An integrated approach to flood warning in England and Wales
Flood warning systems have been researched and discussed for several decades and there is a high degree of consensus in the literature that the most effective structure for a flood warning system is that of an integrated system. Experience suggests however, that few, if any, operational systems are designed in an integrated way and that few practitioners fully appreciate the benefits of integration. Through an analysis of arrangements in the Thames Basin, this research addresses this issue by identifying the necessary criteria and actions required to introduce an integrated system. The limited number of models that attempt to conceptualise flood warning systems in an integrated way have been critically examined and have found to focus too narrowly on selective integrative criteria. It is concluded that there is a need for a wider and multidimensional perspective. This study rectifies this deficiency by presenting a conceptual model that is derived from a more comprehensive assessment of the most relevant integrative factors. A two-staged process is adopted with an initial identification of a wide range of issues and variables, leading to a more focused set of factors presented under four main headings that are used to structure the substantive chapters of this thesis. These integrative factors can be conceptualised as crosscutting strands running through and drawing together the main components of a flood warning system (detection, forecasting, dissemination and response) that help ensure that these components work together collaboratively towards a common aim. Few of the integrative factors identified in this research were found in operational flood warning practices in England and Wales prior to 1996. A number of improvements were made with the establishment of the Environment Agency as the lead authority in both flood forecasting and flood warning dissemination, but a number of weakness still prevail. Through the use of case studies the plausibility of introducing a fully integrated approach to future arrangements has been tested and found to be both practical and feasible.