The widespread devastation to infrastructure and human life caused by floods and tsunamis is both a global and increasingly urban phenomenon. With many of the world's most populous cities situated in areas that make them susceptible to environmental disasters, the need to protect business and populations from flooding is becoming ever more important.
Advanced technologies and improved intelligence will enable city authorities to execute efficient disaster management plans, using resilient systems and processes. "Cities are competing with each other more than ever before. They compete for business to generate wealth, jobs and attract new talent," notes Frost & Sullivan Vice President for Aerospace, Defence and Security, Steven Webb.
"A city with inadequate flood protection will find it challenging to attract new business especially in an increasingly global economy where a flood can impact entire supply chains with global ramifications. Therefore citizen safety and business productivity are two of the most important concerns of the city mayor's office."
Recent technology developments like new sensors, analytics and modeling are able to help authorities to detect and assess the impact of potential floods whilst faster communication and more interoperable networks permit timely and effective response. There are significant technology developments within universities but also through investment by industry. Developments focus on ensuring dam and dike stability whilst also monitoring water levels in rivers, reservoirs and tidal areas.
Thanks to advances in sensor performance and decreasing prices more sensors will be deployed in flood regions. However, having a proven sensor technology is only part of the water disaster management jigsaw. "Collating information from a wide range of sensors, interpreting the results, predicting impact and delivering an effective emergency response operation is vital, if the information gained from the sensors is going to deliver real value," adds Mr. Webb.
In the UrbanFlood project, funded by the European Commission, sensors are being used in Boston, UK, to detect changes below the ground in temperature, moisture and movement to help detect instability issues in flood defences. The data is transmitted to a central control room for investigation. Similar projects are also in operation in Germany and the Netherlands as part of the initiative.
"In current times of economic austerity the temptation for government is to limit investment and persist with traditional flood defence techniques rather than investing in high-end predictive intelligence tools to aid emergency response," comments Steven Webb. "It is better for organizations to focus on the operational costs of testing dike stability and flood defences and the improved financial benefits of leveraging technology."
Technology is now at a level where there can be significant gains for governments, city authorities, water boards, emergency services and more importantly citizens and commerce. Industry and government need to continue to partner with each other to run new systems alongside existing technologies to provide a safer urban environment for all.
Frost & Sullivan, Safe Cities – Developing a Proactive Approach to Flood Management
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