Articles | Volume 13, issue 7
Research article
29 Jul 2013
Research article |  | 29 Jul 2013

Exploring local risk managers' use of flood hazard maps for risk communication purposes in Baden-Württemberg

S. Kjellgren

Abstract. In response to the EU Floods Directive (2007/60/EC), flood hazard maps are currently produced all over Europe, reflecting a wider shift in focus from "flood protection" to "risk management", for which not only public authorities but also populations at risk are seen as responsible. By providing a visual image of the foreseen consequences of flooding, flood hazard maps can enhance people's knowledge about flood risk, making them more capable of an adequate response. Current literature, however, questions the maps' awareness raising capacity, arguing that their content and design are rarely adjusted to laypeople's needs. This paper wants to complement this perspective with a focus on risk communication by studying how these tools are disseminated and marketed to the public in the first place. Judging from communication theory, simply making hazard maps publicly available is unlikely to lead to attitudinal or behavioral effects, since this typically requires two-way communication and material or symbolic incentives. Consequently, it is relevant to investigate whether and how local risk managers, who are well positioned to interact with the local population, make use of flood hazard maps for risk communication purposes. A qualitative case study of this issue in the German state of Baden-Württemberg suggests that many municipalities lack a clear strategy for using this new information tool for hazard and risk communication. Four barriers in this regard are identified: perceived disinterest/sufficient awareness on behalf of the population at risk; unwillingness to cause worry or distress; lack of skills and resources; and insufficient support. These barriers are important to address – in research as well as in practice – since it is only if flood hazard maps are used to enhance local knowledge resources that they can be expected to contribute to social capacity building.