Articles | Volume 11, issue 2
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 309–321, 2011
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 309–321, 2011

  03 Feb 2011

03 Feb 2011

Economic motivation of households to undertake private precautionary measures against floods

H. Kreibich1, S. Christenberger2, and R. Schwarze2,3 H. Kreibich et al.
  • 1Helmholtz Centre Potsdam German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), Section Hydrology, Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Leopold-Franzens-University of Innsbruck (UIBK), Faculty of Economics and Statistics, Innsbruck, Austria
  • 3Climate Service Center – CSC, Hamburg, Germany

Abstract. Flood damage is on the increase due to a combination of growing vulnerability and a changing climate. This trend can be mitigated only through significantly improved flood risk management which, alongside the efforts of public authorities, will include improvements in the mitigation measures adopted by private households. Economically "reasonable" efforts to self-insure and self-protect should be expected from households before the government steps in with publicly-funded relief programmes. To gain a deeper understanding of the benefits of households' precautionary measures, telephone interviews with private home owners were conducted in the Elbe and Danube catchments in Germany after the floods of 2002 and again after the floods in 2005 and 2006. Only detached, solid single-family houses were included in this study, which is based on 759 interviews. In addition, market-based cost assessments were solicited based on a "model building". Expert interviews and a literature review – including catalogues and price lists for building materials and household appliances – were used as back-up information for the cost assessments. The comparison of costs and benefits shows that large investments, such as building a sealed cellar, are only economically efficient if the building is flooded very frequently, that is, if it is located in a high flood risk area. In such areas it would be preferable in economic terms not to build a new house at all – or else to build a house without a cellar. Small investments, however, such as oil tank protection, can prevent serious damage at low cost. Such investments are still profitable even if the building is flooded every 50 years or less on average. It could be argued that these low-cost measures should be made mandatory through the enforcement of building codes. Financial incentives built into insurance contracts coupled with limits set on governmental relief programmes would provide an economic motivation for people to invest in precautionary measures.

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