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A Society-First Approach to Flood Mitigation
56th Floodplain Management Australia Conference (2016)
  • Neil Dufty
Flood mitigation involves the lessening or limitation of the adverse impacts of floods. The adverse impacts of floods often cannot be prevented fully, but their scale or severity can be substantially lessened by various strategies and actions.
Floodplain managers tend to mainly use engineering techniques, urban planning and hazard-resistant construction for flood mitigation. After these strategies and actions have been put in place, the residual or unmanaged risk is then transferred to communities and emergency agencies for preparedness, response and recovery.
However, there is compelling evidence from around the world that shows that disasters are socially produced and their origins lie within the transferred residual risk. The causes of disasters are not found in nature, or the limitations of engineering and planning, but rather in the workings of society itself. Therefore, a key element of mitigating future flood disasters is to better understand the social forces that produce them, and then to take action to address those forces.
This paper explores psychological and sociological evidence from around the world to identify key society-first flood mitigation strategies. It finds that flood mitigation options should include the formation of social capital (trust, shared norms, networks), capacity building (e.g. leadership skills) and psychological resilience building (including for vulnerable populations).
There are several implications for floodplain managers related to these findings including the need to:
·         Work with psychologists, sociologists and local council community development staff to couple existing flood mitigation strategies with society-first ones. This will further minimise residual risk in flood-prone communities.
·         Broaden the scope of content in community flood education and engagement programs to include learning about the value of connected communities and ways to build personal resilience to help cope with a flood event.
  • flood,
  • mitigation,
  • disaster,
  • society,
  • psychology,
  • sociology,
  • resilience
Publication Date
May 18, 2016
Citation Information
Neil Dufty. "A Society-First Approach to Flood Mitigation" 56th Floodplain Management Australia Conference (2016)
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