Living with Natural Hazards - Magazine «environment» 2/2015

Lessons from the floods of 2005 > There’s a limit to what flood protective structures can do > Avoiding hazard zones > Knowledge creates safety > There will definitely be another earthquake

Josef Hess

Together for Safety

Editorial by Josef Hess

Switzerland at a Glance

The hazard situation in the Alpine country of Switzerland is influenced by the significant differences in altitude over a small area and relatively high precipitation volumes as compared with the rest of Western Europe. Floods, in particular, can arise almost everywhere as water run-off per square meter is almost four times the global mean.

Hans Peter Willi

10 years after 2005: “We have made major gains in terms of safety”

Around ten years ago, torrential rain fell over the Alpine region. Torrents and lakes breached their banks and entire mountain slopes slid. It was by far the most expensive storm of the last 100 years. Would we be better equipped to deal with such an event today? environment asked Hans Peter Willi, head of the Hazard Prevention Division at the FOEN, this very question.

Confluence of the rivers Sihl and Limmat

Integrated risk management in action: Zurich Arms itself against an Extreme Flood Event

After the floods of 2005 one thing was clear: the river Sihl poses a serious risk to Zurich in the event of a flood. In the case of a 100-year flood, large parts of the city and, including the main station, Switzerland’s most important rail transport hub, would be affected. Based on a systematic approach, the canton of Zurich is working with all stakeholders to identify all of the options available to reduce the risk.

Hazard map for the Villars-sur-Ollon area

Spatial planning: Good Maps for Risk Management

Almost all Swiss communes now have hazard maps. The task now is to use this scientific information to plan the measures necessary to protect the population and important material assets and to adapt spatial development. A walk through the commune of Ollon in the western Swiss Alps reveals what is involved here.

Beaver tubes

Warning and alerting: When the Heavy Rains Fall

Time is money. This principle also applies to the management of storm events: the damage they cause can be reduced considerably if everyone receives timely warnings. Some aspects of this task were poorly managed during the storms of 2005. Thanks to the measures that have been taken since then through the OWARNA project, the warning and alerting system works considerably better today.

Mountain pine forest close to the Zernez (Graubünden)

Biological protection measures: A Protection Forest does more than you might think

The forest provides more effective protection against natural hazards than even experts in the field believed up to now. The newly developed Protect Bio method enables the evaluation of this biological protection service. The procedure was implemented in practice for the first time in a protection forest on the Fuorn Pass road in the Engadin region.

Protecting infrastructure: Shaking up Earthquake Protection

Collapsed buildings and bridges are among the horrifying images produced by earthquakes. However, the less spectacular consequences of earthquakes can also bring a country to a standstill, for example when key infrastructure systems are damaged. The FOEN is committed to ensuring better protection against earthquakes.

Bern scouts cantonal camp

Taking personal responsibility: Be Prepared!

To act appropriately in the context of natural hazards, it is essential to be well informed. This is just as applicable to the team in charge of a scout camp as it is for individuals who are out and about on their own. A lot has been done to improve the general public’s hazard awareness and competence in recent years.

Bosnia-Herzegowina: house destroyed by landslide

International cooperation: Drawing on Switzerland’s Experience throughout the World

Switzerland’s expertise in dealing with natural hazards is valued throughout the world. It ranges from emergency aid to disaster preparedness and, as a result, is availed of in many countries and by many organisations like the UN and OSCE.

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Magazine «environment» 2/2015 Living with Natural Hazards