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Powerful decision support to minimise the impact of floods


Catastrophic floods in Central Europe in the summer of 2002 killed 110 people and caused more than 15 billion euros of damage. A powerful Decision Support System (DSS) promises to minimise the impact of severe flooding in the future.

Developed under the IST programme-funded project Ramflood, which ended in March, the system to assess the risk of flooding and improve emergency management has continued to be used at its two trial sites in Spain and Greece amid plans to extend its implementation to other flood-prone areas across Europe. The Ramflood DSS has also been incorporated into civil engineering training programmes.

“The uptake has surpassed our expectations,” notes project manager Javier Piazzese at CIMNE in Spain. “It is currently being used by the Catalan water management authority ACA, and by SPAP in Attica, an association of 15 municipalities responsible for defining policies to protect the Greek region from natural disasters.”

Those two regions, both of which have suffered severe floods in the past, hosted trials of the Ramflood system last year that served to validate its ability to accurately assess the risk of flooding and the effects rising water levels would have on urban, agricultural and industrial areas.

The Web-based DSS operates in real-time, drawing on environmental and geo-physical data from earth observation, satellite positioning systems, in-situ sensors and geo-referenced information. Users input hydraulic variables regarding the time and the flow of a river and the system produces hydrological and risk-assessment maps indicating how fast and where a flood would spread, the height of water in different locations and the duration of the flood. The output is presented in a graphics interface through the use of CIMNE’s GiD pre- and post-processor that permits users to view the flood area three dimensionally.

“By being able to simulate the effects of a flood in real-time it is possible to prepare for possible hazards in advance and implement risk management protocols such as evacuation plans and flood-containment measures,” Piazzese explains. “The DSS can also be used as and when the risk of flooding increases by inputting changes as they occur, and it can also be employed in flood-prone areas to determine the best way to construct new infrastructure projects.”

The system, though initially being used by local and regional authorities, could also be employed by international bodies and non-governmental organisations working in regions at a high risk of flooding. It also has applications in the private sector for companies based in flood-prone areas and insurance groups attempting to determine the probability of flood damage affecting policy holders.

Tara Morris | alfa
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