6. Engaging with Stakeholders
Public awareness, participation and community support are essential components of sustainable flood risk management. Public participation can not only raise awareness of flood risk, it can also inform decisions and contribute to the successful implementation of actions.
Individuals, businesses and communities can play an important local role in flood management by acting as their own first line of defence against flooding. These actions can play an important role in complementing and supporting the work undertaken by SEPA and the responsible authorities.
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This section provides guidance on:
- improving access to information on flood risk, including flood warning, flood maps and other resources;
- improving access to information on the steps that individuals can take to protect their families, homes and businesses from flooding;
- improving awareness of actions that can increase flood risk and alternative options, for instance using permeable paving;
- Raising awareness among land managers about the contribution they can make to flood risk management.
Improving access to information
Public engagement and participation needs to be ongoing and regularly refreshed, seeking to attract attention and changes in behaviour without causing undue alarm. At all times, it must be based on clear, accurate information, and presented in simple and engaging language.
In collaboration with the Scottish Flood Forum and the Insurance Industry, SEPA, and the responsible authorities should help local community groups take some responsibility for their own awareness campaigns and flood preparation.
Using flood maps
Flood maps are a powerful tool for communicating complex flooding information. For instance flood outlines can show predictions of where flood waters would go under different flooding scenarios.
The flood risk management planning process will generate an extensive resource of information on flooding and its impacts including new maps. It is important that the public are given appropriate access to relevant information. Care must be taken to ensure that the information available to the public is of value and suited to their needs.
As flood maps and other similar resources become more sophisticated, for example, through consideration of multiple sources of flooding and their impacts. SEPA and the responsible authorities will need to ensure that information is presented in a way which is clear and understandable for a non-technical user.
SEPA is Scotland's flood warning authority with responsibility for warning and informing the public and strategic partners on the threat of flooding through the Floodline service.
There should be continued emphasis on improving this flood warning service, and this should include maintaining and improving links to other awareness raising initiatives.
Perceptions and attitudes to flood risk
To help target awareness raising work, SEPA and the responsible authorities should work to develop a more comprehensive understanding of public perceptions and attitudes to flood risk. In undertaking this work, particular attention should be given to understanding how past experiences or the lack of them colour perceptions of flood risk.
Information on perceptions and attitudes to flood risk should be reviewed periodically to test the performance and success of awareness raising and other campaigns.
An active and planned approach to public participation
Public engagement and participation in flood risk management decisions will help reassure the public that sustainable actions are being selected. In taking forward public engagement and participation, SEPA and the responsible authorities should focus on:
- building understanding and trust locally, particularly through inclusive decision making;
- involving local residents, land managers and key community representatives in the planning process;
- clarifying the responsibilities on both public bodies and home and business owners and the important supportive role of voluntary organisations; and
- agreeing priorities and setting realistic expectations - to best achieve the needs of those with different interests.
- Raising long term awareness of flood risk and its sustainable management through schools and colleges including those that serve the land management sectors.
To support this work, SEPA and the responsible authorities, in liaison with the Scottish Government, the Scottish Flood Forum and other relevant organisations, should develop and begin application of a national engagement and communication strategy.
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The strategy should support the adoption of clear and consistent messages at a national and local level, be pro-active and encourage greater public involvement. The strategy should not be viewed as a one off exercise; instead it is about creating an on-going process of engagement that can be applied in all areas of flood risk management.
The strategy should help ensure that the public:
- are provided with accessible and comprehensible information on flood risk and flood risk management;
- are aware of actions being taken by SEPA and the responsible authorities to manage flood risk
- have appropriate expectations for the level of flood protection that can be provided;
- have access to information on the consequences of key flood risk management decisions;
- have clear opportunities to communicate their views and priorities for flood risk management;
- have confidence that their views and priorities are fully considered in decision-making processes;
- understand the basis on which decisions have been made.
Promoting and supporting actions by individuals and communities
Investing in flood protection schemes and other actions to reduce flood risk is an important part of protecting Scotland's communities and businesses from the impacts of flooding. However, it will never be possible to eliminate flood risk. Actions by individuals, business and communities will play an important role in complementing and supporting the work undertaken by SEPA and the responsible authorities.
Individuals already take responsibility for managing many risks they face in their day to day lives, for example, to protect themselves from fire by using smoke detectors, fire blankets and fire extinguishers. A similar approach should be encouraged for flood risk, with individuals acting as their own first line of defence against flooding.
Simple steps include keeping abreast of flood warning information, checking flood maps to see whether homes are in flood risk areas, making a plan of actions that should be taken in the event of a flood. Steps can also be taken to reduce the damage caused by flood waters, for instance by installing flood proofing products to homes and businesses.
SEPA and the responsible authorities need to support actions by individuals by improving access to information on the steps that individuals can take to protect their family's homes and businesses from flooding. This could include showcasing best practise and promoting self help guides, particularly amongst those who have not experienced a significant flood event.
SEPA and responsible authorities should encourage land managers to contribute to flood risk management through altering land management practices in areas identified as important for this purpose. This can be done in a number of ways, for instance through demonstration sites, representative bodies, advisory organisations and trusted intermediaries such as the Tweed forum. Appropriate financial and non monetary incentives should also be made available to encourage voluntary agreement.
In promoting these messages and actions, the aim should be to minimise the damage caused by flooding and while also improving the ability of individuals, businesses and communities to recover quickly and fully from an incident of flooding.
Improving awareness of actions that can increase flood risk
Small changes to how land within and around properties, and businesses is managed could, over time, make a substantial contribution to increase flood risk. In urban areas, simple actions like paving over gardens can have a major cumulative impact on flooding. Similarly, actions in rural areas, which include actions to maintain watercourses, can cause problems elsewhere.
SEPA and the responsible authorities should promote awareness of the cumulative impact that individuals and business can have on flooding and the positive actions that can be taken to prevent and reduce these effects.