United Nations Educational,Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations Environment Programme
 Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at the Local Level (APELL)
Gonaïves, Haiti, 22 600 deaths and aound250 000 people left homeless
APELL and FloodsA community-based approach for disasterreduction
From UNDP Publication:
Reducing Disaster Risk: A Challenge For Development 
, 2004
Every year, some 195 million people in more than 90 countries areexposed to catastrophic flooding. Of all natural disasters, floodsaffect the greatest number of people worldwide and have thegreatest potential to cause damage. When they occur in lessdeveloped countries, floods can result in thousands of deaths andlead to epidemics, as well as effectively wiping out decades ofinvestment in infrastructure and seriously crippling economicprosperity.High mortality from floods occurs in countries with poor, sparselypopulated rural areas where disaster preparedness and earlywarning are almost non-existent, and where health coverage is weakand care not easily accessible. People in these areas have lesspossibilities for evacuation from flood prone areas and are morevulnerable to flood related diseases which can prove fatal.Disaster inevitably leads to crisis and, once a crisis situation isestablished, it is the degree to which people are prepared fordisaster that determines how vulnerable or resilient their communitywill be. Experience throughout the world has shown, time and again,that it is local people who are best placed to prepare for and respondto disasters, including floods.This brochure gives some background information on floods andthen highlights options for making communities better preparedthrough a bottom-up, community-based, participatory approachknown as APELL. APELL, standing for Awareness andPreparedness for Emergencies at the Local Level, is a processdesigned to create public awareness of hazards and to ensure thatcommunities and emergency services are adequately trained,coordinated and prepared to respond to and cope with disaster.
004,rPhoto: Marko Kokic, IFRC*
Central Europe, 2002,Austria, the CzechRepublic, Germany, France,Romania, Bulgaria, Hungaryand Slovakia85 deaths and around 273 000people affectedPhoto: Andrew MacColl, IFRC*Mekong River, Vietnam andCambodia, 2000,800 deaths and around8 500 000 people affectedPhoto: Viet Thanh, IFRC*
Venezuela, 1999,30 000 deaths and around500 000 people affectedPhoto: IFRC*China, Yangtze River, 1998,3 656 deaths and around 16million left homelessPhoto: IFRC*
*IFRC – International Federation of RedCross and Red Crescent Society – Photostaken from IFRC website at:http://www.ifrc.org/index.asp
The importance of earlywarning systems (EWS)for flood prediction
Early warning systems are technologicalinstruments for detecting andforecasting extreme flood events and forissuing alerts. If they are to be effectivein helping to reduce risk, early warningsystems need to be complemented byinformation on the actual risks posed byfloods and likely mitigation strategies.This information must then becommunicated to the vulnerable groups,i.e. the communities. Communitiesshould not be merely passive recipientsof information; they should participateactively in the whole process of floodwarning. Their indigenous knowledge ofthe river basin should be taken intoaccount.Early warning mechanisms comprisewarning, risk information, preparednessand efficient communication. Earlywarning can empower communitiesWarning must be given in good time, beprecise and prompt, and shouldconveyreliable information
taken from ISDR Publication
. Living with Risk 
RELSAT Project
(Strengthening oflocal structures and early warningsystems) was implemented in pilotzones in each of the six CentralAmerican countries between November1998 and December 1999.The purpose of this project was toestablish efficient and reliable earlywarning systems for floods, tailored tothe realities and capabilities of theselected pilot zones.The project developed early warningsystems that work. People living in theupper parts of the river measure rainfalland water level regularly. They transmitthis information by radio to a centraloffice in the nearest municipality wherethe data are analysed. The centrecommunicates with people in the flood-prone areas. When danger isanticipated, the centre can alert thepopulation exposed to risks and canprepare for their evacuation, ifnecessary. In order to be effective, thissystem requires reliable communicationand coordination. Responsibilities mustbe clearly assigned and commitmentmust be continuous. More informationon the ISDR publication
Living with Risk 
(2002), on-line at:
http://www.unisdr.org/eng/about_isdr/basic _docs/LwR2004/ch5%20Section%205.pdf
Types of floods
River floods (seasonalflooding)River floods are usuallycaused by seasonalprecipitation over largecatchment areas, by melting of snow that has accumulated overthe winter, or sometimes by a combination of these. In contrastto flash floods (see below), river floods normally build up slowly,are often seasonal and may continue for days or weeks.
Floods are naturallyoccurring hazards. Theybecome disasters when theyhave destructive effects onhuman settlements.
Floods caused by tropical storms (flash floods)The heavy rain that accompanies tropical storms is one of themost common causes of flooding. These storms form over thewarm ocean waters of the tropics and carry very large amountsof moisture. When conditions for their formation are right, giantstorms can reach the land very quickly (in 6 hours), usuallyaccompanied by torrential rainfall. The rain is too much for thestreams and rivers to handle, causing water to overflow andproduce floods.Coastal FloodsStorms, wind and other events can sometimes cause oceanwater to overflow, leading to onshore flooding. Tsunamis,exceptionally large ocean waves triggered by volcanic events,landslides, earthquakes, or explosions, also cause coastalflooding.
How does human activity contribute tofloods?
The magnitude and frequency of floods is often increased byhuman activities. For instance:Establishing settlements in floodplains endangers lives andproperty. The pressures of population growth and shortages ofland can push people to settle in floodplains, putting them andtheir property at risk. Floodplain development can also alterwater channels and this, if not well planned, can also contributeto floods.Urbanization can contribute to flooding in several ways. Roadsand buildings cover the land preventing water from infiltrating,so that runoff forms artificial streams. Natural or artificialchannels can become constricted by debris or obstructed byriver facilities, impeding drainage and causing overflowing.Particularly complex changes take place around large citiesduring their expansion, strongly modifying runoff production anddrainage patterns.Environmental and land degradation, deforestation and removalof root systems increase runoff. This effect can be compoundedwhen material eroded as a result of these activities is depositedin river channels, decreasing their capacity.Failure to maintain or manage drainage systems, dams orlevees in vulnerable areas also contributes to flooding.
Flood prevention andpreparedness in practice
Within the community, individualsshould:
recognize and follow warning signals
follow established evacuation plans
know which news services areappropriate before, during and afterfloods
stay away from landslide prone areas
know if their property is in thefloodplain and what preventionmeasures should be taken
Rescue services need:
equipment and training
local hazard maps showing floodprone areas, and vulnerabilityassessments
to monitor changes in river flows andmeteorological warnings on acontinuous basis
to implement local emergency plans
to mobilize community resources
to assess immediate needs forevacuation, shelter, medical care,route deviations, etc.
to have communication channels withthe public during crisis
to perform full-scale evacuation drills
Government authorities should takesteps towards:
having policy on floodplainmanagement integrated into the riverbasin water management plan
strengthening and enforcing buildingcodes in flood prone areas
the acquisition of property infloodplains to prevent theirdevelopment, and relocation ofresidents in high-risk areas
the establishment and enforcement oflegislation and safe land-useplanning, to regulate development infloodplain areas
the creation of economic incentives
making public information on floodhazards available
training emergency services andcommunities on flood preparedness
making medical services ready for aflood crisis
improving local preparedness byfostering links with national disastermanagement programmes
International agencies should:
coordinate international and regionalcooperation on disaster management
support effective early warning alertsand assessment studies
encourage governments to adopt andenforce suitable legislation and policyon disaster management, includingnational contingency plans
support the promotion of preventionand preparedness procedures at thelocal level
How flood risks can be reduced
Living with floodsThe bestapproach to flood management atnational level is to have it integratedinto a broader water managementstrategy. Such a strategy should alsotake into account ecological benefitsthat are sometimes inherent to floods.
There is seldom asingle approach torisk reduction andmanagement, butrather a range ofmeasures extendingfrom developmentand enforcement ofpolicies through land use planning and engineering work, tothe development of forecasts, warnings, awareness-raising,and preparedness and response programmes. Emphasisshould be placed on attaining solutions that are practical,appropriate and sustainable for the community at risk.Implementation will only be sustainable if solutions aresuitable for the community in the long term.Put briefly, there are three complementary approaches toreducing flood risk:- keep the flood away from people;- keep the people away from the flood; and- community preparednessKeeping the flood away from people is a strategy that includesmeasures to contain or reduce the flood—i.e. structural floodcontrol measures such as the construction of dykes, levees,dams, etc. and low cost non-structural measures such as soiland water conservation, or erosion and sedimentation control.Keeping the people away from the flood is a strategy thatincludes floodplain management, with land use control, floodproofing of houses, and flood forecasting and warning.Preventing people from living in flood prone areas, orrelocating those who do, is not always possible. When this isthe case, the most useful and powerful strategy, CommunityPreparedness, comes into play.
Community preparedness for floods–
APELL in practice 
APELL means community preparedness. Flood preparednessbased on the APELL process is achieved through a structuredapproach to community participation in emergency planning. Itis based on a meaningful dialogue between all relevantstakeholders, including local authorities and communityleaders. This dialogue is achieved through a broad-basedmulti-stakeholder, representative group which first reviews theflood situation and then proposes measures to address therisks. The outcome of this process is an emergency plan towhich the community has provided substantial input, andwhich ordinary citizens can understand. Communities needtheir emergency plans; evacuation centres and hospitals needto be prepared to deal with evacuees and injured people—andthat is APELL in practice.The success of flood-related public participation initiativesrelies on (i) the achievement of a consensus agreementbetween decision-makers and the communities on a decision’spotential impact, taking into account the expectations of thecommunities; (ii) the involvement of stakeholders and theselection of an appropriate decision framework; and (iii) theadoption of highly effective flood and water managementconsultations.
How does APELL operate?APELL 10-stepapproach
APELL can be useful in anysituation that requires jointplanning for disasters byseveral parties
The APELL process is amanagement tool that helpslocal people develop theinformation and decision-making structures they need toaddress the hazards facing their community. By engagingstakeholders in a process of structured dialogue andcoordination, APELL's 10-step approach leads to thedevelopment of a single, unified emergency response plan forthe entire community. Implementing the process not onlydevelops the crisis plan, it also fosters awareness raising andfeedback within the community.
1- Identify the emergency responseparticipants and establish their roles,resources, and concerns
2- Identify and assess all hazardsand risks (multi-hazard approach)that may result in emergencysituations in the community.Propose early warning, preventionand mitigation measures
Local communities often have the technology or knowledgerequired to reduce their own vulnerability, but some keycommunity or social structure may be missing, preventingthem from realizing the benefits of vulnerability reduction atthe community level. APELL is a process that helps toempower local people so that they can organize, act togetherand overcome barriers to successful community action.
3- Have participants review their ownemergency response plans to ensurea coordinated response4- Identify the required responsetasks not covered by existing plans
UNEP developed the APELL programme in the 1980s, inassociation with the chemicals industry, with the intention ofaddressing public hazards from industrial installations. It hassince been widened to encompass ports, transport, mining,industrial estates and natural disasters
5-Match these tasks to the resourcesof the identified participants
mission of the
United Nations EnvironmentProgramme
(UNEP) in the field of disaster reduction is toaddress the immediate and long term human, social, health,economic and environmental impacts of natural and human-induced disasters, minimizing the resulting environmentalemergencies that they cause. UNEP’s approach is to promotedisaster management to reduce vulnerability and enhancecoping-mechanisms through capacity building, and activities inthe field of early warning and assessment, prevention andpreparedness, emergency response mechanisms, post-disaster assessment and post-conflict assessment, andenvironmental rehabilitation.
6- Make the changes to improveexisting plans, integrate them into anoverall community plan, and gainagreement7- Commit the integrated communityplan to writing and obtain approvalfrom local governments8-Educate participating groups aboutthe integrated plan
UNESCO is the
United Nations Educational, Scientific andCultural Organization
. UNESCO’s aims in the field of naturaldisasters are: to promote a better understanding of thedistribution in time and space of natural hazards and of theirintensity; to help set up reliable early warning systems; tosupport rational land use plans; to encourage the adoption ofsuitable building designs; to promote the protection ofeducational buildings and cultural monuments; to enhancepreparedness and public awareness through education andtraining; and to foster technical post-disaster investigation,recovery and rehabilitation.
9-Establish procedures for periodictesting, review,
and updating of theplan10-Educate the community about theintegrated plan – Awareness raisingcampaigns
Brochure Bibliography:UNDP Publication (2004).
 Reducing Disaster  Risk: A Challenge for Development 
 Several publications from the UNDP DisasterManagement Training ProgrammeISDR Publication
: Living with Risk 
(2002) and
Guidelines for Reducing Flood Losses
(2004)UNESCO (1993). Environment andDevelopment BriefsOCHA Publication (1997).
Floods, People at  Risk, Strategies for Prevention
 UNEP Publication (1988).
 APELL Handbook 
UNEP - Division of Technology, Industry and Economics
39-43 quai André Citroën - 75739 Paris Cedex 15, FranceTel. +33 (0) 1 44 37 14 50; Fax +33 (0) 1 44 37 14 74E-mail:apell@unep.frWebsite:http://www.uneptie.org/apell  
UNESCO - Disaster Reduction, Natural Sciences Sector
1, rue Miollis 75732 Paris Cedex 15, FranceTel: +33 (0) 1 45 68 41 20; Fax: +33 (0) 1 43 06 17 76E-Mail:sc.ndr@unesco.orgWebsite:http://www.unesco.org/science/index.shtml
Compiled by: Ruth Zugman Do Coutto, Consultant, and Badaoui Rouhban, Chief,Section for Disaster Reduction, Natural Sciences Sector, UNESCO, December 2004 SC-2004/WS/48
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