Many people believe they live further away from potential flood risk areas than is actually the case, a new Irish study has found.
While conducting interviews with householders living close to the River Dargle in Bray, researchers in UCD discovered that a significant proportion of those spoken to underestimated their exposure to possible incidents of flooding.
The study was carried out by a team in the UCD Earth Institute and has been published in the international Risk Analysis journal.
Project investigator Dr Eoin O’Neill described the findings as “important” because people who do not perceive themselves to be exposed to flood risk “are less likely to undertake preventive actions that will reduce the harmful impacts of flooding on them.”
The River Dargle flooded during Hurricane Charley in 1986, and Bray was one of the worst-affected areas of the storm.
The interviews were conducted shortly before the commencement of a flood relief scheme for the river, and researchers have expressed a desire to gauge people’s perception of flood risk once the works are finished.
Commenting on the study, UCD's chair of public policy Prof Peter Clinch said authorities need to make a "special effort" to ensure members of the public are aware of their possible exposure to flooding ahead of future episodes.
“Crucially, a significant level of misperception was found amongst householders in the study,” he said.
“Hence, future public authority-led campaigns will need to make a special effort to target those individuals who may be misjudging their exposure to flooding or other climate impacts to try and make sure that they are ready in the event of future flooding or storm impacts.”
Around 300 areas in Ireland require flood-mitigation measures due to houses being built on floodplains, and the cost of flood-related damage caused by successive storms in December 2015 is estimated to be around €100 million.