Articles | Volume 15, issue 3
Research article
10 Mar 2015
Research article |  | 10 Mar 2015

After the extreme flood in 2002: changes in preparedness, response and recovery of flood-affected residents in Germany between 2005 and 2011

S. Kienzler, I. Pech, H. Kreibich, M. Müller, and A. H. Thieken

Abstract. In the aftermath of the severe flooding in Central Europe in August 2002, a number of changes in flood policies were launched in Germany and other European countries, aiming at improved risk management. The question arises as to whether these changes have already had an impact on the residents' ability to cope with floods, and whether flood-affected private households are now better prepared than they were in 2002. Therefore, computer-aided telephone interviews with private households in Germany that suffered from property damage due to flooding in 2005, 2006, 2010 or 2011 were performed and analysed with respect to flood awareness, precaution, preparedness and recovery. The data were compared to a similar investigation conducted after the flood in 2002.

After the flood in 2002, the level of private precautions taken increased considerably. One contributing factor is the fact that, in general, a larger proportion of people knew that they were at risk of flooding. The best level of precaution was found before the flood events in 2006 and 2011. The main reason for this might be that residents had more experience with flooding than residents affected in 2005 or 2010. Yet, overall, flood experience and knowledge did not necessarily result in building retrofitting or flood-proofing measures, which are considered as mitigating damages most effectively. Hence, investments still need to be stimulated in order to reduce future damage more efficiently.

Early warning and emergency responses were substantially influenced by flood characteristics. In contrast to flood-affected people in 2006 or 2011, people affected by flooding in 2005 or 2010 had to deal with shorter lead times and therefore had less time to take emergency measures. Yet, the lower level of emergency measures taken also resulted from the people's lack of flood experience and insufficient knowledge of how to protect themselves. Overall, it was noticeable that these residents suffered from higher losses. Therefore, it is important to further improve early warning systems and communication channels, particularly in hilly areas with rapid-onset flooding.

Final-revised paper