Analysis of the robustness of the French flood warning system: a study based on the 2009 flood of the Garonne River

Abstract

The reorganisation of the French flood warning system initiated in 2002 expresses the State’s motivation to improve the anticipation and reactivity of crisis management services. However, the example of the 2009 flood in the Garonne Marmandaise territory highlights vulnerabilities in institutional warnings, resulting partly from the reorganisation of the flood warning system. Although this flood was perceived as ordinary by the mayors, several communities were flooded and became isolated. The present study focuses on adjustments carried out by stakeholders during the flood warning process. The concept of robustness is applied to the French flood warning system through the analysis of (1) the resources mobilised by stakeholders to process the warning, (2) the constraints that hinder their actions, (3) the interactions and the efforts of coordination that link stakeholders within the system. Our results indicate that the robustness of the flood warning system partially rests upon the coping capacities present at a local level. Indeed, these coping capacities allowed institutional vulnerabilities to be overcome during the 2009 event. In addition, feedback engaged after the 2009 flood favoured interactions and sharing of lay and scientific knowledge among the French flood warning system stakeholders. These interactions reinforced both the French flood warning system’s robustness and coping capacities at a local level.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Service de Prévision des Crues.

  2. 2.

    Service Central d’Hydrométéorologie et d’Appui à la Prévision des Inondations.

  3. 3.

    Service d’Annonce des Crues.

  4. 4.

    France is made up of 101 départements that are divided into 36,700 municipalities. Each municipality is governed by a mayor and a municipal council.

  5. 5.

    Loi n°2004-811 de modernisation de la sécurité civile de 2004—Law n°2004-811 about the Civil Defence Modernisation.

  6. 6.

    ≃21 % of the hydrographical network is monitored by the SCHAPI-SPCs in 2011.

  7. 7.

    The flood warning dissemination system is ensured by automatic warning systems.

  8. 8.

    Départemental Directorate of Territories in charge of the land-use planning measures, natural hazards prevention (…) at the départemental level.

  9. 9.

    Emergency Preparedness & Response Organisation/Organisation de la Réponse de SÉcurité Civile.

  10. 10.

    The centralisation of the emergency services process committed to by the law of 3rd May 1996 regrouped in a same départemental public structure (SDIS) the firefighter services which previously depended on municipalities or inter communal structures.

  11. 11.

    “Réserve communale de sécurité civile" defined in the law of 2004.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to acknowledge the funding support provided by the French National Research Agency (ANR ANR 09-RISK_001 AMAC) and all the interviewees. The authors also gratefully acknowledge researchers Laurence Créton-Cazanave and Brice Barret for their fruitful comments. Finally, we wish to thank the reviewers, whose constructive comments helped us to significantly improve this paper.

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Correspondence to F. Daupras.

Appendix

Appendix

Indicator components for each index Weight
Risk Evaluation Index (REI)
REI1 Historical flood data archives 0.2
REI2 Hazard evaluation 0.3
REI3 Hazard mapping 0.2
REI3 Vulnerability and risk assessment 0.3
Risk Prevention Index (RPI)
RPI1 Public awareness 0.4
  RPI1a Institutional informative document about risks  
RPI1b Municipal newspapers  
RPI1c Regular information meetings  
RPI1d Meetings with new inhabitants  
RPI1e Museum or cultural events dealing with water culture  
RPI2 Evolution of the built environment between 1971 and 2009 in the floodplain 0.2
  RPI2a % > 30%  
RPI2b 21 < % < 29  
RPI2c 6 < % < 20  
RPI2d 1 < % < 5  
RPI2e 0 < % < 1  
RPI2f % < 0  
RPI3 Implementation of hazard event control & protection techniques 0.4
  RPI3a Very high  
  RPI3b High  
  RPI3c Low  
  RPI3d Very low  
Crisis Preparedness Index (CPI)
CPI1 External communication resources 0.2
CPI2 Local preventive organisation involving riverside residents 0.2
  CPI2a High level of organisation with citizen participation  
CPI2b Medium level of organisation with citizen participation  
CPI2c No organisation and no citizen participation  
CPI3 Emergency management plan and implementation of warning systems 0.3
  CPI3a Action plan mapping  
CPI3b Businesses and critical infrastructure referenced as exposed to floods  
CPI3c Riverside residents relocation identified  
CPI3d Vigicrues mentioned in the existing emergency action plan  
CPI3e Telephone directory of vulnerable inhabitants  
CPI4 Material resources 0.3
  CPI4a Presence of boats in the community  
CPI4b Fire station existing in the municipality  
CPI4c Generators in case of power cuts  
CPI4d The crisis unit protected from major floods  
Flood Management Index (FMI)
FMI1 Anticipatory protection actions to infrastructure and riverside residents 0.3
  FMI1a High anticipation before floods (with or without official alert)  
FMI1b Medium anticipation before floods (after receiving the official alert)/Real-time action during the flood without official alert  
FMI1c Monitoring of the event without action after the flood starts without official alert/Actions undertaken after the flood starts and the official alert reception  
FMI1d No reactivity after the official alert coming before the flood starts  
  FMI1e No reactivity after the flood starts occurring before the official alert and no reactivity after the alert  
FMI2 Mayors’ Flood analysis 0.4
  FMI2a Use of information resulting from Vigicrues  
FMI2b Using text message and/or email coming from the départemental crisis management service  
FMI2c Using collective assessment with riverside residents  
FMI2d Empirical assessment by outdoor watchfulness of the Garonne river  
FMI3 Riverside residents alert 0.3
  FMI3a Outdoor sirens  
FMI3b Display point at the council  
FMI3c Telephone call  
FMI3d Door to door  

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Daupras, F., Antoine, J.M., Becerra, S. et al. Analysis of the robustness of the French flood warning system: a study based on the 2009 flood of the Garonne River. Nat Hazards 75, 215–241 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-014-1318-x

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Keywords

  • Flood warning
  • France
  • Robustness
  • Coping capacities
  • Vulnerability
  • Collective action