Resilience to extreme precipitation events: Insights into people’s risk perception, preparedness and behavior based on two case studies from Germany

19:00 Tuesday 28 May




Britta Weisser (Germany) 1; Ali Jamshed (Germany) 1; Jörn Birkmann (Germany) 1

1 - University of Stuttgart, Institute of Regional and Development Planning


Extreme weather events are rare but have disastrous effects on communities and infrastructure. In recent years, severe damages in Germany resulting from flooding due to heavy precipitation events have received particular attention. However, integrated strategies to reduce risk and build resilience are lacking (but strongly needed) as inadequate information about people’s knowledge, perception and prevention strategies make it challenging to operationalize resilience. Against this backdrop, a research project – RESI-Extreme – was launched in 2017 with the objective to develop a holistic assessment of resilience to heavy rain events in small and medium-sized cities of Germany with a focus on local citizens. Special attention is given to questions of the perception and knowledge of risk as well as capturing the learning capacity of affected households with regard to the experienced event. This research investigates the households’ knowledge, perception, and experience of heavy rainfall events and resulting measures to deal with such hazards.


Considering the objective of the study, a small and a medium-sized German city with experience of flooding from heavy precipitation events were selected as case study areas. A household survey using a structured questionnaire was conducted to collect 1,734 samples. Statistical tests were performed to analyze the perception, knowledge and capacity of households in the study areas.


Initial findings suggest that the majority of the residents are not well informed about their exposure to flooding and have limited knowledge regarding potential protection and adaptation measures. With regard to the aspect of learning capacity, findings suggest that there are significant differences between people who have been directly affected by the heavy rain event and those who experienced no damage. This applies specifically in terms of preparedness, insurance coverage, knowledge of adaptation measures and perception of heavy rain. Further statistical analysis will be performed to validate the initial findings.


Lack of knowledge regarding exposure to and prevention measures against flooding resulting from extreme rainfall events has put populations at risk and unveils challenges in building resilience. It is expected that the results of the study will help to raise awareness of the importance of climate resilience among different local actors. The study would guide and help local city planners and risk managers to better communicate risk to citizens, develop resilience assessment strategies, and mainstream and prioritize protection and adaptation measures into spatial planning to promote resilience in urban development.