Hull flood diaries hold lessons for the future
Residents hit by the Hull floods have joined Lancaster University researchers in a call for a rethink of flood recovery management.
On 25 June 2009 – the second anniversary of floods which devastated the city - residents will discuss their experiences with representatives from organisations including the Cabinet Office, DEFRA, the Environment Agency and Hull City Council at the Hull Truck Theatre in Hull.
The residents taking part in the study want to highlight the fact that flood recovery is a long and difficult process with no clear end point. By talking with policy makers about the challenges they have experienced over the past two years and their concerns for the future, they hope to encourage the various organisations involved in flood recovery to think about how things could be improved for people who may experience flooding in years to come.
The event is part of a revealing study by Lancaster University which draws upon the diaries of 45 people affected by the floods.
To provide a longer-term view of the impact of the disaster and help policy makers learn lessons for the future, residents kept a weekly diary for 18 months, in which they wrote about their daily lives and recorded their thoughts about how the flood had affected them.
The diaries highlight the severe and prolonged impact of the repairs process as residents struggle to deal with the stresses of life in temporary accommodation while also attempting to manage the many different organisations – such as builders, insurers and loss adjusters – involved in flood recovery.
At the workshop, residents who took part in the research will be able to discuss their concerns and experiences with policy makers in order to explore new ways of managing flood recovery which could help those who are flooded in future.
Rebecca Sims, the project’s researcher, said: “The final months of the diaries show that flood recovery is a long and difficult process without a definite end point.
“The experiences people have gone through, and the concerns they have about the future mean that this isn’t just a case of returning people to ‘normal’ – instead, people are having to adjust to a new sense of normality where their feelings about their homes and their neighbourhoods are no longer the same.
“The diarists taking part in our project are an amazing group of people who have some really important experiences to share with the policy makers. That’s why we think it is so important for everyone to be able to come together at the event – in this way, we can all learn from each other and think about what needs to change for the future.”
Since the study started in October 2007, Lancaster’s researchers have been attending meetings and conferences to get residents’ stories across. In March 2008, the team submitted a report to the Pitt Review, the Government’s national inquiry into the floods. Researchers were also able to begin working with representatives from a wide range of organisations including DEFRA, the Environment Agency and the Association of British Insurers.
According to Dr Will Medd, principal investigator on the project, the involvement of the stakeholder organisations was crucial in ensuring that that residents’ voices were heard and lessons were learned for the future.
He said: “The exciting thing about this project is that we’re trying to learn about flood recovery and how to build resilience by asking people who really know– the people who experienced it first hand.
“We are learning lessons which could be applied to help better face future disasters of different kinds.”
The anonymised diaries and interview material collected during the project will now be placed into an archive that can be used by the public and other researchers who are interested in learning about experiences of flood recovery in future.
The study - Flood, vulnerability and urban resilience: a real-time study of local recovery following the floods of June 2007 in Hull is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and The Environment Agency.