Scotland has faced a relentless winter of storms, severe weather and flooding. It’s been a busy time for SEPA’s Flood Unit. Even after water levels have receded, the work hasn’t stopped; capturing information and data after a flood event is an important part of what we do. By gathering evidence of the consequences and impacts of flooding, this information can be used as an input to different elements of our work including flood risk planning, forecasting and warning.
Although we already collect and hold a great deal of scientific data in various formats, we are excited to be trialling a new approach to gathering post event data. A new Flood Event Data Capture tool (FEDCAP) is currently being tested by our Flood Unit to improve our use of smart technology for streamlined and consistent flood data gathering and impact assessing.
FEDCAP allows SEPA staff to access an application on a smart phone or tablet to collect data on the ground which is instantly plotted to a map on the device. Other information can also be collected including images and videos. This is a modern approach to data collection and display. It develops real time data and processes it digitally, negating the need to write up post event reports.
The opportunity to collect this information using a smart device means GPS is used to record location, trash lines (the extent of the flooding), and impacts. The smart device offers access to location specific information including historic flood information which could be required or useful while on site. It also ensures that all staff are gathering the same level of data to meet the requirements of the wider organisation.
The data gathered has a multitude of uses and benefits to SEPA’s work. One of our statutory obligations which specifically references observed flood event data, is the reporting of significant past flood events to the EU through the National Flood Risk Assessment (NFRA) which is due in 2018. The NFRA will provide the knowledge and tools to undertake further assessment and consideration of actions in the next cycle of the Flood Risk Management (FRM) Strategies.
The FRM Strategies coordinate efforts to tackle flooding in Scotland. They set the national direction of future flood risk management and explain what causes flooding in high risk areas as well as the impacts when flooding does occur. The data gathered can help to target the strategies and achieve their objective of reducing flood risk in Scotland.
Better information also means improved flood maps. Our flood maps are designed to help you understand how you could be affected by flooding. The maps show you areas which are likely to flood from rivers, the sea and surface water. FEDCAP information can identify those areas where flooding is consistent with the outline on the flood maps, if it is not consistent it allows us to target areas where we need to improve our knowledge by further gathering post flood data or remodelling the data held.
In the same way, analysing the gathered data helps us to review the accuracy of our flood forecasting and warning service. The data can be utilised to verify flood forecasts and the impacts on the areas where flood warnings were issued, helping to determine whether thresholds need to be investigated or modified.
The tool is currently being trialled internally by SEPA to determine the usability, operation and value it can bring. The test period began in December 2015, was live throughout the winter period from Storm Desmond to Storm Jake, and will run until the end of March when the data which has been collected can be fully analysed. The information that can be provided by this tool and uses for that information will identify how we can further improve our technology to develop our scientific knowledge and ultimately provide a more effective service for you.