Although floods cause serious damage and greatly afflict those directly affected, they are quickly forgotten, becoming an all-too-distant memory within only a few years. This has led us to create a public, online repository of flood images from across Switzerland.
1 out of 7
One out of every seven people in Switzerland lives in a building that is at risk from floods.
Flood risk affects all of us
For this reason, the Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks at the University of Bern launched a research initiative entitled “Flood-risk research initiative – from theory to practice”, which aims to identify novel, substantiated principles for managing flood risk.
Floods are ingrained in the collective experience of Switzerland. Images of these events may serve to raise awareness among the general public and local decision-makers for the need to take protective measures. In addition, images can aid researchers in verifying and improving flood risk models.Learn more
Authorities and experts are not only interested in knowing which areas are at risk from floods, but also what the potential damage could be. A special website-based resource called Flood Damage Potential highlights areas with a particularly high potential for damage. This resource also helps prioritise protective measures based on facts and risk level.Learn more
Experiments and simulations assist authorities and experts in understanding why flood risk changes over time and which factors exacerbate or reduce the risk. The interactive website-based resource called Risk Dynamics enables users to perform these types of experiments, online and in just a few steps.Learn more
Over two-thirds of the damage in Switzerland caused by natural disasters is due to floods. The website-based resource Flood Damage Potential is built around an interactive map that provides information on the number of buildings, individuals, work places, public facilities and more that are under threat from floods. Data is available at the neighbourhood, municipal and cantonal level.
For the first time, the potential of damage can be identified across Switzerland – down to individual neighbourhoods – using this website. At this level, you can see in detail where people or important objects requiring protection such as buildings or building assets that are vulnerable to floods.
The website-based resource Risk Dynamics illustrates how the flood risk along the Emme River near Burgdorf has changed over the past 200 years. A key factor in this change is the interdependencies between urban development, river engineering, the amount of water in the river and climate change.
Website users can simulate various scenarios to see their effects on flood risk.
No other natural disaster is costlier to Switzerland than flooding. Over two-thirds of the damage caused by natural disasters is due to floods, which have affected four out of every five Swiss municipalities over the past 40 years. Yet although the new purchase value of all at-risk buildings is around CHF 500 billion and the corresponding damage can amount to several billions, researchers so far have barely addressed the damage caused by flooding, instead focusing mostly on why and how these floods occur.
The research initiative entitled “Flood-risk research initiative – from theory to practice”, conducted by the Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks, is supplementing traditional research on flooding by examining the damage it causes. Various research projects running from 2018 to 2020 aim in particular to develop decision-making resources for flood-risk management.
If you’d like to learn more about the flood-risk research initiative, watch our video on flood risk in Switzerland (in German).
… to practice
The research initiative is developing practical tools that look into all the eventualities that can arise in the event of flooding, thereby helping cantonal and municipal authorities, other experts and the general public to identify flood risks so that subsequent damage can be minimised. These resources also help prioritise protective measures in full knowledge of the facts and potential risks. The research initiative provides important fundamental data for comprehensive risk management, as required by PLANAT (Plattform Naturgefahren).
Flooding can be prevented using measures ranging from spatial planning to organisational precautions and by drawing on technical and biological measures, for example protection forest.
However, individuals can contribute to flood protection, too – for instance through measures for property. On the website Schutz-vor-Naturgefahren.ch (in French and German), different methods are presented for specific types of users and needs. For example, the natural disaster checklist contains specific measures usable by homeowners to protect their properties against flooding.
The Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks is a joint research initiative at the University of Bern’s Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research and Swiss Mobiliar. The Mobiliar Lab’s research work focuses mainly on floods, storms and hail as well as the associated loss and damage potential, with strong emphasis placed on the practical application of findings.
The Mobiliar Lab was established in 2013, at which time the partners jointly defined the scope of the research’s subject matter. Since then, the researchers have further expanded their focus for practical use.
The independence of teaching and research at the Mobiliar Lab is contractually guaranteed. The Mobiliar Lab is free to choose its research projects and methods as well as any research partners. Furthermore, the Mobiliar Lab acts autonomously in the interpretation of research results. Research results and findings remain the property of the University of Bern and are published through customary scientific channels. Like the University of Bern, the Mobiliar Lab pursues a strategy of free access to its research results.
The research initiative entitled «Flood-risk research initiative – from theory to practice», which runs from 2018 to 2020, encompasses various scientific projects. Please visit the Mobiliar Lab’s website for further information.
Whether floods, storms or hail – the general public takes a great interest in Natural Risks. Researchers from the Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks regularly answer questions from journalists and are invited to give presentations to community, political and business decision-makers. Expertise gleaned from Natural Risks research is needed at the local, regional and national level. The Mobiliar Lab also actively supports public outreach activities.
Key data at a glance on the Mobiliar Lab’s website.
Prof. Dr. Margreth Keiler, Co-Director Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks
+41 31 631 32 77, E-Mail