Flooding is the most common weather-related hazard and globally causes more damage to life and property than any other hazard. It has the potential to sweep away entire cities or coastlines through rainfall, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs).

Much humanitarian and financial effort in disaster management is focused on relief rather than risk reduction. The overall impact can be reduced by communities to prepare and pursue pre-event risk reduction and resilience building.

In 2013 Zurich Insurance Group (Zurich) launched a global flood resilience program to advance knowledge, develop expertise, and design strategies to help communities improve their ability to deal with recurring floods. Zurich has entered a multi-year, interdisciplinary alliance with two humanitarian organizations - the International Institute of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Practical Action - and two leading research institutions - the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Process Centre (Wharton), and the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). This alliance provides an opportunity to use the skills and experiences of individual member organization to increase knowledge and provide insights for all stakeholders to apply to their flood resilience work. Apart from community level activities and applied research, the alliance has also formed a working group to develop a community flood resilience measurement tool.

At least four factors must be taken into account while measuring resilience: 
  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution or tool
  • Resilience is too big a concept to be measured in its entirety 
  • Efforts to increase resilience in one part of a system may undermine resilience in another
  • Any system measuring resilience should apply to a specific hazard.

Communities are at the core of risk reduction initiatives. Although many communities may have certain similarities, however, each community is unique. Zurich’s measurement tool combines the five capitals (Social Capital, Natural Capital, Physical Capital, Financial Capital, and Human Capital) of the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework with the “4Rs” of resilience: 

Five Capitals


  • Human (education, skills, health)
  • Social (social relationships and networks, bonds that promote cooperation, links facilitating exchange of and access to ideas and resources)
  • Physical (things produced by economic activity from other capital, such as infrastructure, equipment, improvements in crops, livestock)
  • Natural (natural resource base, including land productivity and actions to sustain it, as well as water and other resources that sustain livelihoods)
  • Financial (level, variability and diversity of income sources and access to other financial resources that contribute to wealth)
  • Robustness: ability to withstand a shock
  • Redundancy: functional diversity
  • Resourcefulness: ability to mobilize when threatened
  • Rapidity: ability to contain losses and recover in a timely manner 

These four properties determine the resilience of a system. 

The “5C 4R” approach uses quantitative and qualitative data to assess various “sources of resilience”. These sources are then graded, enabling actions to be identified to enhance resilience.

The resilience sources can be analyzed through:

  • The five capitals (5Cs).
  • The four resilience properties (4Rs).
  • Ten themes, effectively the topics used to formulate questions asked in communities, such as health, education, food, governance, and similar.
  • The five steps of the disaster risk management cycle.
  • The context or environment in which a source is embedded- i.e., internal (community) or external (environment).

Following are the tools that establish process to measure resilience:

  • A training environment allowing people to be trained in using the framework.
  • A flexible (online, web-based) application to set up measurement activities, select data collection methods and assign them to fieldworkers’ smartphones.
  • A simple, practical smartphone-based application to collect the data through the collection methods chosen, store it and send it back to the web application once the job is completed.
  • A web-based environment consolidating all data for the assessment, using our rigorous and consistent assessment methodology.
  • A method for visualizing and analyzing the measurement results and the right guidance on how to interpret the results (and how to avoid misinterpreting them).
  • A database to store the resilience measurement results for a comprehensive analysis, and allow a validation process to be started

The measurement framework has been piloted by Practical Action and the IFRC,and boundary partners in Nepal, Peru and Mexico. Based on the results of these pilots, the tool will be refined to increase its usability.

The tool will give numerical results to assess a community’s flood resilience level. While such a quantitative measure is interesting and may confirm or undermine what we already know, it is not suitable for comparing one community to another, or for designing resilience programming. 

Comparing the end-line assessment with the baseline assessment however can help to track changes over time in sources of resilience. The Zurich Insurance Group will continue to test the tool and will work to establish methods that can be used for resilience measurement.

Flooding around the world

(Source: http://floodlist.com)