Flood resilience expert leads research with vulnerable communities in Cumbria

Sarah Percival web banner 835 x 500

Britain is no stranger to wet weather, and with climate predictions forecasting more extreme weather events, experts at LJMU are working with vulnerable communities to help them prepare for future instances of flooding.

Dr Sarah Percival is a Senior Lecturer in Geography (coastal resilience) within the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences and since 2005 her research and teachings have focused on the assessment and communication of disaster vulnerability, resilience, and risk, especially for flood hazards.

With expertise and interests in both quantitative and qualitative hazard associated data interpretation, Dr Percival uses her findings to come up with effective solutions for key societal challenges, such as embedding flood resilience within vulnerable communities.

This week, she hosted a one-day workshop with members of Cumbrian Flood Action Groups in Keswick. The workshop marks the beginning of a new research pilot that aims to better understand the critical factors that affect the longevity of these voluntary groups, groups that are vital stakeholders in local flood prevention and management.

Sarah Percival workshop web banner 835 x 500Q&A with Dr Sarah Percival

How have you come to be involved in this workshop? Who else is involved?

“I put forward the idea that a workshop was needed to better understand flood action group resilience and acquired funding to do so through the Manchester Geographical Society and the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences (LJMU) Strategic Research Development Fund. Along with my research assistant, Sophie Laidlaw, we have coordinated the workshop via the National Flood Forum.”

What’s so important about bringing together flood action groups in this way and at this particular time?

“Flood action groups are voluntary grassroot groups that are key to founding and embedding resilience in flood prone communities, particularly across the North West. They provide a crucial platform to address local flood management concerns and assist management practices.

“As current levels of flood adaptation in the UK are projected as insufficient, and flood events are expected to increase in both frequency and impact, there is an urgent need for these groups to endure. Yet, the resilience of flood action groups (their longevity and functionality) is sometimes precarious, and therefore, an understanding of the critical success and failure factors for resilient groups needs to be identified, analysed, and modelled.

“By carrying out this research, we hope it will lead to more effective flood action groups in the North West that can help more members of their communities to be flood prepared and able to reduce the impact of future flooding.”

What do you hope the outcome of the workshop will be?

“Firstly, classification and evaluation of North West flood action group resilience, including determination of factors needed for maintaining resilient participatory community led groups such as these.

“And secondly, development of North West flood action group resilience best practice guidelines, comprising of key flood stakeholder criteria, critical actions, effective interaction executions, and delivery points. For instance, helping make a step change in the way communities help policymakers improve resilience to increasing flood risk - a local, regional, and national challenge.”

Do you have more workshops planned? What’s the longer-term plan, or need, in terms of supporting communities prone to flooding?

“Flood events are a significant challenge for people and one that is expected to increase in both frequency and impact. Added to this, responsibilities of flood resilience are shifting more onto those at risk. For example, a key directive of the new Environment Agency Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Strategy Action Plan 2021 is to support vulnerable communities and develop community led flood response plans, elements flood action groups can deliver if effective. It is therefore crucial we identify, analyse, and model the key factors needed for maintaining resilient community led groups at a much greater scale and detailed level.

“This pilot study therefore provides scope for foundations to be laid for grander future collaborative work, including further knowledge exchange and funding opportunities. All with the intention to further develop an understanding of flood action group resilience at a national level, for different flood hazards, in different contexts; and community resilience in the wider context.”


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