Natural Hazards

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 397–414 | Cite as

Enhancing the human benefits of flood warnings

  • Dennis Parker
  • Sue Tapsell
  • Simon McCarthy
Original Paper


This article evaluates some of the factors which limit the human benefits of hazard warnings, with specific reference to flood warnings, and we conclude by suggesting ways of enhancing these benefits. We focus mainly upon the economic benefits generated by flood damage savings by households that warnings facilitate; health effects of flooding and flood warnings; and the effects of warnings on loss of life and physical injury. Our results, based partly upon surveys of flooded households, reveal that economic benefits are currently more limited than we previously thought, but that for several reasons these benefits are likely to be under-estimated. We argue that the intangible benefits to public health, safety and security must also be taken into account in decisions about investment in flood warnings. In England and Wales, the public’s response to flood warnings is currently low and is a key benefit-limiting factor which could begin to undermine a recent major shift in national flood risk management policy towards a more people-centred, portfolio approach in which changing human behaviour is viewed as important. Using a trans-disciplinary approach, we discuss the evidence and literature surrounding this poor response, and suggest a number of ways in which the issue may be addressed in future.


Flood risk perception Risk communication Flood warnings Warning response Damage-savings Health impacts Loss of life impacts Public trust 



The authors acknowledge, and thank for permission to publish research results, the following research funders: Defra/Environment Agency (Projects FD 2014, FD 2317 and FD2005), European Commission FLOODsite project (GOCE-CT-2004-505420), Environment Agency (Lower Thames Preconsultation Social Survey); and Sylvia Tunstall, Edmund Penning-Rowsell, Amalia Fernandez-Bilboa and Theresa Wilson for contributions to the development of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Flood Hazard Research CentreMiddlesex UniversityLondonEN3 4SFUK

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