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Environment Agency draws on recent public dialogue on Communicating Risk in evidence on the winter floods to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

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On Monday 11 January 2016, three senior individuals from the Environment Agency gave evidence to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee one-day hearing on the winter floods: Sir Philip Dilley, (then) Chairman of the Environment Agency; Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive Officer and David Rook, Deputy Chief Executive.

The Deputy Chief Executive referred to the flood risk communications project, undertaken with Sciencewise support, and stressed that the Environment Agency would be using the results. The dialogue was mentioned in answer to a question from Committee member Simon Hart:

Simon Hart (Q57): “…I just wondered, in the communication of all of this, whether you are satisfied that the distinction between risk management and risk elimination is fully understood by everybody you have to communicate with, including the media, for that matter. The basis of the evidence you have given us is that you are never going to be able to have flood-alleviation machinery on the ground, movable or immovable, that can cope with the sort of weather conditions you had. Therefore, it is about managing expectations. Are you where you need to be as far as that is concerned?”

David Rooke:  “… we undertook a science project called Sciencewise. We had a number of focus groups, including one in York, which gave us really good feedback and evidence in terms of how we might improve the language we use in communicating risk. We will be using the findings from that research, which was quite recent, to improve the way we communicate.”

Simon Hart: “You gave a warm welcome to working in partnership with various other organisations, volunteer groups and professionals. Is that the starting point? Are those relationships reasonably sound at the moment? We have been talking about the Cumbrian scheme, for example.”

David Rooke: “Relationships are absolutely essential so we can build trust with communities and work with them to find solutions that they want and have ownership of. It is absolutely crucial.”

See related project page: Public communication and engagement on flood risk