The quality and timeliness of flood warning need to be improved in many places in Brazil. To achieve this aim a complex multi-level and multi-dimensional process is required. The State of Paraná in Brazil has undertaken such a process with promising results.
Intending to protect people against floods and giving them time to leave their homes before the water reaches them, it was started the development of a flood monitoring system and alerts emission. The monitoring and alert system for floods of the State of Paraná is being developed in partnership with the agencies responsible for water management and weather monitoring of the state.
The State of Paraná, in Brazil, has many rivers divided into 16 water basins. Many of the 399 State's municipalities have problems with flooding, which in the last five years resulted in 118,889 homeless (sheltered) and displaced people, 24 dead, 521 injured, 85,847 damaged homes, 1,649 destroyed homes and economical losses of U$ 491,433,489.00.
Three main objectives guided the development of an improved monitoring and alert system for flood events:
- The most important objective was to protect the population against flooding. This was to be achieved through information that allows people to escape from risk areas before flooding occurs and allows taking precautionary measures to reduce property damages and losses.
- The second objective was to produce alerts for the Civil Defense Management Structure. In the case of Paraná this means to reach out with the alerts to state, regional and local civil defense managers.
- The third objective was to increase the level of credibility of alerts with the populations living in „risk areas“. The background for this objective is the experience, that frequent alerts, which prove to be false alarms, very quickly stop stimulating appropriate action by the population. It is a precondition for adequate behavior that people take the alerts seriously.
The civil defense information system gathers the information about risk areas, geo-referenced location of hydrometereological stations and available facilities and resources that can be used in case of disaster from each municipality of the State of Paraná. This information is storage in an on-line system that monitors the precipitation levels and emits alarms according to the disaster risk level for a determinate location. In case of the detection of a threat, the state civil defense informs the regional and municipal units about the warning level (Attention, Alert or Alarm) by means of SMS and e-mail and commands the response action (previously defined in action protocols) to tackle with the event. The information of weather radars are also obtained and integrated into the forecasting in order to provide more accurate information about rainfall level, and therefore provide reliable flood warnings.
The process outlined above led to a number of relevant improvements in the State of Paraná:
- An increase of credibility in relation to the alerts issued by the State Civil Defense.
- The content of the information provided by civil defense now has a much more solid technical basis.
- The quality of information obtained from the hydro meteorological and radar stations has led to a decrease in decision making time.
- As a result of the decrease in the time required for decision-making, the response time of emergency units and social care actions for affected populations has also decreased.
- Losses and damages for families affected by floods were reduced, due to the early warning which allows for some hours to prepare, remove their belongings from homes or take actions to protect them, such as raising the furniture and other goods.
A monitoring and warning system against floods depends on equipment, processes and organizational structure to carry out these processes, to receive the information, and - based on this information – on unleashing the actions needed at the right moment to protect populations in risk areas.
In Paraná State there are state, regional and municipal structures of civil defense. In this structure the regional structure is directly subordinated to the state level, while the municipal structure works independently, although technically connected to the state and regional levels. These structures are responsible for receiving information on flooding or severe weather events alerts and trigger actions for the protection of populations, carrying out the management of these actions.
The Flood Information System of the State of Paraná received, on March 2015, a reward from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction due to its high relevance to the enhancement of resilience in cities.
- Flood Information System of the State of Paraná, Brazil, CONNECTIVE CITIES: http://www.connective-cities.net/en/connect/good-practices/flood-information-system-of-parana/ (accessed 24 February 2016).
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