Organisational operational response and strategic decision making for long term flood preparedness in urban areas (SESAME)

Project Funder: UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Lead organisation: Dr Graham Coates, University of Durham

Project duration: 36 months (December 2012 - November 2015)

Project team/collaborators

  • WP1: Dr Graham Coates, University of Durham, Professor Nigel Wright, University of Leeds and Chunhui (Jenny) Li
  • WP2: Dr Martina McGuinness, University of Sheffield and Dr Noel Johnson
  • WP3: Dr Dabo Guan, University of Leeds
  • WP4: Professor Lindsey McEwen, UWE Bristol and Dr Tim Harries, Kingston University

Project aims

Many of the UK’s 4.5 million SMEs are exposed to the effects of flooding. As SMEs represent almost half of total business turnover in the country, their protection is a vital part of the drive for greater climate change resilience. However, few have measures in place to ensure the continuity of their activities during a flood and its aftermath.

This project aims to develop tools that encourage businesses to discover ways of becoming more resilient to floods and to appreciate how adaptation can help protect them from ongoing flood risk.

Taking some of the mystery out of flooding and flood risk, it aims to make it possible to deal with this with the same business acumen that enables the UK’s SMEs to deal with the many other challenges they face.

Project summary

Flooding presents a significant and growing challenge to the United Kingdom and the wider world. In the UK, the 2000 floods were the worst since 1947, and the 2007 floods resulted in the greatest loss of essential services since World War II. Given that milder, wetter winters and localised extreme weather events are likely to be a growing feature of climate patterns, this threat is likely to grow. In fact, some estimates suggest that by 25 years time annual UK flood damage could stand at £25bn.

The flooding of an organisation's premises causes loss, disruption and distress for staff, clients and owners and also impacts upon the wider economy. To reduce these negative effects, organisations in at-risk areas benefit from how to prepare for such events. Currently, businesses and not-for-profit groups rarely have proper plans in place for ensuring the continuity of their activities. Work Package four of the project will conduct empirical research (through open interviews with business owners and local networks in four case study areas) into the behaviours of SMEs, and, explore their interactions with other organisations such as emergency responders, insurers and customers.

This Work Package will also iteratively develop and test (with businesses and agencies) a digital learning tool that will provide organisations with practical information in a format that engages users in a tailored and active learning process. This will be co-developed through working with a Stakeholder Competency Group and a group of local businesses in tandem, so that the whole process will be participatory in nature. This process will inform the most useful design, platform and content. Drawing on the multidisciplinary skills of researchers from engineering, hydrology, economics, business and the behavioural/social sciences, this innovative approach will develop a model that can give private, public and third-sector organisations the confidence, understanding and information necessary to make their organisations financially, physically and operationally more resilient to flooding.

Project outcomes

The outcomes from Work Package 4, on adaptive learning and behaviour change:

  • A co-produced learning tool for business.
  • Papers and other written outputs for a range of audiences – business, agency/ practitioner and academic.
  • An accessible web log that captures the research processes.
  • Talking heads/digital stories articulating learning around adaptation and behaviour change in business in relation to flood risk.
  • A network of business stakeholders that will have longevity beyond the project.

Further information

For further information see the SESAME website.

Please contact Professor Lindsey McEwen for more information.

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