Flood risk
affects all of us

Floods not only cause great distress to the affected communities, but also result in high costs. 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”. The goal is to offer a sound basis and innovative tools for the sustainable management of flood risks.

Damage potential

Interactive map of Switzerland showing how many buildings and individuals are at risk from flooding, down to neighbourhood level

Flood image memory

Interactive image repository, covering the whole of Switzerland and containing over 3,000 images of floods from the past 700 years

Risk dynamics

Interactive tool showing which factors influence the risk of flooding and how these factors change over time for a selected example

Markus Köppel, Fire Chief, Berneck-Au-Heerbrugg

The risk of flood damage is above the Swiss national average in the area we cover. Thanks to the new movable floor barrier, we are even better equipped to deal with this hazard.

Flood damage potential tool
Where are the jobs threatened by floods located?

For the first time, the potential damage caused by flooding can be visualised using this tool right across Switzerland – down to individual neighbourhoods. It helps you see how many people or important assets are vulnerable to floods and where they are located.

Example of Use
Flood image memory tool
Has the place where I live ever flooded?

Public recollections of flooding and the resulting damage often dissipate quickly. The nationwide repository, to which the public can contribute their own photos of past flood events, is designed to combat this state of amnesia.

Example of Use
Risk dynamics tool
What effects does urban development have on the risk of flooding?

Flood risks in a particular location will shift over time. This tool can be used by anyone to understand the origin of the hazard and the factors influencing it.

About the research initiative

Flood-risk research initiative – from theory...

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 launched in 2018 aim in particular to develop decision-making resources for flood-risk management.

… 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.

Foschungsinitiative Hochwasser
Video (German)
About us

The Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks

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.

Identifying and quantifying flood risk

The research initiative entitled «Flood-risk research initiative – from theory to practice», which was initiated in 2018, encompasses various scientific projects. Please visit the Mobiliar Lab’s website for further information.

Active public outreach

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.

Press contact
Prof. Dr. Margreth Keiler
Co-Director Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks
Phone: +41 31 631 32 77

Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks

University of Bern
Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks
Hallerstrasse 12
CH-3012 Bern

Phone: +41 31 631 86 09

Please do not hesitate to share your feedback.
We look forward to your opinions and comments to help us in our research.