Flood Risk Reduction in Canada

The Road to Becoming a Trusted Source for Preparedness Information

In 2018, P4A partnered with the Canadian Red Cross to develop a collaborative awareness-to-action project that will inform Canadians about their flood risk and encourage behavioural change to create more resilient communities.

As part of this project, interviews were conducted with flood and risk communication experts to gain a better understanding of what they want residents to know about flood risk and how to prepare. In addition to expert interviews, online surveys, interviews, and focus groups were conducted in in two Ontario communities – the city of Windsor and Dufferin County – to better understand the communication needs of Canadian communities and identify barriers to action. The communities were also asked to share their opinions and feedback on existing Canadian Red Cross flood communication materials to provide the researchers with an understanding of effective communication messages and approaches.

Results from this research study are provided in the report: Flood Risk Reduction in Canada: The Road to Becoming a Trusted Source for Preparedness Information (PDF)

A summary of key recommendations and findings is provided below:

  1. Messaging and Materials: The Canadian Red Cross should provide Canadians with solutions-oriented flood messaging and materials. This information should be provided on municipal websites to leverage existing relationships between municipalities and residents as well as facilitate access across the country. Many residents do not recognize the Canadian Red Cross as a known and trusted source for flood risk information, therefore the Canadian Red Cross needs to partner with information sources that are currently engaging residents (i.e. the municipalitiy or local news outlets).
  2. Empower Residents through Confidence in their Ability to Cope: Many respondents were unsure of what to do, or whether their protective actions were enough to reduce their flood risk. Coping appraisal involves hav- ing enough information to understand what options are available to you, their efficacy, cost, time requirements, and your own ability to perform the actions. When creating communication materials, combine risk aware- ness information with options to reduce risk, to give residents confidence and ownership of the problem and the solution (Thistlethwaite et. al., 2017b; Grothmann and Reusswig, 2007).
  3. Campaigns and Drills: Community residents need to be motivated to take preparedness action. It is import- ant not to overwhelm with information, so campaigns should promote small, tangible, incremental steps that people can take to protect themselves and their homes from flooding, as well as actions that are low-cost and take minimal time and effort. Instructions need to be simple and straightforward. In addition to building disaster risk reduction and natural hazard awareness raising events, flood drills should be practiced and implemented in schools and workplaces, similar to fire and tornado drills, to familiarize residents on what to do in the case of a flood.
  4. Multi-Stakeholder Approach: Include cross-sector stakeholders in flood preparedness programs and decision making, and highlight their roles and responsibilities for residents. A prepared community extends beyond the actions of residents – it involves the actions of multiple stakeholders, including all levels of government and financial corporations. For example, governments can invest in mitigation programs such as flood mapping, banks can restrict lending in flood-prone areas, real estate agents can provide flood information to new home buyers, and insurers can provide incentive programs for clients that take preparedness measures. Everyone has a role to play when it comes to flood- resilient communities.
  5. Consider a Social Marketing Plan: Develop and implement social marketing plans in individual communities across Canada to gain a thorough understanding of residents’ attitudes, values, needs and current behaviours. This approach will also provide information about the experiences, needs, and barriers of a community and their current ideas about flood preparedness. Work with each community to create programs and communications that will increase flood resiliency.