Improving flood forecasting and warning preparation

December 2020

The challenge

This organisation operates a flood forecasting and warning service in New Zealand and has invested in a programme to be better prepared to respond to flood incidents.

Three main challenges were apparent: the need raise community awareness of flooding, introduce a forecast-led warning approach and better alignment with partner organisations during flood incident preparation and response.

Civil Defence legislation provides the framework to build from and deliver the goal of saving lives and livelihoods through proactive incident management that provides the right information, in the right way, at the right time.

Key facts


  • Low level of risk awareness within communities
  • Limited forecasting capability
  • Limited alignment in response procedures across partner organisations

The solution

RAB Consultants, in collaboration with Tonkin + Taylor, were commissioned to support a programme to introduce key messages to raise community flood awareness, scope a flood forecasting capability and introduce new procedures and associated duty officer structures, all supported by a training and exercise programme.

The client was receptive to our advice and knowledge from good practice in other countries and informed decisions were made. This resulted in amalgamating four documents and developing a new single flood response procedure which we road tested in a desk top exercise.

Secondly, we proposed and introduced and a new duty officer response structure for flood incidents that integrates with wider Civil Defence arrangements. We developed duty officer Action Cards that defines respective responsibilities. These will be used to inform the building blocks of a training and exercise programme, based on developing capability, that in turn builds confidence, introduces consistency and above all improves duty officer performance i.e. competency.

Finally, we used our expertise in flood forecasting to scope the market and recommend a system to introduce a forecast-led warning service that integrates with current hydrometry and IT systems.

Following workshops and desk top exercises, the next steps are to prepare a modular duty officer training programme, engage with communities and implement a programme to procure a new flood forecasting system.


RAB/T+T experience and recommendations is resulting in positive steps to put the client in the best possible position in preparedness to respond to flood incidents. Through workshops and regular communique’s staff and partner engagement remains high. Opportunities for improvement are now being realised and our continued involvement in delivering this programme will provide a significant contribution to achieve the goal of saving lives and reducing risk.

“Firstly, a big thank you for the expert facilitation of the workshop last week! Great effort by the team and a well-run day”. Client Project Manager


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