented in practice. Thus, where possible, proposals draw inspiration from existing examples of ﬂood risk communications in other countries, proposed methods drawn from the literature, or examples of communications drawn from other ﬁelds (Table 4). The prototypes were the focus of CFRG3. From the suite of initial concepts developed, the group considered four to be particularly useful (Fig. 4). These four were considered by Table 4 Summary of the initial prototypes for new passive and active ﬂood communications produced between CFRG2 and CFRG3 to communicate ﬂood risk in different ways Mock-up Focus of the approach Sources of inspiration 1a Catchment-wide Shows the status of river gauges across Fishpal website (Fishpal.com) gauge map the Tyne catchment indicating current status and rate of change of status where applicable 1b Catchment-wide Shows current ﬂood warnings and Existing ﬂood communications maps gauge map, status of gauges in a zoomed in and researcher experience zoomed in fashion example 2 Gauge graph Shows multiple gauges in a single Proposed alternative approaches were examples ‘dashboard’ based on dashboard Gauges display different options: 1. Current display options 1. Current approach 2. With research interpretation of 2. Current approach with historical CFRG suggestions hydrograph overlay 3. Proposed prediction options from 3. Current approach with future water Leedal et al. (2012) level prediction 4. Current approach with both (2) and (3) 3a Flood impacts Shows modelled ﬂood depths from a Existing ﬂood depth maps and explorer—ﬂood previous ﬂood event (2016) researcher experience depths 3b Flood impacts Shows modelled ﬂood depths and Flood depth maps and from researcher explorer—ﬂood explanatory context of key ﬂood interpretation of key information pathways pathways and timings. Shows linked requested by the CFRG members ﬂood hydrograph indicating water levels at which key mechanisms become active 3c Flood impacts Shows modelled ﬂood depths with USGS ﬂood inundation mapper explorer— indication of historical frequency of ‘historical ﬂooding’ information historical ﬂooding events of given magnitude (United States Geological Survey frequency 2016) 3d Flood levels Shows user variable water level USGS ﬂood inundation mapper ‘Flood explorer— indicator, demonstrating potential Inundation Map Library’ (United potential water ﬂood extent and depth at different States Geological Survey 2016; levels gauged water levels. Could be based Hogan Carr et al. 2016) on either local assessment of a digital elevation model, or a model outputs library (for example, see Hogan Carr et al. 2016) 123 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 1677 Fig. 4 Flood risk communication concepts adopted by the CFRG (concept numbers relate to details in Table 4). a CFRG Concept 1a showing the catchment-wide overview of the river gauging station status. b CFRG Concept 2 showing a proposed gauge dashboard allowing users to ‘pin’ multiple gauges of their choice into a single place for rapid review of how river levels upstream are responding to rainfall. c CFRG Concept 3b outlining a detailed assessment of historical ﬂood dynamics (in this case the December 2016 ﬂood event). d CFRG Concept 3d shows a user-selected water level from the Corbridge gauge and displays the corresponding extent and depth of ﬂooding based on simple water level interpolation 123 1678 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 Fig. 4 continued the local participants to give them the information they felt they needed to understand the risk of ﬂooding, but also to make informed decisions about what action to take, and when, for future ﬂoods. These four prototypes were further developed by the group 123 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 1679 during and after CFRG3, and those shown in Fig. 4 represent the ﬁnal, agreed outputs from the group. The four prototypes adopted by the group reﬂect the CFRG’s two core desires: 1. to be able to take responsibility for effectively monitoring their ﬂood risk and judge, through forecast information, how signiﬁcant any ﬂooding might be (Fig. 4a, b). 2. to have a detailed understanding of how ﬂooding might occur based on a knowledge of past ﬂooding dynamics (Fig. 4c) and to be able to link forecast ﬂooding information with the potential impacts on their own properties, allowing them to judge what action they could take in response. Figure 4a shows the catchment-wide overview of the river gauging station status, enabling users to quickly assess how the catchment is responding to rainfall. This prototype map is linked speciﬁcally to individual gauge records allowing users to select and explore speciﬁc sites in more detail. Inspired by the online angling tool ‘Fishpal’ (Fishpal.com) used by one of the CFRG participants, the group members felt this tool allowed them to easily monitor catchment-scale river response, using their knowledge of how rainfall in different areas of the catchment translated into ﬂood risk at Corbridge. Figure 4b outlines a prototype gauge dashboard which allows users to ‘pin’ multiple gauges of their choice into a single place for rapid review of how river levels upstream are responding to rainfall. This prototype answers group members annoyance with only being able to view one gauge at a time using the current system. This prototype also reﬂects different options for how gauged levels should be displayed, which were also discussed by the CFRG: (1) current approach adopted by the Environment Agency; (2) current approach with an overlay comparing current levels with a historical hydrograph; (3) current approach including predicted future water levels based on the method proposed by Leedal et al. (2012); or (4) current approach with both (2) and (3). CFRG participants felt that forecast water levels (as in 3) allowed them to plan protective actions in advance of ﬂooding occurring by anticipating when they would need to take certain actions, whilst historical comparisons (such as that shown in 2) allowed them to contextualise the sig- niﬁcance of predictions and therefore judge what level of protective action was necessary. Figure 4c presents a detailed assessment of historical ﬂood dynamics (in this case the December 2015 ﬂood event). In this prototype users would be able to select different elements to be provided with a detailed account of how ﬂooding occurred, and what action might have been taken in response. The hydrograph allows users to identify water levels at which different ﬂooding mechanisms begin to operate. CFRG members felt this map developed their understanding of how ﬂooding occurred and when, allowing them to understand the signiﬁcance of local gauged river levels. Figure 4d shows the simulated extent and depth of potential ﬂooding based on a user- selected water level for the Corbridge gauge. This prototype was inspired by the United States Geological Survey ‘Flood Inundation Map Library’ (United States Geological Survey 2016). Current and predicted water levels at Corbridge are displayed on the gauge display to allow users to link current and predicted water levels with their evaluation of potential impacts. CFRG participants felt this simple linkage between river levels and potential ﬂoodplain impacts was important for correctly interpreting what forecast river levels might mean and for demonstrating what degree of protective action was needed in different situations. 123 1680 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 7 Scaling up: testing the prototypes with the wider Corbridge Flood Action Group The four updated prototypes were presented to the wider CFAG at a group meeting and also at a smaller focus group. The prototypes were well received by the focus group (Table 5), with the underlying themes of understanding ﬂood dynamics, ﬂood impacts and future prediction being reﬂected in the discussions. All participants saw the potential for the active communications to enable them to take action to reduce the impact of future ﬂoods. The prototype in Fig. 4c provoked a different response to that of the CFRG. The focus group members thought that this map was not for them to use in preparing for ﬂooding, but instead was as a tool for them to use to engage more effectively with the EA about ongoing FRM on a more even information footing: I think that information is important for us to see, so that we can have intelligent conversations with the Environment Agency (focus group participant) Instead, to prepare for a ﬂood in the near future, the focus group participants preferred the simple water level model shown in Fig. 4d. This discussion highlights the complex interactions between individual users and the different approaches to communicating ﬂood risk and the difﬁculties of presenting only a small variety of information in order to represent a complex and dynamic threat such as ﬂooding. Table 5 Responses to the CFRG mock-ups from the Corbridge Flood Action Group Focus Group (CFRG mock-up numbers refer to Table 5) CFRG mock-up Summary of Flood Group Focus Group responses 1a Gauges overview • Very useful for understanding the overall view of the catchment • Can look at the whole river all at once and can be used to understand how large a ﬂood might be • Would need to be able to understand what the information meant for ﬂood impacts at Corbridge • Would like to see predictors of water level increases on the overview map 2 Gauge dashboard • Predicted and historical information both useful in indicating potential magnitude and also providing context for understanding what levels mean • Do not consider (4) to be too complex • Would like an indication of key trigger points, for example level at which defence over-topping begins • Uncertainty very important in predictions of water levels to avoid users minimising future warnings 3b Flood explorer, pathways • Provides a vivid contextual understanding of what occurred during and timings previous ﬂoods • Not necessary or interpreting current or future events, gauged, real- time information much better for this • Much more useful for engaging with the EA regarding ﬂood management activities 3d Flood explorer, user- • Very useful for understanding ﬂood impacts and allowing users to link simulated ﬂood depths gauged information with potential ﬂood depths • More useful than the historical pathways and timings idea 123 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 1681 8 Discussion In this section we bring together the experience of the CFRG experiment with theories of risk communication. We argue that participation such as that demonstrated by the CFRG must play a role in developing future ﬂood communications, especially in light of the shift from ﬂood defence to ﬂood management and the resulting distribution of FRM responsi- bilities onto those at risk (Butler and Pidgeon 2011). Such involvement will enable responsible agencies to better communicate ﬂood risk in new ways, empowering those at risk to apply their local knowledge and experience to improve their resilience in the face of ﬂood events. 8.1 Implications for current ﬂood risk communications The research undertaken has shown that there are severe limitations to current ﬂood risk communication approaches which prioritise simple threat messages. The PMT model (Rogers 1975) can be used to analyse the responses of the CFRG to the existing ﬂood communications and their desire for alternative approaches, focusing particularly on the ideas of the threat and coping appraisal (Grothmann and Reusswig 2006). The CFRG saw no useful information in the existing passive maps, which suggests that this approach does not support the development of threat appraisal. The lack of information on ﬂood dynamics also provides no basis on which users can judge for themselves how communicated risk information might translate into an impact on their own property. In this context, threat appraisal is reliant on previous experiences, whether personal or vicarious. In the Cor- bridge context this wholly underestimated the threat, resulting in a non-protective response based on ‘wishful thinking’ regarding the recently completed ﬂood defence works. Hop- kins and Warburton (2015) refer to this paradox as the ‘prison of experience’, in which infrequent or unrepresentative events imprint themselves into subjective knowledge as representative experiences to be drawn on in the future. CFRG participants’ desire for detailed information on past local ﬂooding characteristics or the simple ﬂood depth sim- ulator can be seen as an attempt to place their experiences in a wider context, breaking out of the prison of experience and establishing a more holistic understanding. Both the passive and active communications assessments also suggest a failure of current approaches to establish a meaningful coping appraisal, particularly in relation to the judgement of how much time participants in this study had to react and what degree of action they should, or could, take. Several participants expressed surprise at the prototype ﬂood map showing ﬂood dynamics, which highlighted over-topping of upstream defences approximately 4 h prior to property ﬂooding occurring. These participants had no under- standing from the current ﬂood maps (which do not show information such as areas of potential over-topping) that ﬂooding might either be inevitable or occurring, or that they potentially had several hours in which to prepare or act. Neither were participants able to accurately judge the degree to which they should prepare based on the live gauged information, since this online information does not currently offer information on predicted water levels. This led to negative coping appraisals and the adoption of non-protective behaviours, where participants either ignored what might be happening or took ineffective action. In this context, the Group’s desire to see whole-catchment-scale information, which incorporates future predictions, can be seen as building not just their personal appraisal of the threat, but also their coping appraisal. Understanding the threat allows them to feel in control of their own ﬂood risk situation and to make their own decisions, rather than 123 1682 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 reacting blindly to ﬂood warnings; a situation that participants said left them very stressed and uncertain. 8.2 Future ﬂood risk communications: participation as a vehicle for developing resilience through ﬂood literacy Viewed in the context of the PMT, current ﬂood risk communications could therefore be judged to be counterproductive; they attempt to provoke a heightened perception of ﬂood risk, without providing the information required by users to establish strong, positive threat and coping appraisals. Without developing coping appraisals, users adopt the kinds of non- protective behaviours proposed by Bubeck et al. (2012), ignoring, rejecting or misinter- preting ofﬁcial risk information to make them feel more secure in the face of extreme uncertainty (Harries 2008). These behaviours reduce community resilience by increasing the shock of events when they occur unexpectedly or do not match individuals previous experiences; increase individual hazard through refusals to evacuate; or foster learned helplessness when believed protective behaviours fail or have no effect. To encourage positive threat and coping appraisals future ﬂood communications need to move away from the simplistic ﬂood threat messages that are currently cascaded to people at risk. Instead, and as the four prototypes created here demonstrate, communications should provide more detailed, holistic hazard information. This type of information, rather than relying on raising risk perception alone, seeks to develop a local ‘ﬂood literacy’ by fostering local knowledge about ﬂooding. Flood literacy repositions those at risk as active agents in managing local ﬂood risk, able to make their own judgements and decisions on risk and protective behaviour, rather relying on expert knowledge (Willis et al. 2011). By empowering people in this way, ﬂood literacy develops local resilience in a way in which simple, threat-based communications cannot: it provides at-risk individuals and commu- nities with the information necessary to (1) assess their personal level of risk and how they might be affected, (2) determine when a ﬂood might be about to occur and how it might affect them, and (3) determine appropriate actions by which they might mitigate potential ﬂood impacts. To encourage effective ﬂood literacy through improved ﬂood risk communications, there is a need to re-establish resilience as a process grounded in relationships, social learning and dialogue (Twigger-Ross et al. 2011, 2014; Benson et al. 2016), rather than ‘hard’ infrastructure or property (McBain et al. 2010). Participatory approaches offer a potential avenue through which the reinvigoration of resilience in this fashion might occur. The results of our research demonstrate the importance of working together with end-users in developing new solutions to ﬂood risk problems, similar to the ﬁndings of previous participatory research (Landstrom et al. 2011; Lane et al. 2011; Whitman et al. 2015; Bracken et al. 2016). The practices of participatory working help to unify local and ofﬁcial perspectives on ﬂood risk and develop local capacity to understand and take action (Pain 2004) in ways that established approaches to communication have been shown not to be able to achieve. 123 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 1683 9 Conclusions The last three decades have seen rapid changes in our approaches to addressing ﬂood risk, and a professional acceptance that ﬂooding cannot be prevented and must instead be managed. Societal resilience to ﬂoods has emerged as a key pillar of this new approach to ‘living with ﬂoods’. Changes in policy have increasingly focused on the resilience of critical infrastructure, and developing community resilience has increasingly been under- taken through an educational model of risk communication. However, research suggests that this approach is failing to develop individual and community capacities for under- standing and responding to ﬂoods in a resilient manner. The research presented here has demonstrated the application of participatory approa- ches to exploring the linkage between ﬂood risk communication, individual behaviour and generating resilience. We have worked together with a competency group drawn from a ﬂood-affected community to understand how they use and interpret current ﬂood risk communications, what information is important to them in understanding and responding to ﬂoods in a resilient manner and how could information be better communicated. Our conclusions are as follows: 1. Current approaches to ﬂood risk communications fail to meet user needs in understanding ﬂood risk or allowing personal judgements of how and when to act. Through a reliance on communicating simple, threat-based messages rather than developing in-depth understanding, current communications heighten threat appraisal, but diminish coping appraisal. This promotes non-protective behaviours, either through wishful thinking and over-reliance on management organisations, or through denial and learned helplessness. 2. Users desire a greater range of information about ﬂoods, including locally speciﬁc information on ﬂood dynamics, which would allow them to understand their personal ﬂood risk situation and how ﬂoods will affect them. Delivering this information is vital to enable those at risk to judge what protective actions they can take, and when they should take action. Our results demonstrate that users desire forecast information beyond what is provided currently. Without forecasts of river levels or ﬂood extents, users are unable to judge the potential severity of future ﬂooding, which means they are reluctant or unwilling to take action blindly. 3. There are a great variety of different perspectives on how ﬂood risk should be communicated and the purpose of these communications, even within a small area. The complexity of the risk message–behaviour interface means that one message cannot be tailored to all perspectives. We propose a communications model which is instead focused on the development of ‘ﬂood literacy’, where communities and individuals are empowered to develop their own knowledge about local ﬂood risk and how they can act to manage it. 4. Flood literacy can reinvigorate ﬂood communications as a tool for developing ﬂood resilience by establishing ﬂood communications as a two-way dialogue focused on the development of shared, locally grounded knowledge. Participatory working approaches represent a vehicle through which communications and resilience can be linked. Resilience and participation are both grounded in the principles of trust, the development of relationships, and the co-production of knowledge and solutions. Participation therefore has the potential to offer a solution, re-imagine our approaches to communication, integrate alternative perspectives and place ‘knowledge consumers’ at the heart of the process. 123 1684 Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1665–1686 5. We propose four co-produced prototype user interfaces which can deliver the information needed to help those at risk develop ﬂood literacy. The challenge of quantifying how new and innovative modes of knowledge creation, communications and relationship-building can provide valuable opportunities for bettering ﬂood risk management remains. However, the approaches described here have important implications for how we communicate ﬂood risk and how we work alongside those living with risk to develop more ﬂood-resilient communities. Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank the members of the Corbridge Flood Action Group for their participation in this study, and particularly those who gave of their time to be involved in the Flood Research Group. We would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their comments which helped shape the ﬁnal manuscript. Funding This work was supported by the Natural Environments Research Council [Grant Number NE/ L002590/1]. Data presented in this manuscript can be obtained by contacting ER. Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Inter- national License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. 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