Water Resources Management

, Volume 26, Issue 10, pp 2927–2950 | Cite as

The Fallibility of Flood Warning Chains: Can Europe’s Flood Warnings Be Effective?



Taking a broad overview, this paper explores recent evidence on flood forecasting, warning communication and public warning response in Europe between 1995 and 2010. Key flood warning chain deficiencies are identified together with the effect these deficiencies have on flood warning effectiveness and loss reduction. Europe-wide data on flood forecasting and warning communication are examined alongside recent in-depth research evidence from various parts of Europe on flood warning receipt, warning response and warning effectiveness. Using the latest flood warning benefit assessment methodologies, the results of case studies of flood loss avoidance through warnings reveal the damage saving potential of flood warning. Although these savings are significant, currently they are inhibited by a series of shortcomings which transfer through the warning chain limiting warning impact. Flood forecasting, warning and warning response systems are inherently fallible and so it is doubtful that they will ever be consistently effective. Sole reliance upon them to protect life and property carries inevitable risks and governments should not be surprised when flood warnings are only partially effective. Although Europe’s flood forecasting and warnings have been improving, the scope for further improvement is large. Extending flood forecasting and warning coverage, extending warning lead times by combining meteorological and hydrological forecasts, building greater redundancy into warning communication, and crucially also building it into cooperative strategies designed to engage at risk communities in flood warning response, are all likely to be important.


Flood forecasting Flood warning communication Warning response effectiveness Loss reduction Europe 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Flood Hazard Research CentreMiddlesex UniversityLondonUK

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