Flood protection in the Netherlands – study visit to Room for the River project in Nijmegen and to Delta Works

During last week, one of our team members visited various flood protection and water management projects in the Netherlands together with collaborating international researchers.


(c) C. Stephan

An impressing example of an interdisciplinary approach towards flood risk management is the Room for the River project in the city of Nijmegen, which is part of the National Room for the River program setup after severe river flooding  in 1993 and 1995.In a presentation and excursion along the river Waal, the main distributary branch of the Rhine, landscape architect Mathieu Schouten presented the main ideas of an integrated bottom-up approach for the planning of interventions, which included aspects of flood protection, increase in biodiversity and urban planning. Inclusive stakeholder management and the involvement of local people in the landscape design have made this project a showcase for governance of the water-scape of the river Waal. Please find more information on the Room for the River project in Nijmegen on the project website.

Besides this integrative approach of flood management and landscape design, the researcher visited parts of the Delta Works.


(c) C. Stephan

These are a series of infrastructural projects that protect a large area of land around the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta from floods from the sea. The Netherlands has a total of 17,500 kilometres in dykes. Without dykes, dunes and storm surge barriers, today 40% of the country would be permanently under water. The large infrastructural interventions, carried out in the SW of Netherlands between 1957 and 1986, strongly affected the ecological characteristics of the estuarine transit zones. While in the last years ecological rehabilitation has gained importance in the delta areas, at the same time transport by cargo ships and protection against flooding as well as long-term planning for sea level rise need to be considered.



6. Stuttgarter Runder Tisch “Forschung im Bevölkerungsschutz” at the Fraunhofer IAO

On February 7th, Christiane Stephan from our team at IRG participated at the 6. Stuttgarter Runder Tisch “Forschung im Bevölkerungsschutz” at the Fraunhofer Institute IAO.

The event addressed the possibilities and practices of involvement of civil society into crisis management. Two workshops addressed this complex topic from different angles: While in workshop I the challenges and potentials of integrating spontaneous unaffiliated volunteers into crisis management were addressed, workshop II discussed possible solutions of maintaining ambulant systems for people in need of medical support in times of crisis.


cc Flickr, 2014

In the event it was possible to build up and intensify the exchange between researchers and practitioners from different ongoing research projects in Germany. This included the two projects presented by Fraunhofer IAO, KOKOS and KOPHIS, but also a range of other projects, among them KIRMin and the research network BigWa, both led by IRG at TH Köln.

We are looking forward to a continuous exchange of ideas and approaches for the involvement of civil society into crisis management in the future, facing the challenges of dynamic change in our societies and building up trustful relations among all actors involved.

IRG excursion to institutions of civil protection and disaster prevention in Hamburg and Kiel

Foto HAW Hamburg2

(c) TH Köln/HAW Hamburg

A team of 25 students and several staff members from the Institute of Rescue Engineering and Civil Protection (IRG) at TH Köln including Prof. Alexander Fekete have carried out an excursion to Kiel and Hamburg from June 7-9, 2016. The main goal was to get a first-hand impression of civil protection and disaster prevention in science, practice and in governance structures in the North of Germany.


(c) TH Köln

It allowed to link topics discussed in the courses at the IRG with practical challenges and strategies in a geographic region in Germany, which is of high economic and strategic importance. The topics discussed comprised storm surges and dike control at German coasts and the Elbe River, logistics of large harbours and canals as well as the resilience of the electric grid system and other critical infrastructures in a large city like Hamburg.

Besides the visits to the Ministry of Interior of Schleswig Holstein in Kiel as well as Hamburg Port Authority and Hamburg Wasser, this excursion enabled a direct exchange with the staff and students of the courses Rescue Engineering and Hazard Control at HAW Hamburg. Students and lecturers from both Cologne and Hamburg were able to exchange ideas on challenges of civil protection today and the demands for related professional and scientific education and research at universities for the future.


(c) TH Köln

The team of IRG at TH Köln gives thanks to all the visited institutions and experts in Kiel and Hamburg as well as to the students, who actively participated and shaped this excursion.

For further information on the excursion, please contact Christiane Grinda (christiane.grinda(at)th-koeln.de).


How to manage disaster risk?

2015 has been an exciting and productive year. We look back to a large list of activities and encounters that have inspired our team to continue our work in research, education and practical action in the fields of Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management.

As a food for thought we want to highlight the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction that was adopted on 18th March 2015.

UNISDR has created a new video presenting the main priorities and targets developed in THE SENDAI FRAMEWORK: MAKING THE DIFFERENCE FOR POVERTY, HEALTH AND RESILIENCE.

You can access this video on youtube following this link:

We want to encourage our readers to think about what you, your local communities or cities can do to make a difference and reduce as well as manage disaster risk in the upcoming years.

New session of Risky Monday – Accomodation of refugees in Kerpen

On December 7th, the Institute of Rescue Engineering and Civil Protection at TH Köln welcomed Mr. Wolfgang Grass – Amtsleiter für Feuerschutz, Rettungsdienst und Katastrophenschutz of Kolpingstadt Kerpen – to the lecture series on interdisciplinary risk and crisis management.

Wolfgang Grass gave important first-hand insight into the professional procedures of civil protection on the level of municipal administration in Kerpen and current challenges of the city concerning the accommodation of refugees. The presentation corresponded to a range of urgent questions and challenges in many municipalities around Germany in arranging the accommodation and assistance for a high number of refugees within a short period of time. The high interest and relevance of the topic in our institute reflected in the participation of a large number of students and external visitors which triggered an intense discussion.


(c) Alexander Fekete

Mr. Grass is Chief Fire Officer and Executive Director of the Office for Fire Protecion, Rescue Service and Civil Protection in the city of Kerpen. Since the inception of the committee for extraordinary events in Kerpen in 1994 he holds the leading position. Moreover, Mr. Grass is a technical expert for fire safety and leading planner for visitor´s safety (TH Köln).

The Risky Monday takes places on a regular basis at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences, campus Deutz in room ZS8-8 (south wing, floor 8, room 8). For further information please contact Celia Norf (celia.norf(at)fh-koeln.de) and have a look at our events page.

Lessons learned & Disaster Resilience – DAAD Seminar

From November 9 to November 13, our team of Risk, Crisis & Disaster Management at the Institue of Rescue Engineering and Civil Protection, TH Köln University of Applied Sciences, has carried out the DAAD Alumni Seminar on the topic “11 Years After the Indian Ocean Tsunami 2004 – Lessons of Disaster Recovery, Rehabilitation and Resilience“. In collaboration with colleagues from UNU-EHS, the team hosted a group of 19 international participants from Asia, Latin America and Africa and various national and international experts in the field of Disaster Risk Management and Humanitarian Aid with practical experience in Tsunami Recovery and Rehabilitation.

A series of controversial questions were discussed in a transparent and lively dialogue: These ranged from scientific questions of measuring social resilience or evaluating the buffer capacities of certain ecosystems to Tsunami waves to political questions on the distribution of aid, the challenges of donation management and long-term ownership and responsibility for relief activities. At the same time, a South-South dialogue and network among the participants has been facilitated and we hope for fruitful future collaboration.


(c) C.Grinda

Concerning our burning questions “Which lessons have been learned?” and “Which lessons have been implemented?” various answers were given from different local, professional and political contexts. Especially the round-table talk with experts from the field (Dr. Joachim Post, UN-SPIDER; Wolfgang Friedrich, German Red Cross; Dr. Pia Hollenbach, University of Zurich & Prof. Dr. Torsten Schlurmann, Franzius-Institute) resulted in an open and self-critical but at the same time optimist outlook on the lessons that were learned by the various institutions and the tasks still ahead of us on the way of improving comprehensive and long-term disaster risk reduction strategies.

In the coming weeks, we will keep you updated with statements of the participants and organizers, short videos and other first results on this website.

DAAD Alumni Seminar 2015 "11 Years After the Indian Ocean Tsunami 2004"

(c) Heike Fischer / TH Köln