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Educating for Flood Resilience and Preparedness

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By Dr Siti Norzaini Zainal Abidin

Floods are among the most damaging natural disasters wreaking havoc on communities all over the world, especially during Monsoon seasons. They cause major threats to public health and safety, disturb livelihoods, and uproot populations. Factors that exacerbate flood risks, such as urbanisation, deforestation, and climate change have heightened the severity of floods in recent years. Hence, communities must take proactive steps to increase their resilience, particularly in promoting flood awareness and preparedness to mitigate the impact of floods.

Dr Siti Norzaini Zainal Abidin

Reliable flood forecasting and early warning systems are crucial resources that aid in preventing property damage and loss of life. These systems employ advanced technology to predict the timing and location of floods, providing residents enough time to mentally prepare, move valuable goods to higher grounds, and evacuate if necessary. Preventive measures beforehand such as sandbagging or preparing watertight structures with bubble wrapping, floats, inflatable structures, or stilts also help.

The management of floods within communities requires the assessment of the threats in the area comprehensively and from there to develop mitigation plans. This involves developing flood-prone mapping system through the identification of hazards and strengths of components with real-time data, and learning about the different factors such as topography, land use, and climate patterns, which come together to be the cause of flooding.

To start, emergency kits should be supplied with all necessities, such as food, water, medicine, flashlights, and first aid kits. The mitigation strategy should incorporate strategic escape routes and meeting places. This can be achieved by establishing a collaboration with the local authorities.

Community involvement such as initiating communication with the neighbourhood associations, and identifying data of local inhabitants and emergency contacts offers a mitigation plan that is detailed and efficient. In addition, programmes for flood education to raise awareness and encourage resilience should be conducted. This includes flood ranger training exercises such as organising drills to familiarise residents with emergency protocols and evacuation techniques, educating them on preventative measures and safety precautions, and response strategies. Finalised plans should be informed to the community, seeking permission to control and gathering of consent.

Additionally, it is highly advisable for residents today to obtain insurance-based property protection to help with financial burdens due to the unfavourable consequences of water damage.

Onto a new challenge to make experiential learning more engaging by understanding the impact of floods on communities and teaching resilience, Taylor’s University and the Global Environmental Centre (GEC) are in partnership to create evacuation maps for two strategically important flash flood zones – Taman Sri Muda and Kg Kasipillay. These maps are aided by online map coordinates which provide accurate representations of real-time neighbourhood data regarding hazards and strengths for safer evacuation routes. Proactive flood mitigation solutions offer insightful information for positive transformation.

Transforming knowledge into action and enabling communities to adopt workable solutions to strengthen their flood resistance is the aim of education for resilience. This could entail developing community leaders’ preparedness for disasters through capacity-building exercises, identifying areas at risk through risk assessments, and putting in place sustainable infrastructure initiatives that reduce the danger of flooding such as post-flood waste management, particularly dealing with e-waste. By integrating community members in the process of making decisions and enhancing local capabilities, these endeavours have the potential to cultivate a feeling of responsibility and adaptability.

Forging a route towards a liveable and resilient urban environment with the emblem of spirit, hope, united action, and the construction of a thriving community is the future for resilient communities.

With over 23 years of experience as an Educator, Dr Siti Norzaini Zainal Abidin is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Architecture, Building and Design, Faculty of Innovation & Technology, Taylor’s University. She specialises in passive design of green building, integrated design process, design management, built environment, sustainable living, energy and architecture, and project-based design pedagogy.

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