Insights from the BRIC Project Closing Conference – March 2023, Plymouth

Project Support Officer Emily Roach Osborne reflects on the approach and learnings of the BRIC project in engaging communities and effectively, collaboratively improving climate resilience in communities.

Communities Prepared attended the Social Innovation for Climate Resilience conference in Plymouth on Wednesday 15th of March. This conclusion of the two-year Building Resilience in Communities project across the UK and France showcased the eight different programmes developed in this time, all of which sought to engage with local communities in preparing for, managing, and recovering from flooding. We were grateful to be able to attend and exhibit at what was a very interesting, informative and diverse event, and for our Programme Manager Hannah Baker to both contribute a keynote speech on the Communities Prepared programme and sit as part of a panel discussing the challenges, surprises and insights encountered when engaging communities. In her keynote speech, Hannah took the opportunity to introduce attendees to Communities Prepared and our approach, sharing examples of where and how we’ve been working to date. Hannah set out some of our learnings from engaging communities and professionals across England, and how we’re applying these to our future plans.

Communities Prepared Programme Manager Hannah Baker giving a keynote speech on Communities Prepared

     One of the biggest insights from the conference was hearing of the methods, challenges and approaches to engaging communities across the programme given frustrations with communication, information and funding, as well as complex and varying vulnerabilities, and broader contexts of the COVID pandemic, the cost of living crisis and climate change. How do we understand and meet the needs of the communities in a way that empowers them given these factors? How can we be of meaningful use to them?

     Many of the projects tackled this through creating space for listening. Be that through facilitated forums between the public and project stakeholders such as local councils, services and businesses or through storytelling, mapping and embodied walking exercises in which people shared their experiences, or creative, visualising activities. Opportunities for communities to meet and contribute to collective memory with photography projects through Thames 21’s Canvey Island pilot and to have their emotions heard (Authie Valley, France), as well as celebrate their communities in local festivals in (Plymouth, UK) and Aulne Valley, France) were powerful examples of what is meaningful to communities who have experienced flooding and are looking to heal and strengthen their resilience.

Hannah and Emily observing a presentation given in French. The conference was delivered in both English and French, with live translation throughout the day. Image courtesy of Amy Stanford Photography

     To this end, intersectionality was also discussed by Samuel Rufat of Institut Universitaire de France as a means of effectively capturing and meeting the complexity of needs within communities and demonstrates how new frameworks of understanding can inform community resilience. New technologies were also discussed by Ogoxe, a company based in France that seeks to provide reliable, accessible, free information on weather and related emergency risks, demonstrating the scope and potential of modern technology in democratising information in order to empower the public, and how funding can make this possible.

     This conference was an opportunity to consider what it means to meaningfully engage a community in a way that builds trust and respects the cost of volunteering for people within such communities during times of crisis. Some useful publications from the conference are listed below with weblinks for further insight into emergency planning, community engagement and crisis recovery. It was raised that projects like BRIC ideally need longer to achieve their objectives, and for this reason it is commendable what BRIC has achieved and learned given the impact of broader social issues like the COVID-19 pandemic and cost of living crisis. Whilst the broader project is now coming to a close, both the website and some of the pilots will stay active. Visit the BRIC website and explore the pilot sites of the project to learn more about their collaborative approach to engagement.


Engaging in the planning system can help build communities that are safer from the risks of flooding

This guest blog has been written by Celia Davis, Projects & Policy Manager at the Town and Country Planning Association and Heather Shepherd, Community and Recovery Support, National Flood Forum.

The experience and risk of flooding is already a difficult reality for many people in England, and will become more common in future as a result of climate change. After experiencing flooding, people often become more conscious of their local environment, and sensitive to changes that might increase the risk of flooding. New development is one of those changes that communities may become more aware of.planning system plays a major role in directing where new development will go and how it will be built, and these decisions are crucial to reducing the risk of flooding, both now and in the future.

The planning system should act as a vital safeguard against the risk of flooding by making sure that development is not inappropriately located, or badly designed, so that existing and new communities are not exposed to the risk of flooding.

However, with local authorities under significant pressure to find land for housing, and local authority planning services in a crisis of under-resourcing, new development that is located in flood risk areas, or does not go far enough to reduce the risk of flooding, is still happening. To add to this, the impacts of climate change, which will significantly increase flood risk in the UK, are often underplayed, misunderstood, or ignored. It is frustrating and demoralising to see decisions being taken that do not help to solve these problems – and, in some cases, actively make them worse.

Local communities have unique knowledge of the flood risk in their area, as well as the drive to tackle climate change and create a positive future for the next generation. It is therefore vital for people to get involved in local decisions.

Many people feel locked out of key decisions because the planning system is complex, hard to navigate, and the technical language is off putting. But communities can shape a better future for their area in a number of ways: by sharing expertise, working together on a shared plan for their local area, and by making sure decision makers are properly considering future flood risk when they look at the location and design of new places.

The TCPA are working with the National Flood Forum to help people navigate the planning system, so they feel more confident and empowered to have a voice in the decisions that might affect them.

Our short briefing notes provide a great resource for people who do not have experience of the planning system but are worried about the flood risk where they live.

We are also holding two workshops (in Birmingham and London) to give an overview of the planning system and greater understanding of its role in addressing flood risk, and how communities can influence development in their area.

We want to make sure that people are not put off by the details of the planning system, and feel confident to have their say and make their neighbourhoods better and safer places to live.

The TCPA and National Flood Forum are grateful to Flood Re for their generous support of this work.

Link to workshops:

Our workshops will be held on:

  • 30th November, 6.30-8.30pm, The Priory Rooms, Birmingham, B4 6AF. Register here.
  • 5th December, 5-7pm, TPCA Offices, 17 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AS. Register here.

Link to resources:

The TCPA and the National Flood Forum have produced a guide for communities on the planning system and flood risk which is available here:

Flood Expo 2022

This September we’re excited to again be taking part in the Flood Expo. Held at NEC Birmingham from 14th-15th September, this is Europe’s leading Flood Management event; providing the public with an opportunity to interact with flood professionals, local authorities and communities all in one place, for free. We look forward to attending and engaging with the flood sector and wider public, as well as enhancing our knowledge and understanding of the latest technologies, services and strategies available to help predict, prevent and manage flooding.

What is most special for us about Flood Expo 2022 is the brand new -and first of its kind- Community Flood Zone. This initiative has been developed by Communities Prepared and other flood specialists with the explicit aim of centring the public in the discussion around flooding. It is a space to come with your questions, concerns and needs and help to steer the priorities of the flood services sector and the wider conversation around flooding. The Community Flood Zone will also include :

  • Mary Dhonau – answering questions and giving practical flood preparation advice using the flood mobile: a ‘flood house on wheels’ that demonstrates various property-level adaptations that can reduce the impact of flooding in your homes and business buildings. Have a look at her website ahead of the Expo.
  • Flood Re – answering questions and offering advice regarding affordable insurance options and the Build Back Better scheme for those who experience flooding in their homes. Have a look at their website ahead of the Expo.

Attending from our team is Richard Hood, Senior Project Officer with Communities Prepared. Richard is part of the programme’s delivery team, focusing on community development and training. He brings with him specialist knowledge in flood resilience and management, water rescue operations, incident management and operational procedures. He will be available to discuss your concerns and receive your questions on our Community Flood Zone stand throughout the Expo. Beyond this, insight and learning will be high on the agenda with a seminar programme packed with expert-led sessions, panels and demonstrations covering topics from flood reduction to property level flood protection, and a presentation from ITV Meteorologist and trusted voice on climate change, Laura Tobin. Richard will be taking part in a panel discussion as part of the seminar programme too; more details on this to follow.

If you or your community have been affected by flooding, we urge you come to and speak with us at the Community Flood Zone. Your contribution to the conversation is vitally important, and will enable us to continue to develop this initiative beyond this year. The entire Expo is free to attend and both welcomes and depends upon the engagement with the public, so please join us!

Follow the link to the Flood Expo website to sign up for free and see what’s in store, and please share the event with anyone you feel would benefit from it. The venue is wheelchair accessible, easily accessible by train or car and has extensive car parking facilities that you can pre-book. Feel free to contact us with any questions ahead of the event.

With less than 3 weeks to go we take a look at this year’s Flood Expo!

The agenda is live and the countdown is on for the 2021 edition of The Flood Expo! You can start planning your day and prepare for the UK’s largest exhibition designed for individuals, businesses and local authorities to discover the latest products and strategies within the flood sector. Taking place on 22-23 September at the NEC, Birmingham, it’s time to connect the industry once again.

Education and Networking at The Flood Expo

The Flood Expo boasts a unique educational programme consisting of CPD accredited, expert-led seminars and panel debates, live demonstrations of the latest technology, as well as market-leading companies, equipped with the industry’s finest solution-led products and services. Here you can discover how we can transform the way flooding is predicted, prevented, and managed. 

The three main themes for the Flood Expo cover all aspects of flood prediction, prevention and response. Flood prediction looks at the latest flood forecasting models, discovering the use of technology, including artificial intelligence, flow monitoring and land surveying, helping to move towards accurate early warning systems targeted to a regional area. Flood prevention explores the latest infrastructure, technology and techniques to protect against flooding. Exhibitors will showcase solutions for SUDs, dredging, property flood resilience and infrastructure including flood barriers. Flood response covers the equipment and solutions for when the flooding hits. Experts will present the different safety equipment, flood barriers, pumping solutions, water rescue equipment and the post flooding clean-up solutions.

Communities Prepared’s Programme Manager, Hannah Baker is speaking in the all-new Defence and Response theatre on Day 1, 22nd September at 11am. Hannah will be discussing community resilience in a post-pandemic world exploring how communities have evolved through the pandemic. The organisers of the Flood Expo are also excited to announce new additions to the CPD accredited, expert-led speaker line-up:

Live flood warnings: how it started & how it’s going

Rod Plummer, Co-founder & Managing Director at Shoothill. From the man that spearheaded the creation of Shoothill’s Flood Alerts (the UK’s first online live flood warning map) comes a talk about how the idea of Flood Alerts came about, what it led to, where things are today, and what it’s like innovating in the flood sector.

ResilenceDirect supports flood NowCasting and accessibility mapping for emergency responders

Luana Avagliano, Head of ResilienceDirect at ResilienceDirect (Cabinet Office) and Dapeng Yu, Professor of River Dynamics at Loughborough University will be discussing how ResilienceDirect are using innovation and working in partnership with Loughborough University to deliver surface water flood nowcasting and accessibility mapping for emergency responders.

Planning and Flood Risk

Richard Blyth, Head of Policy Practice & Research at Royal Town Planning Institute. This session will cover the role of the planning system in reducing flood risk and explore what the prospects are for the future in the context of planning reform and the Environment Bill.

See the full agenda here.

Brand New Feature –  Flood Barriers!

A first for the Flood Expo, we would like to welcome you to an awesome new feature of the show, the Flood Barrier Zone. An area of the floor plan dedicated to showcasing the latest flood barriers in the industry; expect to see barriers of up to 20 metres up close and personal!

NOAQ Flood Protection will be displaying their barrier that is designed so that it is automatically anchored by the weight of the flood water itself. This means the barriers are extremely light, weighing less than 1% of the sandbags, whilst remaining extremely effective. A 50 cm high barrier weighs no more than 7 kg per running metre.

Innovative Global Products will be bringing their RAPID-H20 flood barrier, a new and innovative flood control system that is extremely easy to deploy and remove from location to location. Once on site, there is no heavy equipment required for full deployment or removal, thus keeping costs to a minimum.

Your safety is the event organiser’s number one priority which is why they are doing all they can to ensure you feel at ease when attending the Expo. The unmissable seminars from leading environmental experts will have added capacity, networking zones will include more space and access, plus, high touchpoints and interactive show features are subject to enhanced sanitising and cleaning regimes. See the full list of safety measures you can expect here!

Be sure to visit Communities Prepared on stand 4-D101 and why not invite your community too? To discover the latest innovations, technological advancements and to keep up to date with the latest legislation within the flood prediction, prevention and response sectors register for your free ticket today!

Raising awareness of Property Flood Resilience in Yorkshire

We chat to Emily Howes and Lauren Davidson, Project Officers for Yorkshire Flood Resilience, one of three national Pathfinders being led by the Environment Agency. Together with JBA Consulting, the Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP) and the Living with Water Programme, the Yorkshire Pathfinder project aims to raise awareness of the benefits of Property Flood Resilience (PFR) and encourage positive behavioural change to support its uptake.

Tell us about the project

We started our roles in January 2020 and the project will conclude in September 2021. We aim to empower communities to take proactive steps to reduce the risk of flood damage to their own properties. We’ve created a project website which hosts a range of online resources, including awareness articles, videos and blogs, downloads, animations and online training. We’re connecting with communities via public presentations and demonstrations and co-developing a community demonstration hub at Wilberforce College in Hull. We’re trying to reach a wide range of stakeholders, including residents and businesses, the property sector and trades, financial influencers and local authorities.

Are there any misconceptions around PFR that you’re looking to address through the project?

We’ve encountered some concerns about the impact of PFR on the appearance of homes and, consequently, their value. Every solution is bespoke to the property. Many of the measures on a property’s exterior are removable and interior adaptations can be incorporated into the design of a home. Once PFR has been installed, it’s the property owner’s responsibility to ensure that it is maintained and put into place in the event of a flood.
Some people may be put off by the cost, but it’s important to remember that the cost of repairing your home following flood damage could be considerably more, especially in areas at risk of repeated flooding. PFR is, therefore, a long-term investment, and more and more homeowners are recognising the importance of understanding their flood risk and installing these key measures.

Installing Property Flood Resilience can help to bring peace of mind, whilst also reducing the financial impact of flooding.

Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency (EA) has praised the pathfinder projects for helping to boost the uptake of property-level resilience measures in homes and businesses across the country,” which is one of the core themes of the EA’s FCERM Strategy. How are you/will you be working together through the project?

All three Pathfinder projects are in close contact and, although we each have slightly different approaches to encouraging take-up of PFR measures, we’re sharing best practice and hoping to put what we’ve learnt individually into some joint projects aimed at raising greater awareness of property flood resilience in other areas of the country during the coming months. We’ve each developed innovative ways of working with our local communities. These include demonstration sites, flood hubs, and online learning with real life case studies, which are soon to be launched.

It’s important that everyone understands their flood risk and how they can prepare and become more resilient.

What are some of the key messages you’ll be promoting?

We’re keen to encourage people to take action to reduce the risk of flood damage to their property. Installing Property Flood Resilience can help to bring peace of mind, whilst also reducing the financial impact of flooding. It’s important to understand the flood risk to your property; so be prepared and act now.

Property flood resilience reduces the damage that floodwater causes to your property and can therefore help to minimise the need for costly flood repairs, saving you money and enabling you to return to your property quicker after flooding. It can also reduce the need to make insurance claims if your property floods. As flood risk is predicted to increase in the future due to climate change, nobody should assume that flooding won’t happen to them. Therefore, it’s important that everyone understands their flood risk and how they can prepare and become more resilient, whether that’s through making a flood plan, considering having property flood resilience installed or making sure that the measures you have are maintained.

How do you hope the outcomes of the project will inform future PFR work?

The learning from our project will inform research into effective strategies to raise awareness of property flood resilience and flood risk. Our work is being used to inform academic studies, as well as educational courses about flood risk management. Through our educational work, we hope to inspire a flood-resilient future generation. We hope that, through engaging with Yorkshire Flood Resilience, more people in Yorkshire will be inspired to make their homes resilient to flooding.

Finally, how can people get involved?

You can find out more about our project and stay up to date with the latest information about flood resilience and flood risk management by visiting our website at You can also access our wide range of online resources on the website. Follow us on social media for the latest project developments and news from the flood risk industry.

Find us on:
Twitter: @YorkshirePFR
Facebook: Yorkshire Flood Resilience
LinkedIn: Yorkshire Flood Resilience

Emily Howes, Project Officer, Yorkshire Flood Resilience
Emily Howes
Lauren Davidson, Project Officer, Yorkshire Flood Resilience
Lauren Davidson

The use of drone technology in flood emergency response

We spoke to Dr Monica Rivas Casado at Cranfield University about the use of drone technology in flood emergency response. Here, Monica discusses their research into the feasibility of using UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to improve mapping of the extent of flooding events. The beginning of this project coincided with the UK winter storms of 2015 which severely impacted Cumbria.

Why was this research commissioned?

Currently, there is a gap in knowledge within the context of flood emergency response that needs to be addressed. In brief, some of the techniques currently used to gather information during and after flood events do not provide all the data required. Flood emergency responders require relatively detailed information on the extent of the flooding and location of properties affected within less than 24 hours. Current methods used to gather data include satellite imagery and aircrafts, which may not provide the required data when there is low cloud cover for example. In the case of SAR (synthetic-aperture radar) satellite imagery (which is able to penetrate the clouds), it is quite difficult to distinguish between water and concrete signatures (i.e. pavement vs. water). We proposed the use of drones to overcome some of these limitations and they turned out to be useful.

What did you hope to achieve through the project?

We wanted to assess the potential of drones to provide information during and after flood events, and in particular how the information could help (i) loss adjusters and (ii) with the uptake of resilience and resistance measures. We collected drone imagery in Cockermouth (Cumbria) after storm Desmond (December 2015), mapping approximately 150 ha. The results showed that we could use the data for both loss adjustment and the identification of areas in need of flood resilience and resistance measures.

Please can you highlight some of the benefits of using drones for flood management, that came out of the project?

Community: Drones enabled us to identify which properties were flooded and which ones were not, therefore helping us to establish which parts of the community required more attention during and after an event occurred. It also helped us to identify which parts of the community were affected by which types of flooding (e.g. fluvial, pluvial), which in turn informed flood management decisions.

Emergency responders: The imagery collected provided detailed information about the extent and impact of the flood event. It helped detect which areas had been badly affected and therefore needed more resources during/after flooding. There is potential that it could help with planning evacuation routes but we have not yet tested that to the full extent.

Insurance: The images collected enabled the identification of individual properties affected by flooding and, to some degree, the level of damaged caused. This could help insurance companies identify the damaged caused without the need to send loss adjusters on site. If loss adjusters were to be required, the exact properties that they should visit could be provided based on observations from the imagery.

What are some of the general limitations around deployment of drones? How did this impact the project?

Key limitations at the moment are (i) operational, (ii) regulatory and (ii) time processing. We find operational restrictions when trying to fly drones in gusty (stormy) conditions. Drones are not waterproof in general and they cannot fly when it is really windy. This makes operational deployment really complicated during a flood event as we need to find a suitable weather window to start our work. There are also regulatory constraints established by the Civil Aviation Authority. Finally, we are trying to get the drone data collected and analysed within less than 24 hours so that it is useful for emergency responders. At the moment, it takes longer than this to generate the first results so we are now exploring the use of machine learning techniques to be able to obtain the outcomes that we need on time.

We experienced all these limitations when undertaking the project but managed to overcome most of them through good planning and carefully thinking about the logistics of the mission. For example, we overcame the regulatory limitations through close liaison the CAA and on-site emergency responders.

What was the impact of the research at the time?

We managed to collect a very comprehensive data set of the area and demonstrated that the data collected could be useful for flood management. There had been flights undertaken in the past with drones over flooded environments but, as far as we know, the data sets collected were not as comprehensive as the one we captured. We understand results from the project have been used by governmental agencies to make informed management decisions.

How do you see drone technology developing on a wider scale, both nationally and internationally?

I believe drone technology will be adopted across the country as an additional tool to inform the extent and impact of flood events. Their use has already been adopted by the Environment Agency across England and is expected to increase in the future. The potential of the technology is still yet to be fully explored, but initial results show promising applications at a national and international level. For example, we are currently assessing their potential for flood emergency response in India where flood events affected large parts of Kerala in the summer of 2018. 

What future related projects does Cranfield University have in the pipeline?

We have multiple on-going projects on the use of drones for flood emergency response and the uptake of resilience and resistance measures, the details of which are published here. We are assessing their potential for the real-time planning of flood evacuation routes and looking into the use of machine learning to speed up the processing time. Aside from the use of drones but still within the context of flooding, we are working on (i) how best to communicate flood risk to different community groups and (ii) determining who would be best placed to communicate this message. This will be published in due course.

Finally, what was your personal highlight of the project?

A highlight for me was around the logistics of deploying the drones after a flood event. It required liaison with the CAA, Army, drone pilots and emergency responders on site, and helped me understand how emergency responders operate during and after a flood event from an in-field perspective.

Bio: Dr Monica Rivas Casado is a Senior Lecturer in Integrated Environmental Monitoring with expertise in the application of statistics to environmental data. Monica has an MSc in Environmental Water Management and a PhD in applied geostatistics from Cranfield. Monica is currently leading Research Council (RCUK) and industry funded projects on the use of emerging technologies and statistical science for robust environmental monitoring, which includes the use of drones for flood and catastrophe extent mapping and damage assessment (NERC/EPSRC). Monica is a fully qualified RPQs (drone) pilot.

Click here to read the case-study on the Cranfield University website. For more information on the project, please email

Flood risk management: a jigsaw of many pieces

In my experience, flood risk management is a jigsaw of many pieces, all working together on reducing flood risk (such as flood warnings, municipal flood alleviation schemes, natural flood defences, temporary barriers, sustainable drainage, etc.). In the last few years, due to intense and prolonged rainfall, we have seen robust defences over-topped and breached. What can we do at a property level to reduce the appalling impact that being flooded brings with it?

I have been flooded myself, so I know only too well just how awful it is and how long it takes to get back to ‘normal’ again. We can, of course, think about using property flood resilience products (PFR) to try to keep the water out and help to give extra time to move precious belongings to a place of safety. I know people worry about labelling their home at risk of flooding, but that doesn’t have to be the case. ‘Flood doors’ look just like a normal doors but once locked can withstand flood water to about 6m. Airbricks can be replaced with a ‘self-closing’ variety which can stop an awful lot of water entering into a home. Non return valves fitted into drains can stop sewage entering homes via toilets, showers etc. Always look for products with a kitemark, as they have been through a robust testing procedure. There is more information about risk reduction products here.

The average amount of time it takes to repair a property is about 9 months, and that causes terrible disruption to life as we know it.

If you are flooded, work with your insurance provider to ‘build back better’. By this I mean adapting your home/business to help it to recover more quickly, should you flood again. The average amount of time it takes to repair a property is about 9 months, and that causes terrible disruption to life as we know it. Moving electric sockets and services up the wall, using waterproof plaster, tiling floors and fitting a flood resilient kitchen (which doesn’t have to cost much more, or look ugly) can help reduce the damage a flood does and speed up the time it takes to recover, allowing you to get back home sooner. Over the past year, I have travelled around the country and talked to people who have taken steps to both try to keep the water out and also made adaptations to reduce the impact. Do have a read of their stories and see how beautiful their homes and businesses look.

In 2017, I project managed the retrofitting of two properties, a community centre and a private home, to help them to recover more quickly if they flood again. The details of the project can be seen here. Again, you will see how beautiful the properties looked, once the work had finished. The EMag also details the products used.

Protecting our homes from burglary and fire has become the norm. My hope is that reducing flood risk, at a property level, is treated in the same way.

With the threat that climate change brings, sadly flooding is going to become more frequent and more damaging. It is impossible to stop floods from happening, but we can do our best to manage flood risk. Protecting our homes from burglary and fire has become the norm. My hope is that reducing flood risk, at a property level, is treated in the same way. It may also lead to reductions in the price we pay for flood insurance, as well as peace of mind.  Working in partnership, we can reduce the awful misery being flooded brings.

By Mary Dhonau

Biography: Mary has been flooded on many occasions and has extensive experience in supporting and advising the victims of flooding during their recovery. She has championed the promotion of Property Flood Resilience and is a passionate advocate for communities working in partnership with those who manage flood risk, to help minimise the disruption flooding brings. Mary was awarded an OBE for Services to the Environment in 2009.

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