Ingirige, MJB and Russell, RC
Investigating SME resilience to flooding : the Braunton report
, University of Salford, Salford.
The number of major floods in Europe has risen from one per year (between 1900 and 1974) to 15 a year (between 1993 and 2001). Many parts of the UK have faced extensive flooding in recent years, notably during the winter of 2013/14, and climate change is expected to increase the frequency and severity of such disasters still further. Flood events cause significant disruptions to the business sector, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are often affected disproportionately hard by such events, and are less prepared to manage the consequences and need more support to enhance their resilience.
This study focuses on the effect of flooding on the SMEs located in a single village street in Braunton, North Devon. Seven case studies were undertaken and both content analysis and cognitive mapping techniques were used to examine the data collected. The SME interview findings were compared with interviews with other local stakeholders, such as the Environment Agency and the Parish Council. The findings of the study were shared with the Parish Councillors and SMEs as a method of validating the data.
The analysis has furnished valuable new perspectives across a range of SMEs, including several innovative ways of responding to flooding. The Braunton SMEs were found to be ‘experts by experience’ on the various resilience measures that they adopted; furthermore, there was a lot of enthusiasm among the SME community for sharing and enhancing their learning further. A key finding was that proactive initiatives by the Parish Council and the SMEs themselves have successfully kept flooding issues at the top of the local agenda, despite the fact that three years have passed since the last flood event. Studies of this nature, in which SMEs and other stakeholders are engaged in examining and identifying their own resilience levels, their needs, constraints and gaps are more likely to deliver appropriate behavioural change than the use of self-assessment toolkits.
In meeting the demands of future flooding, it is important to recognize that SMEs are entities having very specific needs, such that mitigation / preparedness measures will inevitably vary with the type of business and their individual strategies. There is a need for appropriate leadership and strong commitment on the part of all the stakeholders, in order to identify and meet these needs, if stakeholder actions are to positively contribute towards community resilience.
One of the key observations of the study was the lack of consistency in the way SMEs obtained flood insurance, together with an obvious lack of knowledge on the role of insurance within a context of flooding. The new ‘Flood Re’ insurance scheme (due to commence in 2016) does not apply to commercial organisations such as SMEs and this issue has been a key criticism of the scheme since its inception. The issue of insurance clearly forms a key factor capable of influencing behavioural change such as undertaking resilience against flooding, which would merit separate study.
This report is funded by the ARCC NCN network (an EPSRC funded network) as a follow on fund to further contextualise, trial and test the ‘extreme weather risk assessment toolkit for SMEs’ that emerged from the EPSRC funded Community Resilience to Extreme Weather (CREW) project (2008 – 2011).
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