Dutch companies located outside the dikes can be better prepared for flooding

Published on
July 22, 2013

Climate change may increase the risk of flooding. In the Netherlands, the government takes care of everyone’s safety by building dikes, sluices and pumping stations. However, companies located outside the dikes are responsible for their own safety and the prevention of flood damage. Judith Klostermann examined with colleagues whether these companies are sufficiently prepared and what the government can contribute to their security, even if the government is not formally responsible.

"Our research shows that exposure to flooding is low," says Judith Klostermann. “Only in very extreme cases, the areas outside the dikes overflow, because the terrain is constructed several meters above normal sea level”. Human safety is not a big issue either, because in these areas the density of the population at work is very low. Nevertheless, flood damage can be costly, especially when it concerns electrical installations, stored products and parked vehicles. Few companies have adapted to potential flooding. Some have no intention at all because they are misinformed about the risks or even their location. Others are willing to adapt but they see little action possibilities.

Better prevention measures

The local governments and port authorities have a role especially in providing the correct information. Even though these companies are formally responsible for their own security, governments have an interest in a well-functioning economy. Judith Klostermann: "If governments and port authorities change the physical environment, affecting the safety of a plant, they must provide information to the companies. Also, the knowledge about emergency plans and protocols around storm warnings should be discussed with the companies on a regular basis, not only when there is an actual threat. The companies themselves should not await a flood before they start thinking about prevention. Risk prevention seems almost always cheaper than the damage that a flood will cause. More cooperation between the companies located outside the dikes is one of the possibilities for better prevention measures."

Interviews and field visits

The study was conducted at five harbour sites, because on these locations a high damage was expected on the basis of flood risk calculations. The locations were sections of the port of Den Helder, Eemshaven and Delfzijl and the ferry causeways of Holwerd and Nes. In the Eemshaven the researchers tried to gain a deeper understanding of the self-reliance of businesses, asking how they assess their situation and what strategies they have to deal with floods. The researchers also looked at the role of government. At the other four locations, the situation was globally mapped with an interview and a field visit. They appeared to be quite comparable with the situation of the Eemshaven. The research was conducted within the framework of the Delta Programme, Subprogramme Wadden Area.