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DRU research on the disaster in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate

The disaster in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate illustrates the need for social science disaster research in Germany. Contrary to what is often reported in the media, this was not a "natural disaster" but a social disaster. Such a perspective is crucial because extreme rainfall only evolved into a disaster due to societal susceptibility. Accordingly, in order to prevent future disasters, it is important to focus on effectively addressing climate change as well as the social causes of the disaster, which include land use, the lack of suitable protective structures, an effective warning culture and social vulnerabilities. At the same time, we are to ask how coping resources can be strengthened, for example in the form of adapting disaster management to future disaster scenarios, people’s self- and peer-help ability, and resilience in reconstruction. 

These topics have been addressed in the past and are currently being addressed in various research projects of the DRU. For example, the projects INVOLVE and FloodEvac examined past flood events in Germany, such as the Elbe flood of 2013. Warning processes and cultures, as well as specifically the warning of extreme weather events, were and are the focus of the projects ENSUREWEXICOM II and WEXICOM III. The TsunamiRisk project is dedicated to the investigation of institutional warning processes. In INVOLVEvulnerability during the Elbe floods in 2013 and resilience in the reconstruction process three years later were recorded. Other projects, such as KOPHIS, examined the vulnerability of specific vulnerable groups. The willingness of the population to help and people’s behaviour during disasters were a central topic of ENSURE. And climate change and its impact on disasters were also studied in projects (ANiKINCREASE).

The DRU team plans to study the disaster in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate in various research projects and to conduct specific investigations.

Accordingly, an analysis of flood events in Germany is planned in INCREASE. The aim is to draw lessons from recent flood experiences in Germany and to derive lessons learned for integrated disaster risk management (ICRM).

The project RESIK focuses on hospital evacuations and the importance of the issue of critical infrastructure in hospitals in the flood situation.

In order to be able to assess complex risks and challenges of the future as well as societal resilience in a more systemic way, wide-ranging Competence Hubs for Resilience and Population Protection are needed. (cf. also ealier version for English translation).

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