Planning for the emotional aftermath of devastating floods is as important as dealing with the immediate impact of such emergencies, say researchers from the Hull Floods project at Lancaster University.
As local councils brace themselves for the estimated £400m repair bill for damage caused by the recent storms and flooding, Dr Rebecca Whittle, Lecturer at Lancaster University’s Lancaster Environment Centre said: “It’s actually about what comes after – it’s about that long and very protracted recovery period. It’s about that secondary trauma of having to deal with insurers and builders - trying to recover some semblance of normal family life.”
A new short film released this week, entitled ‘Life after Flooding’, and funded by the Economic And Social Research Council (ESRC), shows how these academics worked with 50 Hull residents for two years following the floods of 2007. During the deluge the city received a sixth of its annual rainfall in just 12 hours. More than 10,500 homes were evacuated and many were unable to return to them for over two years.
The researchers asked those who had been most affected to keep a diary, and brought them together for regular group discussions. Dr Marion Walker, Senior Research Associate at Lancaster University Environment Centre, says parents and teachers were also worried about the youngsters who had been displaced. She said: “We realised then that it was important to talk to the children and young people to find out how they were coping.”
So they encouraged them to draw and write storyboards about their experiences. The researchers found it was a very therapeutic way for the youngsters to deal with their trauma. Ian Lamb, Education Coordinator for Hull City Council, said: “It allowed us to work in a more emotional way. I think if we hadn’t done that with these children then certainly their outcomes and attainment would have suffered. We built that into the curriculum and certainly into the social way that we dealt with families.”
The findings of the Hull Floods Project have influenced government policy – but researchers feel more could still be done. For instance - it should become educational policy that young people severely affected by the disruption caused by flooding carry a record of what happened to them throughout their school life so teachers understand its impact.
In addition, Save the Children UK invited them to work with them to develop a set of resources to help young children and their carers to process their emotions after a disaster.