Scira Menoni and Funda Atun (POLIMI)

The Umbria Region Case study description

Specificity of the case study: its origin and rationale

The Umbria Region case study is the only one within EDUCEN that deals with a region and not with a city. Whilst this can be considered an upscaling to a higher level, it needs also to be borne in mind that Umbria is a small region, with only 900.000 inhabitants living in small-medium towns and scattered across small fractions and villages in between the larger towns.

If from a geographic and territorial perspective, the case is a relevant an example of a tiny net of villages and towns connected by a dense network of regional, municipal and secondary roads, from a political and administrative standpoint it shares with all other regions in Italy the same functionality and the same types of administrative structures.

The second special feature of the Umbria Region case study is the fact that it is not a pure case study, but rather the result of a living lab established in previous projects and joint activities and that have led to the joint co-development of the tools and methods that will be discussed in section 2.

So the initiatives and the results that will be shown are equally results of a research activity carried out by the Politecnico di Milano researchers and by the Umbria Region Civil Protection, with a special reference to the Functional Division, that is the unit that performs meteorological and hydrological forecasting and take care of early warning systems.

The main objective of the work carried out in the case study has been the joint development of tools and methods to collect, store, structure post-flood damage data and then analyze such data in order to obtain a comprehensive representation of the damage, including as far as possible also indication regarding indirect damage.

Such analysis should be provided in the form of reports developed according the multiple possible uses of the data as suggested by De Groeve et al. (2013).

It may be interesting to recall here the rationale of this case study. A cooperation between researchers of the Politecnico di Milano and the Umbria region Civil Protection initiated in 2010 triggered by a presentation provided by a young researcher of our group at the EGU Conference in Vienna where also the responsible for the meteorological and hydrological forecast division was attending. Initially the collaboration was aimed at using existing damage data from previous events (in particular the flood in the Topino-Moraggia basin in 2005) to develop flood damage curves adapted to the regional built stock and as an example of an Italian application of the damage curves concept.

The effort carried out by the researchers was confronted with the paucity and the low quality of available data, low at least as far as use for risk modelling validation is concerned. It was then decided jointly to initiate a new course of activity devoted to the development of tools for collecting better damage data. Initially specific forms to survey residential buildings were developed, also with the collaboration of the University of Messina and the Sicilian River Basin Authority (Molinari et al., 2014).

Then the 2012 November flood triggered the application of the developed tools in a real case. The test permitted to understand a number of issues, including the fact that specific different forms had to be developed for industrial and commercial sites, as one of the most damaged sites was the industrial area of the city of Orvieto (Orvieto Scalo) and the need to coordinate data across at least several administrations of the same region (for example as far as the road and the water system are concerned) and possibly with semi-private stakeholders such as power and communication providers.

The 2013 November flood permitted to fine-tune the tools and to develop a more standardized procedure to be followed.

The 2013 November flood permitted to fine-tune the tools and to develop a more standardized procedure to be followed. The real cases certainly provided a unique opportunity to apply, test, and further develop the methodology, but also constrained the activity of researchers and civil protection officers putting both under a certain pressure that was not always on the side of efficiency.

The case study profile

The Umbria region is located in Central Italy and covers 8456 km2 with a population of 883000 inhabitants (source: national statistical office, 2011). Most of its territory is made of the Apennines Mountains and hillside. 46% of its territory is covered by forests, 7% of which are preservation areas or protected parks.

Urbanisation has taken place along the two main valleys: the Tiber Valley stretching from North to South for almost 100 km from the borders with Tuscany to the Todi Municipality in the South at the borders with the Lazio region; and the Umbria valley in the direction North-West to South-East, between Perugia and Spoleto for 40 km length with a larger width ranging between 5 to 10 km.

Both valleys are highly networked with highways, main roads and railways. The valleys by being the only plain available space conditioned the present linear urban development. The Tiber river basin is the third national river by length and the second by area (12700 km2) and is characterized in its highest part by a complex topography with elevations comprised between 50 and 2500 m asl.

In the last century more than 100 flood, flash floods, debris flows events occurred in the Umbria Region.

In the last century more than 100 flood, flash floods, debris flows events occurred in the Umbria Region, with peaks in the winter time in the months of November and February. The Tiber provoked several inundations, but significant damage has also been caused by its tributaries and by minor channels and creeks.

In the last 10 years 6 exceptional events occurred (2005, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013) distanced by three drought periods (2003, 2007, 2012). The overall economic impact, to both private and public assets, amount to 1 Billion Euros damage for the last 10 years only.

In the case of the 2012 event, different floods occurred, ranging from flash floods to riverine inundations in small valleys due to the levees failures, affecting mainly the municipalities of Todi, Città della Pieve, Marsciano, and Orvieto. In the city of Orvieto the flood was very rapid, the almost 3 meters water depth peak was reached in the lowest zones at around 8:9 on the 12th November in the morning, but then water receded rather fast, starting at 3 p.m.

Comparison between municipalities reporting flood damage in 2012 and 2013

In the peripheral zone of Città della Pieve, the inundation started early on the 12th November in the morning and the 2 meters water depth lasted for three to four days.

In the November 2013 event, the situation was more mixed and complex with respect to the previous year. In fact a mix of hazards occurred, ranging from floods, landslides, debris flows with more or less sediment content. Furthermore, while the 2012 inundations occurred over large areas in the affected municipalities, the 2013 was a typical “multi-site” event, with relatively minor single events, but all together affecting a rather large area along the Apennines and at the Eastern border with the Marche Region.

Risk profile

Umbria is a small region in Central Italy exposed to several natural hazards, including floods, earthquakes, landslides, forest fires, and drought. The first three hazards are perhaps the most frequent and those that have provoked in the last decades the highest level of damage.

As for earthquakes, Umbria pertains to the Apennines system that has been traditionally subject to seismic swarms, the latter being a set of seismic shocks of similar magnitude levels that affect either the same fault in different segments or provoke an enchained reactivation of different faults, making it impossible to recognize a main shocks and aftershocks and putting the built stock at a very significant structural stress.

The XVIII century has been particularly dramatic in this regard as rather high magnitude affected in different years always the same towns.

The XVIII century has been particularly dramatic in this regard as rather high magnitude (relatively to this area of the world) affected in different years always the same towns, that are the same that have been affected by the 1979 Norcia earthquake, by the 1997 Umbria Marche earthquake and by the last shock on the 24th August 2016 and in much more severe fashion on the 30th October 2016.

Local amplification effects, including landslides triggered by seismic activity, have always had a significant component in the overall damage and in fact the 1997 post-event reconstruction has constituted the first systematic effort in Italy to apply seismic zonation as a basis for reconstruction and planning activities.

The reasons for the significant number of amplification effects has to be found in the geomorphological setting of the Region, that is for the most part hillside and mountainous thus constituting a natural setting for landslides. If to this consideration the relatively high levels of yearly precipitation is added, one can understand why small to large landslides represent a significant threat in the Region, affecting both buildings, entire villages and lifelines.

As for floods, the Region is subject to both flash and riverine floods depending on the locality that is affected. Most of the Region is comprised within the Tiber River Catchment, of which it represents the highest part. Historic floods have occurred on many occasions, with the historic record presented below

Earthquake (year) Magnitude   Flood events (year) Number of events
1279 6.3   1937 2
1328 6.4   1955 1
1703 6.8   1959 2
1730 5.8   1963 1
1745 5.9   1964 2
1785 5.5   1965 2
1789 5.7   1970 1
1859 5.6   1976 1
1917 5.8   1982 1
1979 5.9   1990 1
1997 5.8   1991 1
2014 4.1   2005 1
2016 6.5   2007 1
      2008 1
      2010 1
      2012 1
      2013 1

Table 1: Historic flood and earthquake events in Umbria (source: earthquake: CPTI – INGV; floods: Progetto AVI – CNR-IRPI)

Cultural memory of past events

Earthquakes are certainly in the mind of inhabitants of the Umbria Region. They usually self-evacuate buildings when foreshocks occur, as was the case in 1997.

The latter earthquake has connoted the memory of inhabitants, also because of the long time that was needed for reconstruction. A reconstruction that has been considered as a good practice in many regards, even though the earthquake of this year has shown the drawbacks of certain retrofitting techniques, particularly with respect to monumental constructions.

From a preliminary assessment of colleagues who visited the whole area, the built stock of Umbria has resisted better the shakes than that of neighbouring regions.

Vallo di Nera is one example of an apparently successful reconstruction. Located in a rather remote area in the Nerina Valley, it is considered one of the one hundred nicest villages of Italy and is quoted as an example of best practice in an Interreg project that was not focused on natural hazards and risks, but on landscape preservation and enhancement (Cadsess, Meaure 3-b, Regione Umbria, n.d.).

The village of Vallo di Nera reconstructed after the 1997 event
The bridge in Orvieto (Courtesy of Claudio Margottini, researcher and municipal elected officer of environment and civil protection at the time of the flood)

Historic floods are less present in inhabitant’s memory, even though the signs of the various floods that occurred in the past is marked in bridges or old buildings. As an example one may recall the signs present in the bridge in Orvieto, the city that has been significantly affected by the 2012 flood.

Cities, culture and catastrophes in the Umbria Region (hard and soft infrastructures)

Pattern of cities, lifelines and economic activities

Geographically speaking, Umbria is located in Central Italy, it borders with Tuscany in the Northern-Western part, with Emilia Romagna in the Northern-Eastern, with Abruzzo to the East, Marche to the South-East and Lazio to the South-West.

Cities in the Umbria Region are small to medium size; Perugia the capital city counts a population of 166.134 inhabitants, the towns that follow as far as the population size are Terni, the other provincial administrative centre with 111.501 inhabitants and Foligno (57.155 inhabitants) (Istat, 2012).

Main industrial activities are concentrated in Terni with the huge iron industry that has recently overcome a rather deep crisis; smaller industrial activities are located in Perugia and Orvieto. Nevertheless, one should not think of Umbria as poor or underdeveloped region (Umbria produces about 1.4% of the national gross domestic product (GDP). Umbria shows a quite differentiated economic system (Figure 8) where the agriculture sector plays still an important role together with the economic sector of services. An interesting element is the rising number of new enterprises, indeed around 50% of companies were founded since 2000 (Figure 5) showing a new entrepreneurial attitude within the region. In reality it hosts some very important and well known niche high quality production in the textile (Fabiana Filippi, Brunello Cucinelli, Luisa Spagnoli, Alcantara S.p.A.), known worldwide, in the cosmetic natural industry (Sterling S.p.A.), the Aerospace industry, mechanic and e-health engineering (Umbrian Mechatronic Cluster) and food, linked to the production of high quality meat and other specialties such as turf (ARTUFITALIA) and chocolate (Perugina).

It is one of the five Italian regions that do not have any access to the sea. It is mainly a mountain Apennine Region. A system of two perpendicular valleys cross the Region from West to East touching the capital city of Perugia and from North to South, roughly running from Perugia to the South in Spoleto. Two main road access run along those valleys and connect the most important towns.

Umbria is rather isolated from the main traffic channels of Italy: the highways connecting the North to the South along the Tirrenean and the Adriatic Sea touch only the region in the vicinity of Orvieto. The same holds true for railways, the region does not have any station along the high-speed train lines: regional trains connect the region to Florence in Tuscany to the North-West and to Rome in the South-Western direction.

Roads system Umbria

For these reasons it is part of the Inner Areas of Italy as defined by an important strategic report that was prepared in the year 2014 by UVAL (Public Investment Evaluation Unit) that provides technical support to government bodies by preparing and disseminating methods for evaluating public investment programs and projects. According to the report, “Italy’s Inner Areas can be characterized as follows:

  1. They are at some significant distance from the main essential service centres (education, health and mobility);
  2. They are rich in important environmental (water resources, agricultural systems, forests, natural and human landscapes) and cultural resources (archaeological assets, historic settlements, abbeys, small museums, skills centres);
  3. They are extremely diversified, as the result of the dynamics of varied and differentiated natural systems, and specific and centuries’ old anthropozation processes.

Many of the Inner Areas have undergone a process of marginalisation since the Fifties, evidenced by key signs of abandonment. Firstly:

  1. populations falling below the critical threshold and demographic ageing;
  2. dwindling employment and use of territorial capital. Secondly, progressive quantitative and qualitative decline in local public, private and community services – services.

Private and public stakeholders have often exploited to their selfish interest the situation by extracting resources instead of promoting innovations and local development. Among negative intervention landfills, cables, wind farms, biomass plants can be listed that have failed to generate significant local benefits. Local administrations have largely agreed because of their weak bargaining positions due to lack of funds. On the other end, promoters of closed local communities have sometimes prevented and hindered innovation.

However, some Inner Areas have also witnessed ‘good policy’ and ‘good practices’. In fact the marginalisation process has not affected all the Inner Areas equally, and in some territories:

Composition of economic activities in 2012 (data source: Atlante della Competività delle Province e delle Regioni 2013)
  1. the population has remained unchanged or has increased (as for example in the Umbria region that has witnessed a slight population increase in the decades between 1971 and 2011;
  2. environmental and cultural resources have undergone valorisation projects;
  3. forms of inter-municipal cooperation have been entered into to ensure some essential services.

In the period between 2004 and 2010, the average taxable income per Inner Area inhabitant has generally grown more slowly than in the Central Areas (+10.6 per cent compared with +11.4 percent), with some relevant exceptions. In the Inner Areas of Valle d’Aosta, Trentino Alto Adige, Umbria, Molise and Apulia the average taxable income has grown more than in Central Areas.”

In the more recent years the region witnessed a significant tourism trend reaching a total of 2.394.771 arrivals and 5.910.632 overnights staying in 2015, led on the one hand by initiatives to attract visitors, such as the Umbria Jazz festival in July and other minor events, such as the chocolate fair in Perugia, the books fair in Foligno etc. Some towns such as Assisi attract religious tourism particularly in some periods of the year.

Age of enterprises (data source: Atlante della Competività delle Province e delle Regioni 2013)
Number of arrivals and overnight stays and tourism trend in Umbria (data source: Regione Umbria - Giunta Regionale - Direzione regionale Programmazione, innovazione e competitività dell’Umbria Servizio statistica e valutazione investimenti)

As for lifelines apart from transportation, the water and sewerage systems are managed locally by three main companies that are public (i.e. Umbra Acque) or private-public enterprises: Sistema Idrico Integrato (SII) and VUS.

Telecommunication is provided by the large companies serving Italy, with TIM being the first telecommunication service provider. Enel is the larger power provider in the Regions. Both Telecom and Enel have local offices in Perugia, but main headquarters are in Rome, that after all is only a couple of hours on average distance from the most important towns in Umbria.

Soft infrastructures

The 92 municipalities in Umbria are grouped in the two provinces of Perugia (also the capital city) and Terni. Due to its small dimension, the Regional government has been traditionally very close to the municipalities, so that it can be said that even before the reform that has abolished the political nature of provinces, the latter were not covering a role as important as in other much larger regions.

Umbria is a fairly well administrated region, with cities ranking in the 27th place in the annual ranking provided by the Sole 24 Ore newspaper that has been publishing the ranking of cities over the last 25 years based on a number of criteria covering environmental quality, access to services, welfare, security, etc.

Perugia hosts two important universities; one with several disciplines ranging from geology to medicine and pharmaceutical sciences and one that is also unique in Italy for foreigners, where Italian is thought to foreign students. The latter university was a unique example in Italy of internationalization, long before the initiatives that have started in all Italy in the last ten years or so; the University for Foreigners was the entrance for foreigners wishing to study in Italy when all courses were given in Italian. Now the university offers courses on international and advertising communications and teaching of the Italian language to foreigners.

Because of its natural beauty and its remoteness, the region was the perfect location for some important branches of foreign universities or research and study centers as La Colombella located at 15 km distance from Perugia and still operational. Nowadays, the use of La Colombella has been assigned to UNESCO where the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) Secretariat has based its headquarters.

The Civil Protection Service was modernized after the 1997 earthquake in the new location in the City of Foligno was decided in the year 2003. In 2007 the Forecasting Functional Service was established.

The antiseismic building built for the Regional Civil Protection in Foligno

Young professionals and researchers from the important Institute of the National Research Council on Hydrogeological risks based in Perugia were hired to become civil servants of the Civil Protection Authority.

The 1997 reconstruction actually permitted to hire both at the municipal and the regional level capable young professionals that have become then permanent staff with background in structural engineering; science of construction, geology, environmental engineering, etc.

The post-earthquake recovery triggered relevant initiatives in the field of risk management and civil protection: a master program was functioning for a number of years in the city of Foligno, close to Perugia and where the newly built building of the Regional Civil Protection including the emergency control room and the meteorological and hydrological forecast division are located.The master was a unique program in Italy comprising subjects related to social aspects of disasters, disaster medicine and geology.

The emergency control centre in the Foligno Civil Protection building

Another type of initiative is the biannual Civil Protection Fair in Bastia Umbra that hosts expositions of emergency vehicles, professional clothing, devices for search and rescue, helicopters.

In 2012 the fair hosted an exposition of historic vehicles (firemen bicycles; small gurney to carry injured people; emergency stairs in wood used by firemen and going back to the XIX century) hosted in the municipal civil protection building in Orvieto.

The fair is also an opportunity for organizing conferences for professionals of all types. These fairs (there are also others such as the one organized in the city of Bolzano in the Northern region neighbouring with Austria, Trentino Alto Adige) are considered an important occasion for the civil protection and generally witness a large participation from other regions as well as from the National Civil Protection Department.

Often small sessions are organized also regarding ongoing scientific projects, so that professionals are confronted not only with speakers from various civil protection organizations and invited professors from the local and national universities, but also with projects the Regional Authority is involved in.

Used methods

This section on the used methods is conceptually divided in two sub-section: the first informs about the methods that have been developed and applied jointly by the Regional Civil Protection and by the Politecnico di Milano in the context of the EDUCEN and other previous projects (funded by the European Structural Funds and by a the Social Responsibility Program of the Politecnico di Milano, Polisocial).

Such methods include the developed methods to collect and coordinate post-flood damage data across different actors and the reporting system to be followed from now on in similar circumstances in the future.

Such methods include the developed methods to collect and coordinate post-flood damage data across regional agencies and other stakeholders in order to achieve a comprehensive picture of the damage to multiple sectors, the tools developed jointly to perform the direct surveys for residential buildings and economic activities, and the reporting system that has been more or less standardized to be followed from now on in similar circumstances in the future.

One of the conferences held at the Expoemergenze in Basstia Umbra in June 2016

An important component of the whole methodology relates to the establishment of a protocol of data collection and management to identify the responsible stakeholders for different activities.

The main burden is on the Regional Civil Protection and on the Politecnico di Milano acting as a sort of centre of competence of the Region and on municipal and provincial authorities that are in any case obliged to provide data in case of disaster so that citizens can be reimbursed of the damage they have suffered.

The second sub-section is devoted to identify the key aspects that characterize the initiative that has been developed and carried out in the case study and that provide some steps recommended for the replicability of the methods described in the first sub-section in other regional and national contexts.

Methods and tools adopted in the case study

As mentioned, the collaboration with the Umbria Region Civil Protection Authority started as an activity aimed at assessing expected damage due to flood in order to decide better mitigation measures and to evaluate the actual utility of early warning systems in terms of damage reduction (Molinari, Ballio, Menoni , 2013).

However rather early the paucity and scarce reliability of damage data of past events needed for calibration was recognized and the joint activity turned to improving methods and tools for post-flood damage data collection.

It needs to be said that the definition of methods has not been as straightforward as one may imagine. The starting point was the experience that the civil protection had already since long time in the field of seismic risk. In the latter, after earthquakes, organised teams survey affected buildings using a predefined form to assess their usability (Baggio et al., 2007).

So, in a similar way, forms to assess damage provoked by floods to residential buildings were developed. The forms were designed within a collaboration that included, apart from the Umbria Region Civil Protection, also the University of Messina and the Sicilian River Basin Authority. Public officials insisted that the forms resemble as much as possible the Aedes forms (to assess post-seismic buildings usability) as they are used to them and it would be easier also for professional volunteers to familiarize with their use. A first test for using the forms was carried out in June 2012.

The flooded industrial area in Orvieto. The hospital can be seen on the top of the hill
Flooded plain in Orvieto taken from a surveillance helicopter
Flooded plain in Orvieto taken from a surveillance helicopter

Then the 2012 November flood occurred and there was a rather abrupt shift from testing to reality. Two things emerged rather quickly: first that it would have been rather limited to survey residential buildings only.

Infrastructures, particularly road and water systems, as well as industries and commercial activities were severely damaged as well and not considering them in the survey would have led to a misleading representation of damage due to that flood event. A different approach was taken for the two sectors.

As for industrial and commercial activity a new form was developed, tailored to the specific aspects that are of interest in a productive activity, such as damage to machinery, raw materials and finished products that clearly have a much higher economic value than the walls and furniture of an industrial or commercial facility.

Parts of the forms to be compiled for industrial and commercial facilities
Parts of the forms to be compiled for industrial and commercial facilities

As for infrastructures, the Regional Civil Protection is not carrying out direct surveys in general as it might be the case for residential and in some cases production facilities, but receive data, most often partial data, from different service providers or from the owners and managers of the hard infrastructures, intended as wires, pipes, plants, networks.

Furthermore visits to both private and public lifelines managers companies and organisations were carried out to interview the personnel about the damage and to collect, when possible, further material.

The first survey in the damaged areas using the newly developed forms (residential and industrial) was conducted 10 days after the flood that is on the 22nd of November 2012.

Since then, several other visits were conducted to conclude the survey; the last being one year later when only the surveyed economic activities were visited to get information about indirect damage, such as post-event level of production, duration of total or partial business interruption, reduction or increase of the number of workers, etc.

It may be said that the first process of gathering information has been far from systematic and actually occurred based on availability of new data, availability of officials or personnel of lifelines companies to share their experience and information.

The direct survey has been more systematic: forms were completed for all affected residential buildings in three out of four municipalities, while a limited number of industries were visited based on a sampling approach in order to assess significant classes. It must be also said that for industry we could count also on an extensive damage and repair cost assessment carried out by the Regional Department for Economic Development that granted affected firms compensation on the basis of certified detailed declaration of damage.

We were in the phase of trying to delineate a real procedure, including the different steps to be performed, the different types of data to be asked for, the identification of stakeholders, when another flood occurred in November 2013. The surveys and the damage data collection was certainly smoother this time, however the new emergency hindered the process of defining neat and ordered steps to be conducted for the damage data collection and subsequent analysis.

It took long time after the event to process the data and then to develop a full procedure comprising actions to be taken and the timeline for their enactment. In the meantime it was necessary to develop the report and incidentally to publish about the experience we were developing. In the following the nutshell of what has been learned conducting the surveys and analysing the data and the resulting procedure will be discussed.

Reflection on the process

The process briefly described above was neither systematic as already mentioned nor efficient. From a pure civil protection point of view it cannot be considered as an operational procedure.

The need to test the methods and the tools in real events hindered an ordered sequence of steps, but provided a unique opportunity for learning by doing.

However this is true for what has been the experience insofar not necessarily for what it could become in the future.

In fact, the need to test the methods and the tools in real events hindered an ordered sequence of steps, but provided a unique opportunity for learning by doing.

Not only the survey forms were modified given the feedbacks from the ground, but a lot has been learned regarding how damage data are collected in reality.

Partially such lessons are country-specific, however as we could exchange our experience in more international arenas, especially in the context of the EU Commission technical committee on Disaster Loss Data, many of those lessons are applicable in most countries and constitute therefore a result that go beyond the capacity to support decision making after an individual event.

The fact of working in a mixed team of civil protection officials and researchers constituted a unique opportunity as well. This because the learning by doing has been fed also by research on similar cases, regarding other experiences and other analyses of damage data at different spatial scales in different times.

But what have we learned specifically? A number of important aspects emerged that are worthy to discuss.

  1. First, the fact that post-disaster damage data collection is a very complex process that involve a large number of agencies, organizations partly public and partly private. This is actually not a new finding, but a confirmation of what has been reported in literature even long ago (Downton and Pielke, 2000; Hoyt and Langbein, 1955).

  2. That even when working with the data collected by the Civil Protection for compensation purposes, “true data” is something impossible to achieve (Handmer, 2002). The reasons are manifold. First because there is an important shift between physical damage description and reported costs. The latter of course derive from the former but not as smoothly as one may think. In fact, and this is the second point, there are many ways in which costs can be assessed: as repair costs of what has been physically damaged, as costs that are considered eligible by governments (or are above the deductible threshold in case of insurance), as costs that are actually covered by the government (costs can be considered eligible but perhaps there is no coverage to compensate them). Third, costs can be self-declared by victims using the invoices received for the repairs they have carried out individually or can be checked by surveyors of insurance companies or governmental authority. Sometime all those costs are reported and it is very important to be able to define what costs one is considering.

  3. Damage data collection is a process rather than a fixed set of steps to be performed. Time and spatial dimensions are very important in defining in particular what types of costs will be considered, if only direct or also indirect, systemic etc. In some cases, for example floods, even direct physical damage may appear overtime (because of humidity for example) so that without iterative efforts of data collection overtime, some damage will not be assessed. Spatial aspects are relevant as well. It is fundamental to define what is the level at which costs and damage are considered, as what is a damage for one place may become a benefit (for example for shifting production, or newly achieved markets) for other places and stakeholders.

  4. Last but not least, it is key to couple different purposes for which data are collected in the same survey campaign and to tailor timing and procedures to the activities that need to be conducted by the civil protection according to existing laws and to the ordinances that are issued each time an emergency occurs and that may change from one event to another. Aligning timelines and procedures to the practices of civil protection and public administrations involved in damage and losses data collection is essential for the success of the entire process (figure 19. For what has been donein the Umbria case).

Methodology of the performed activity

In order to rationalize the methodology that has been developed by doing as described in the previous paragraphs, the following steps and methods have been set up, which can be considered as a reference for any other authority at the European (or even international level) wishing to carry out the same procedure. Whenever aspects that are specific to Italy are addressed they will be mentioned explicitly.

First it is fundamental to appoint an authority and a team in charge of data coordination. This means that the team is responsible for grouping the data that different authorities, even in the same public administration, are collecting from a variety of sources and from multiple levels of government or public agencies.

This is the case of the data collected by municipalities, by public authorities in charge of the road system, by civil protection officials, by departments in charge of damage to businesses. Furthermore the team should attempt to get data also from private or semi-public bodies, such as lifelines managing companies and insurers.

Data can be obtained directly but sometime also indirectly, through the requests of help of citizens that experience outages or need support to finalize their claims.

The team should coordinate also the data that are collected through surveys directly by the civil protection, for example of lifelines and critical facilities that have been damaged, of residential units or businesses they visit in the affected areas.

Timeline of the joint procedure to collect and analyze post flood data

Second an IT system need to be developed (see figures 20 and 21). We are currently developing such a system that does not exist in the form we deem is useful not only to collect data but also to analyze it subsequently in order to permit the use of data for multiple purposes, beyond compensation, including forensic analysis, improvement of risk modelling capacity, assessment of needs apart from compensation, orienting towards a resilient reconstruction, and accounting, to identify trends and to support the monitoring of policies and programs for disaster risk reduction (see De Groeve et al., 2013).

Third, a full report of the event, comprising several types of analyses and the delineation of the complete scenario of damage and losses that occurred, should be produced, comprising qualitative and quantitative synthesis of queires in the form of graphs, tables and maps (Menoni et al., 2016 and Menoni et al., forthcoming).

In fact one may think of one comprehensive report or more reports, each responding to a specific need and target, such as compensation, orientation of recovery and reconstruction, forensic, etc. This report or those reports constitute a fundamental material to be able in the future to compare situations and damages across time and space among individual events.

Part of the Entity Relationship diagram for damage data organisation in the information system

Establishing a shared protocol for post-flood damage assessment

In order to achieve the results described in paragraph 2.1.2. a shared protocol for post flood damage assessment must be defined and agreed upon among all stakeholders who are partners in the data collection and analysis effort.

In the case of the Umbria Region such protocol aims at including besides the Regional Civil Protection Authority in all its branches, also municipalities, public lifelines companies, private lifelines companies, volunteers and the Politecnico di Milano.

Main activities included in RISPOSTA, according to the logical axes of the procedure (time, actors, actions and exposed sectors)

In the protocol the different steps previously described are addressed and a responsible authority or body is designated to perform it. The protocol has been already shared in public meetings with the different stakeholders.

It should have been passed as an annex to the Regional Civil Protection regulation, but the earthquake has delayed its official approval by the Regional Government (Berni et al, forthcoming).

The protocol includes the tools that have been developed insofar for the direct surveys of residential units and production activities, as shown in the figures below.

Part of the forms to be compiled for residential buildings
Part of the forms to be compiled for residential buildings

Methods to analyse the data

Up to now the full event comprehensive report has been defined and standardized. The idea being to provide public officials a sort of checklist of topics and aspects to be covered after each event, so that all relevant damage and losses are covered according to a predefined framework that will allow comparability of events in the future.

The index has been defined following examples of “Retourn of experience” reports produced in France after cases of floods (Direction Territoriale, 2014) adapted and systematized according to the concept of multiuse and comprehensive overview of damage and losses. Important key features of the standard report are:

The reporting of both the feature of the trigerring and cascading phenomena at the regional and the local scale. For floods this means to describe the meteorological conditions that produced the flood, the general hydrological patterns in the region and the localized phenomena of inundations, including water depths, velocity, duration, transport of sediment, presence of contaminants, etc. The reporting of damage by sector as shown in the box 1. Damage to each sector should be described at the regional and the local scale, depending on the relevance and type of damage. For example systemic damage is generally more relevant at the regional and even above-regional scale, while damage to residential units can be easily represented locally. Damage and losses should be reported and analyzed through graphs, tables and maps when useful to localize and cluster damage. Descriptions of the latter should describe with words graphs, tables and maps. For the detailed description of the application of the reporting system to the Umbria case study one may refer to two publications, one already published, one forthcoming (exected in May 2017) (Menoni et al, 2016 and Menoni et al., forthcoming).

Standardized index |

Description of the physical triggering event in case of relevance of cascading events at the regional and the local scale  
Affected people (victims, displaced/evacuated) by space (municipality); by time (duration), and by variables such as costs of assisting the population (civil protection).  
Damage to lifelines by type (transport, water, energy), by space (local physical damage; regional: disruption, maps and total direct losses and indirect effects); by time (duration of disruption, temporary recovery, permanent repair) and type of damage (physical to assets and higher order to systems); by variables (costs of repair and amelioration)
  public facilities by type (school, hospital, theatre), by space (local physical damage; regional: areas deprived from services; cost of repair); by time (duration of disruption, temporary relocation, for permanent repair) and type of damage (physical to assets and higher order to service); by variables (costs of repair and amelioration)
  economic activities by affected subsector (agriculture, industrial, and commercial activities); by space (local: individual firms and farms affected; reported damage in terms of repair costs and lost revenue; regional: most affected economic sectors, map of clustered damage); by time (duration of disruption, time needed to fully restart) and by type of damage (physical to assets and higher order to sub-sector); by variables (cost of recovery, cost of repairs, cost of lost production, cost for unemployed subsidies) .
  residential buildings by space (municipalities and local physical damage by forms; regional: most affected municipalities for residential buildings), by variables (cost of repair; intangible loss of memorabilia).
  cultural heritage by type of use (public facilities, residential buildings, public areas); by space (individual buildings, historic centers); by variables (associated cost of repair and loss of cultural value)
  environ-mental goods by space (local: individual areas damaged; regional: contamination, large recreational, park areas); by time (longer term physical damage, cost of reclaim, decontamination, etc.) and by type of damage (direct loss of species, vegetation and fauna; higher damage to ecosystems); by variables (loss of biodiversity; hectares of lost vegetation)
Synthetic overview of the event   comparative analysis of physical damage, systemic damage, to multiple sectors across time and space. Identification of the most critical and specific aspects of the particular event
Evaluation of the effectiveness of pre-event risk mitigation measures   by space (local and regional plans, hazard maps, etc.) and by time (contingency plans, sectoral plans like the flood risk management plan etc.).

Methodological approach to develop the activity in the frame of the EDUCEN project toolbox

Should a city, a region, or a river basin authority or district wish to develop the same type of activity that has been carried out in the Umbria Region and adopting the method that has been described in the previous section, the following aspects should be brought in mind. Hereafter some hints will be provided following the framework set by the Educen project.

A variant of «policy exercises» as actually it was not an exercise but an example of co-production of knowledge

We may certainly state that the Umbria Case study has not been a “simple” policy exercise but a real example of co-production of knowledge, intended as the blending of scientific, legislative and organizational knowledge (see Mejri and Pesaro, 2015).

The starting point is in fact the belief that not only scientific knowledge is relevant for post-disaster damage data collection and analysis, but also knowledge regarding the legislative system in one country as regard the declaration and the management of state of emergencies, knowledge regarding how public organizations work and how emergency and recovery are managed and what are the norms, the rules, and the practices that characterize such complex tasks.

Umbria Region CS constitutes a real example of co-production of knowledge and tools that have been established in a joint effort

In fact, the Umbria Region case study constitutes a real example of co-production of knowledge and tools that have been established in a joint effort to respond to multiple needs, partly scientific and partly administrative.

As mentioned already at the beginning a fundamental condition for such genuinely collaborative work is that both researchers and public officials are willing to exchange knowledge and expertise to develop something new they could not do separately. It also imply more than just meetings as tools need to be developed together and their applications tested in the field.

Stakeholders that have participated

  • The following stakeholders have taken part in the development of the methodology and tools:
  • The leading role by the Regional Civil Protection Authority was played by the Functional Centre that has a key role in early warning and in the general management of emergencies;
  • The Emergency Control Centre of the Regional Civil Protection Authority;
  • Civil Protection Authority offices in charge of data management;
  • Researchers of the Politecnico di Milano;
  • Civil Protection volunteers (thirty volunteers) with professional expertise in geology, engineering, architecture.

The following stakeholders have been involved in the development and application of the methodology and tools. The degree of involvement has been varying in terms of willingness and frequency of participation, presented from the more to the less active in the list:

  • Water management companies (in particular Umbra Acque, Vus and SII);
  • Municipal personnel (including civil protection officials);
  • Road management authority (provincial);
  • Power management company;
  • Regional Department of Economic Development.

Working on the interaction between soft and hard infrastructures of cities

The damage the two floods of 2012 and 2013 provoked, its distribution and extent can be explained as the result of the interaction between a flood hazard that has peculiar features given the orography and the morphology of the region and by the configuration of the exposed urbanisation and the vulnerability of structures and urban patterns.

In fact the 2012 flood consisted in reality in a number of different inundations, that can be partly assimilated to mountain flash floods, as in the case of the city of Orvieto, and partly to riverine floods, as in the case of Todi or of Città della Pieve. The 2013 provoked more flash floods as the whole event occurred in the Northern, more mountain section of the Tiber Catchment.

The floods in 2012 affected mostly new development and recent urbanization: historic centres were preserved as they are all built on crest or on hilltops; the damage that was provoked by the 2013 event in the historic centre of Città di Castello was due more to the intense precipitation that damaged fragile roofs rather than to inundations. Particularly the 2012 even revealed the fallacy and the limitations of flood hazard maps, that were partially inaccurate or wrong as in the case of the lower part of the City of Orvieto where the industrial site had been located by the 2000 masterplan, and partially not effective because they were not as mandatory as they should have been nor complied with satisfactorily by unaware planners, as in the case of Città della Pieve.

The pattern and distribution of damage across sectors is certainly an important result of the analysis that has been carried out using the collected data as it can be seen below.

Distribution of damage across sectors in the 2012 and 2013 floods

Interesting similarities as well as differences result from the comparison of the two events in terms of the most affected sectors. Infrastructures are in both cases the most damaged sector, amounting to 66% of the total damage in 2012 and to 68% in 2013 with a different composition.

In 2012 roads were the most damaged (38%) and lifelines other than roads were damaged significnalty (14%) with the remaining 14% suffered by structural defense mitigation measures; in 2013 the latter were the most affected, 42% on the total, with a minor contribution of other lifelines (only 2%) and roads still very significant, as they represent the second most affected sector (24%).

The difference can be explained on the basis of the pure geographical distribution of the event itself: lifelines including transportation systems are more present and relevant in valleys, while mitigation works, particularly for mountain rivers and landslides characterize the higher parts of a mountain catchment.

Damage to residential units is far less important than generally thought of, with 5% in the 2012 flood and 8% in the 2013. This again has to do with the geography of the system: the region is inhabited in a scattered way, in any location a limited number of houses is present, given also the low number of inhabitants that live in the region.

The situation would be somehow different in a large riverbasin such as the Po floodplain. A remarkable share of damage in the 2012 flood was suffered by the economic sector, with 3% suffered by agriculture and 23% of industrial and commercial activities.

The share of economic activities in 2013 has been much less, again due to the fact that such activities mainly flourish in the valleys and far less in higher mountain zones.

Given the relative importance of infrastructures and economic activities, some comments regarding damage to the latter will be provided, highlighting the role of hard and soft infrastructures in producing them.

Before proceeding though an important warning should be given: data and analyses’ results cannot be compared between the two events without committing error. In fact whilst data provided for the 2012 event encompass both self-declared and checked damage, data provided for the 2013, especially for the private sector (economic activities and residential units) derive uniquely from self-declaration.

The lack of successive funding in fact did not justify the administrative effort that would have been required to check self-declarations and distinguish eligible requests from ineligible ones.

Analyzing damage to economic activities

The analysis of the damage suffered by economic activities has revealed a number of fundamental issues that have been rather neglected insofar by research. The first and perhaps the most important relates to the large variability that exist between one type of industry and another between one type of commerce and another that make the recourse to one damage curve encompassing such variability, generally used in current risk models, rather questionable.

The extent, level, type of damage depends very much on what is at stake: machinery, large material stocks, finished products stocks, type of materials, types of machinery.

Typology influence also re-usability after a flood, possible for certain productions, such as mechanical for example, but much more problematic in the food sector where strict hygienic rules are in place for the conservation of goods, the state of maintenance of machinery and the environment where the entire production takes place.

Dimension is a relevant variable in the commercial sector: losses to large retailers are by order of magnitude larger than for a small shop with limited stock capacity.

As for indirect damage, not only the overall duration of business interruption has to be counted for, but also the need to activate special procedures such as temporary unemployment funds for workers, clean up, and even seasonality. In peak times of the year even a short interruption of activities can be fatal for economic activities that are strongly depending on given season(s) (for example tourism, some types of specialized food production etc.).

Capacity to estimate accurately the effect of a flood event on a specific economy is rather limited: data and analyses from real cases such as the Umbria Region ones can provide real advantages in terms of understanding what are the priorities, prevent damage as much as possible and be better prepared for a resilient recovery.

Affected businesses in the industrial are of Orvieto. The wasted products and material can be seen before disposal
A flooded car retailer.

Here is where the role of the soft infrastructures, comprising firms’ managers and workers, trade associations, public administrations becomes really crucial in driving the economic system towards a more or less resilient recovery.

It is not just a matter of crude resources and money available, but also of how such resources are re-directed, used and prioritized.

It is not just a matter of crude resources and money available, but also or of outmost importance of how such resources are re-directed, used and prioritized among sub-sectors and aligning with production needs and perspectives.

The activity carried out by the Regional Department for Economic Development after the 2012 flood has been certainly very positive, however it concentrated by most on eligibility factors and on rules for receiving compensation.

Whilst it is fully recognized that such rules are fundamental, for example to grant only those firms that commit to continue activity at least for five years on, a deeper understanding of how damage and different types of damages affect diversified economic activities is key to set a real strategy of recovery.

In a region characterized by small to medium size businesses this type of strategic understanding of needs and issues and the consequent smart diversification of aid may be crucial.

It may be said that after the 2012 earthquake that affected large strategic industrial sectors in one of the richest Italian regions (Emila Romagna), larger attention is devoted to economic activities and their specific needs after disasters.

The issue now is to systematize the knowledge and experience that has been accumulated, for example through more systematic and systematized procedures and tools for post-disaster damage data collection able to identify specificities across sectors and different spatial patterns of cities and regions.

Analyzing damage to lifelines

Lifelines have been particularly damaged during the 2012 flood. Apart from briefly reporting some results of the analysis (that has been published in Menoni et al., forthcoming), it may be interesting to comment on the different approach to sharing damage data among different companies.

The road network of the Umbria Region is managed by regional, provincial and municipal authorities, as large national highways do not cross or only marginally touch the Region. Data is therefore easily obtained by the Civil Protection, also because such authorities need to report damage to the Regional and National Civil Protection Authorities in order to get funded for the damage that occurred.

Similarly the water system is managed by public companies or companies that have a mixed private and public statute. This has permitted a relatively easy access to the companies that shared their information system and their policy for managing losses. Interestingly, public facilities and infrastructures can be insured in Italy and they are.

As for the water system, the three interviewed companies reported that they are insured for damage that overcome a certain threshold, while for minor damage they are ready to pay themselves. This is consistent with a cost benefit analysis they performed comparing the expected losses they should pay by themselves and the cost of insuring for minor damage. Companies reported the relevance of litigation costs that they had not really anticipated before the 2012 flood but that instead proved to be rather high and for which they are insured now.

Power and telecommunication companies are instead private or semi-private and are rather centralized. By being a small region and by its location in Central Italy, Umbria depends on Rome headquarters for national railways and highways (the small section that touches the Region), for telecommunication and electricity.

Even though local offices exist in the administrative center of Perugia, decisions are made in Rome, including the decision regarding participating or not to the damage data collection effort promoted by the Regional Civil Protection Authority.

Interrupted roads in the 2013 event; colors identify the rank of the road from local (green) to yellow (provincial), to orange (regional) to red (national).
Power outages after the 2012 flood

Legal status and division of responsibilities among central and peripheral units still limits the willingness and capacity to contribute to policies and strategies aiming at guaranteeing the functionality of critical infrastructures after severe events.

Whilst coordination committees have been set up by ordinance at the national (with the ordinance n. 3836 issued on the 30th December 2009 by the Head of the National Department of Civil protection) and regional levels with all companies managing critical infrastructures and lifelines in Italy, regional civil protection departments are still struggling in forming such committees and in having all relevant stakeholders around the table.

Lessons learnt: a synthesis

The experience developed jointly with the Umbria Region Civil Protection Authority is somehow unique at least as far as we know. There are not many other similar experiences at least as far as post-flood damage data collection is concerned.

There are some attempts of systematizing damage and loss data collection by scientific organizations such as the Potsdam University HOWAS database in Germany or the Sheldus database managed by the University of South Carolina in the USA.

It has been unique also in its facing real emergencies that required continuous adaptation and revision of procedures, methods and tools.

We synthetize here the most relevant lessons learnt in terms of what has favored the success of this work and also of some obstacles that have been encountered and should be considered by followers of this case study.

Relevance of a pracademic approach

We are firmly convinced that the success of the Umbria Region case is due to the fact that civil protection officials and researchers were able to meet on a common ground and integrate their perspective.

What has permitted this process of sharing and blending of experiences, methods and tools, what has permitted to develop jointly the procedure and to apply it, is the fact that on both parts there were “pracademics” willing to cross borders between different types of knowledge (scientific, administrative, legislative) and who had experience in both fields (Duncan et al., 2014; Posner, 2007).

According to Walker (2010), “a pracademic is a person who spans both the somewhat ethereal world of academia as a scholar and the pragmatic world of practice. Many engineering and management academics in particular, come to academia with a successful career in their practice.

Indeed, a certain level of experience in that field is needed to understand the complexity, context and degree of tacit knowledge required to gain a sound understanding of practical problems that need rigorous investigation and attention”.

On the one hand, a significant portion of the personnel of the Civil Protection Authority including in particular those working at the Functional Centre, had been originally researchers at the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) working on hydrology and hydraulic risk in the Perugia facility.

After the 1997 earthquake, when the Civil Protection Center has been built in Foligno in 2007, such researchers were asked to join as civil servants, giving up a scientific career and embracing a much more practically oriented mandate.

Nevertheless, their researchers’ background continued to exist and transformed into an interesting and innovative way of conceiving work within the civil protection with the aim of professionalizing and innovating the capacity to provide accurate flood alerts on the basis of hydrological models they had developed at the time they had worked at the CNR.

In addition, they valued more than other colleagues, collaboration with researchers at the university and the CNR, who were pushed to produce more applicable and usable products in the field of flood and landslide risk reduction.

It may be hold that the most relevant feature such civil protection practitioners’ exhibit is their wish to systematize procedures and to develop system oriented approaches that will be apt to tackle the complexity of contemporary emergencies.

Researchers and professional volunteers surveying affected businesses

On the other side, researchers of the Politecnico di Milano displayed orientation to practice oriented applied research, and were looking for tools and methods that could be of use in the real world and not just in laboratories.

This orientation has different roots: on the one hand the same “culture” of a technical school that is already closer to practical applications than let’s say other more theoretically oriented studies.

On the other some components of the Politecnico team are urban and regional planners with prior experience in working with and for public administrations.

Such prior experience gave them the capacity to understand how public administrations actually work, what are their common practices, what are the constraints of working under pressure that is driven by external factors, that can be political or emergency related.

Even though researchers of the Politecnico are not “pracademics” in the most common sense of the word, because they had not worked in the past in public administrations, still they had enough prior experience to make the public administration context familiar to them. In the field of planning, there is a rather long tradition of co-working and co-design with professionals and public administration officials that go back to the work of Donald Schon (1984) as expressed in the “Reflective Practitioner”, and which has evolved more recently in the participatory planning approach that has gained so many adepts in the last decade (Susskind, 2013).

Constraints due to the different «missions» of stakeholders

Despite the very positive attitude on both sides that has permitted the rather unique experience of the Umbria Region case study, one cannot omit to describe also the constraints and the deficiencies that are general enough to be of use also in other geographic and political contexts

We are referring here in particular to the different missions of stakeholders on the research and on the public administration sides. As the academic situation stands now, researchers are pushed very (perhaps too) strongly to:

  • Produce research results, possibly positive results;
  • Publish research results;
  • Present research results in academic arenas, such as conferences, proceedings, etc.

What rewards a researcher in terms of academic career is: the number of conducted projects, number of publications, presence in the board of conferences and especially journals. Publications and presence in editorial boards should be in renown and recognized journals with high reputation.

The pressure to publish overshadows sometime the need to reflect on projects’ results.

There are of course differences between disciplines in terms of what counts and what does not or counts less, however the three points that have been mentioned are common to all. The pressure to publish overshadows sometime the need to reflect on projects’ results and to commit to publish only when methodologies, results and critical reflection permit to provide readers with a really ample and complete spectrum of what has been done.

Instead, what happens in reality is that researchers are pushed to publish by pieces, as soon as first results are available. The reviewing process to get research published is, as well known, time consuming and demanding in terms of efforts and resources to be committed, that are many times diverted from the conduction of the research itself.

Such pressure is sometime incompatible with the need to provide quick response and full support to a civil protection agency in charge of managing a flood emergency. Also because, of course, the emergency may interfere with other duties a researcher or a professor has, such as for example teaching and participating to the administrative life of a university or a research center.

On the other hand, civil servants have priorities that sometime conflict with the commitment to an activity carried out with researchers, even when such activity provides benefit and may be potentially very useful for them as well. In the field of civil protection different prioritization is even more evident than in other public administration bodies.

An emergency of a different type (earthquake with respect to flood for example) is likely to divert all attention and to delay indefinitely the work that has been performed insofar. However, even more importantly than different priorities, is the political and organizational arena in which public officials work. In particular, reorganization of tasks and personnel, new organizational frameworks are likely to divert the attention of participants in a joint activity carried out with external organizations such as research ones, either for a long time or even for short time but in crucial periods for the development of the joint activity.

Internal reorganization of tasks, activities, personnel, shifting of managers and key decision makers respond more to internal (or event external) policy motivations and constitute a real obstacle to the continuity of activities, such as development of innovative tools and methods that require time and produce results only throughout time.

Even though such shifts and reorganizations of teams and personnel are more common in times and places of political and financial crisis, we found those practices to be of our times, equally occurring also in other countries, with significant effects on efficiency and adaptive capacity to new circumstances. Even though changes are often advertised as a response to failures, often they produce more problems that the ones they were aimed to solve (Perrow, 2007). This situation has to be coupled with a general tendency of current policies that aim at immediate results at showing immediately their efficacy even when the problems they are designed to solve require time and often long time for their solution.

The way forward

Are there possible ways to overcome the constraints?

We think there are ways to overcome the criticalities that have been discussed in paragraph 3.2. Overcoming them is important to permit the practice developed in the Umbria Region case study to be more effective and also easier to carry out in other contexts.

On the one hand it seems that rewarding rules for a researcher’s career need to be revised.

Different types of researchers need to be recognized and coexist in a complex world. It cannot be that for example the European Commission asks for increasing involvement of stakeholders in research and innovation projects but then material, including reports, IT systems, tools that are developed for application in the real world hold no meaning in academic terms.

We are not suggesting to count a report prepared for a public administration of the same relevance of a scientific article in a high ranked journal, however it must count more than nothing. It must count because it requires time and effort to develop, because it is a form of stabilization of knowledge that otherwise would be lost, because it represents the development of activities implying the management of data and information that has merits on its own.

Work conducted with administration for public interest, such as post-disaster data collection and analysis, should be considered of the same (or at least almost as important as) importance of trials performed in laboratories.

Finding rewarding mechanisms for public administrations is perhaps more difficult, due to the proximity with politics and political bodies that determine much of administrations’ fate, despite of their different time horizon, linked to elections for elected officials, more stable for the others. Nevertheless rewarding systems in terms of increased financing and easier access to funds and resources could be imagined for innovative administrations, those that push forward new methods, tools, systems that at the end may benefit citizens and make the latter feel less remote from bureaucratic mechanisms and from decision makers.

Possibilities to export the Umbria Region experience to other areas

In the year and a half of the project a number of attempts have been carried out to “export” the experience to other regions. In fact the case is known in several arenas, the most important of which is certainly the Technical Group constituted by DG-ECHO and led by the JRC in Ispra on Disaster Loss Data for the improvement of national databases and enhanced civil protection capacity at the European level.

A number of meetings have been carried out with the National Department of Civil Protection in Italy (on the 5/11/2015 and on the 22/03/2016) to present the practice and provide hints for the ongoing development of post flood damage data collection to support compensation and also request for the Solidarity Fund.

Other attempts have been carried out with some regions (in particular with the Emilia Romagna Region in a meeting with the Regional Agency for Environmental Protection, Arpa on the 24/03/2016, with the Trentino Alto Adige in the Bolzano Civil Protection Fair on the 23rd February 2016, with the Lombardia and the Valle D’Aosta regions in different informal meetings) and with the Po River basin Authority.

The potentialities of using real damage data to improve cost benefit analysis of mitigation measures have been also presented in two distinct meetings organized by the recently developed Agency under the Presidency of the Prime Minister (Italia Sicura, or Safe Italy). In particular the Umbria experience was shared in a restricted meeting in Rome (18th July 2016) to which also the Umbria Regional Civil Protection Authority participated and in an open seminar in Milan (8th September 2016) organized for practitioners at the Lombardia Region.

In general it can be said that the experience is viewed as interesting, however few stakeholders have expressed the wish to dig it more in depth and perhaps try it by themselves. It can be worthy to mention that regions and administrations similar to the Umbria region in terms of territorial extent and number of involved citizens expressed this wish, in particular the Province of Trento and the Valle D’Aosta Region.

It may be relevant to understand why only similar contexts are willing to carry out the same experience. Among reasons one may count the fact that the procedure seems easier to adopt when a limited number of stakeholders are involved, in areas where few managers are responsible for civil protection or flood defence, in synthesis where numbers at stake seem more manageable. A possible explanation is that in larger regions the complexity of the administrative system, the large number of actors involved create a pessimistic perspective on the viability and the feasibility of the entire operation.

The earthquake that struck Central Italy this year with particular focus on the Norcia area most affected after the 30th October shake

The 2016 earthquake that affected Central Italy starting from the 24th of August, provoking 300 victims, has certainly halted the process of co-development of tools and methods for post-flood damage data collection.

Initially the Umbria Region was the less affected among the other four (Lazio, the most affected, Marche and Abruzzo), but the situation has changed dramatically after he 30th of October earthquake with an epicenter at only 5 km from the city of Norcia and with a Magnitude of 6.5 M w that is very strong for Italy.

The event has been extremely dynamic, due to the seismic swarm that has been ongoing since August until now; initially university and research centers were asked to support the Civil Protection but after the October shake only emergency interventions have been carried out in the fear of new severe shocks. The dynamicity of the event implied that the emergency situation was renewed after the October shake, as if nothing had been done before.

If in the previous months only four municipalities were considered as the core disaster area, after the 30th of October earthquake 150 municipalities have entered in the very large core area, with an affected population of 200.000 people, most of whom in the regions of Marche and Lazio. Still also the Umbria region has witnessed significant damage and a much larger number of affected people. It is too early to draw an overview of the event, also because it is still ongoing. However in the following an initial damage scenario is reported following the framework that has been developed in the Umbria Case study.

Clearly with respect to the flood of November 2012 that was perhaps the most severe and the more extended of the two events described in this Manual, the earthquake has created many more problems, because of the lost built stock requiring immediate sheltering for people and economic activities.

Description of the physical event and enchained phenomena

The source of the information below is provided by INGV (2016) that has issued a synthetic report on the whole seismic swarm event. The seismic sequence started on the 24th of August 2016 with a shake of 6.0 M W that activated a large fault system that was partially well known to seismologists given also past historic events.

The first fault system that has been activated has 40km length in the section North to the Amatrice village. On the 26th of October a new segment has been activated further North as long as 15 km with a magnitude of 5.9 M W whilst on the 30th of October also the Southern section has been reactivated for all its length (20:30 km).

The latter earthquake of the 30th of October at 7:40 in Italy has been the strongest ( 6.5. M W) after the Irpinia one in 1980 (6.9 M W).

The seismic swarm has occurred in an area comprised between the provinces of Perugia, Macerata and Rieti, respectively in the Umbria, Marche, and Lazio Regions but was felt in the entire Central Italy.

The epicenter of the 30th October earthquake was located at only 5 km from Norcia and 10 km from Visso, another municipality severely affected. The whole affected area is larger than 40 km, between Visso to the North, in the direction triggered by the 24th of August shake to the Southern part triggered by the 26th of October earthquake with a sequence of 22.264 events overall in the period until the 3rd of November.

Map of the epicenters between the 24th of August and the 3rd of November 2016 (Source: INGV, 2016)

The whole area has witnessed in the past several severe seismic events. As can be seen in the following map , the area of Amatrice, in the Southern part, where the 24th of August earthquake occurred, shows a cluster of four historic events: in July 1627 (Accumoli, 7-8 MCS, M W 5.3); on the 7th of October 1639 (Amatrice, 9-10 MCS, M W 6.2, an earthquake that totally destroyed Amatrice at the time); in 1646 (Monti della Laga, 9 MCS, M W 5.9) and in 1672 (again in Amatrice, 7-8 MCS, M W 5.3).

In the Umbria area of Valnerina, historic events date back to the 1st December 1328 (Valnerina, 10 MCS, M W 6.5); to June 1719 (Valnerina, 8 MCS, M W 5.6); 12th May 1730 (Valnerina, 9 MCS, M W 6), and 22 of August 1859 (Valnerina, 8-9 MCS, M W 5.7) all with epicenters close to that of the main event on the 30th of October this year.

Map of the historic earthquakes in the area, the stars show the highest magnitudes in the still ongoing sequence (Source: INGV, 2016)

Given the mountain feature of the entire region, several landslides have been triggered by the earthquake swarm, with severe consequences in particular for the road transportation network.

Another interesting enchained event occurred in a “dormant” water source called Torbidone (literally “Big Turbid”) that has been reactivated by earthquakes also in the past. This time the source that is located in the vicinity of the city of Norcia, increased significantly the water discharge with repercussions in the Sordo river that shifted from its normal 1.500 mc/s to the present 3.000 mc/s.

The new situation required immediate attention and since the 16th November 2016 several hydraulic works have been conducted in order to safeguard roads, houses and people’s life. The situation is constantly monitored to assess if the measures taken insofar have actually secured the entire hydraulic regimen of the river and the channels where the water of the source flows.

Affected people

Fortunately nobody died in the Umbria Region as a result of the earthquake. After the 24th August earthquake in Umbria around 2000 people were affected requiring sheltering, but the situation has changed dramatically after the 30th October earthquake that was so close to the city of Norcia. 2972 people are currently assisted by the Civil Protection, in particular in the cities of Norcia (1526), followed by Cascia (714) and Sellano (306).

As for the situation on the 16th of December, 2047 requests of support to find autonomous sheltering have been submitted to the regional Civil Protection.

Families have been relocated in hotels around Perugia, on the Trasimeno Lake, while few decided to stay in tents or shelters in the vicinity of the damaged homes.

Damage to lifelines and transportation networks

Damage to lifelines such as power and water systems has been minor in the Umbria Region, whilst the most affected is certainly the road network, given the characteristics of a network made mainly of local and regional roads with bridges that have been damaged by the shakes and by the several landslides that have been reactivated.

The road system has been the most affected particularly in the area comprised between the cities of Norcia, Preci and Cascia, where provincial and regional roads are totally or partially closed.

The provincial road 477 connecting Castelluccio di Norcia to the Umbria and the Marche regions is completely closed; the regional road 209 in the Valnerina area is partially completely closed and partially open only for emergency organisations.

Rupture in bridge in the Norcia area

The provincial road 476 in the area of Norcia is partially closed (only one lane operating) due to the threat of partial buildings collapse; in the area of Civita the closed lane is affected by slope instability. In the area of Piedivalle the road is open only for emergency organisations.

The road is then unusable in several tracts because of the threat of collapsing buildings and a rupture that occurred in the road pavement. The last part of the road is totally closed because of rock falls.

In the area of Muraglione the provincial road 475 is closed in the village of Abeto di Preci, where only emergency vehicles can transit. The provincial road 474/2 to Cascia has been partially restricted due to the impeding collapsing church. The remaining roads are partially usable in one of the two lanes given the presence of multiple threats of building collapse.

Damage to public facilities

In the Umbria Region the usability checks that have been carried out identified the following situation as far as public facilities are concerned.

The damage situation of schools

A special attention has been payed to schools (Table 4), considering that the first sign of return to normalcy is given when schools reopen. At the moment, students are going to schools but shifting in the structures that have not been damaged by the earthquake.

As well known the quality of school construction is rather low in Italy, which explains the large number of damaged facilities that can be seen in the table above, even though most damaged facilities are only partially or slightly damaged.

To assess the situation the AEDES forms that are used in Italy for usability checks have been adopted: “B” means that with minor interventions buildings can be reused. As it can be seen in the table 2M Euros have been estimated as the required cost for such interventions. “C” means that only a part of the building is not usable, while F means that external risk (like for example an impeding tower or a close severely damaged building) does not permit to use or to enter safely the building. “E” means that the building is very severely damaged and cannot be reused even after structural interventions. As shown in the table 13 schools are in this situation. For 7 complete rebuilding has been decided.

Temporary facilities have been donated by private foundations. Even though private donations of school buildings have been provided, the problem of identifying the areas where to locate them, urbanize the latter and provide the basic lifelines require significant amount of work and procedures before the temporary facilities can be actually put in place.

Damage to economic activities

The economy in the area affected by the earthquake is mainly devoted to agricultural production, food industry and tourism. After the 24th August earthquake, 20 farmers had asked for shelters to be able to continue their activity onsite without moving to other areas; after the 30th October earthquake, other 55 shelters have been requested by farmers in the Umbria region.

Also in this case there is the issue of finding the areas that even if they are part of farmers’ property need to be devoted to temporary dwelling occupation. Temporary stalls for animals and stocking facilities for hay and material need also to be provided especially after the damage provoked by the severe seismic event at the end of October.

Damage to residential buildings

After the 24th August 2016 10.597 requests of usability checks have been submitted to the Civil Protection, out of which 6.452 had been conducted before the 30th of October. After the latter date, the number of requests almost doubled, raising to 26.371, which included several buildings that had been already inspected but that were further damaged by the new shake.

Given the very complex situation, the general manager of the reconstruction, Vasco Errani, former president of the Emilia Romagna Region, and designated to coordinate the activity of the four regions affected by the earthquake, issued an ordinance in which a simplified form, named FAST (form to assess synthetically buildings’ usability) was defined. As implicit in its name the newly developed form was meant to speed the usability checks. Despite its roughness, the form is useful in that it permits an immediate selection of buildings that can be used and those that cannot be even with major interventions.

State of usability inspections in the Umbria Region

In the table on the right, the current situation is reported; only the cities that have suffered the highest level of damage to residential buildings are shown. The total refers to all inspections that have been asked, performed, and the result in terms of usability distinguishing between the core are and the periphery of the event.

Damage to cultural heritage

Damage to cultural heritage has been severe already in the 24th August shake certainly after the 30th October one, as the Church of San Benedetto dating back to the XIV century, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Argentea and the Church of San Francesco in the city of Norcia completely collapsed.

Given the large number of historic affected facilities and the fact that the Umbria region had not been severely hit in August, shoring measures had not been taken. Only after the October shake such measures were taken.

For example, on the 8th of December the shoring of the Civic Tower has been completed. Shoring of historic buildings is particularly complex and requires specific design before accomplishment.

Damage to churches in the historic town of Norcia (Source: Regional Civil Protection)

Furthermore, any intervention on historic heritage requires approval by the Ministry for Cultural Heritage that is in general reluctant to proceed with heavy interventions, an issue that has raised several controversies insofar.

Significant work has been carried out instead in the safeguarding of movable cultural heritage such as documents, paintings, sculptures. In particular, many of them have been moved to the facility of Santo Chiodo in Spoleto that had been constructed for the purpose of acting as an emergency storage facility for cultural and artistic objects after the 1997 earthquake.

The small town of Castelluccio di Norcia famous for its landscape particularly in the spring due to the large cultivation camps of lentils, has been almost totally destroyed. For its reconstruction the Region is considering a special master plan given the relevance of the town in the area.

Damage to the environment (treatment of buildings debris)

Damage to environmental asset has not been reported as a consequence of the earthquake, na-techs have not occurred given the relatively low level of urbanization of the affected area.

There is however an important environmental concern regarding the debris and their destination in order to clean up the roads to permit their return to normal use and for the reconstruction.

Special laws address the entire issue as debris must be treated as waste, therefore recycled when possible, whilst dangerous or toxic substances should be removed and treated before disposal, for example asbestos that is still present in reinforced concrete structures of the Seventies an the Eighties.

Sites for debris disposal have been identified in old quarries in the vicinity of Norcia; their capacity had to be re-estimated after the damage provoked by the 30th October earthquake. A specific site had to be designated also in the vicinity of Castelluccio di Norcia, given the limited accessibility due to closed roads.

Reflections regarding the damage data collection and analysis after the Central Italy earthquake in Umbria

In the short reporting above we have applied the same method and framework that has been developed for post-flood damage assessment to the case of the earthquake that severely affected Central Italy in the period comprised between the 24th August and the 30th October 2016 and that is still ongoing.

We believe that the framework is effective in providing a comprehensive overview of damage and needs in all sectors that are relevant in the area. Information has been taken mostly but not totally from the report that has been produced by the Regional Civil Protection Authority for the meeting that was held on the 16th of December (Regione Umbria, 2016) and related annexes.

Some information, such as regarding the condition of the road network were looked for in other sites that reported information from the provincial agency in Perugia. Information regarding the event has been taken by a report issued by the INGV (INGV, 2016).

Somehow a reflection on how much the experience carried out in the Umbria case study has influenced or not activities after the earthquake needs to be carried out. On the one hand the synthetic report is more or less organized in sections that report the situation for different sectors.

However some are missing, for example lifelines, whilst numbers are provided in annexes. One can clearly see the need for developing a full and operational database and related interfaces for data input. Such IT should not only store data regarding the different sectors in a unified manner, but also be used for multiple queries depending on the specific purpose of a meeting or a report to be provided to national authorities or to the EU for requesting the Solidarity Fund.

Such IT system is still under development as mentioned in the previous sections of this manual and even in case it had been ready for use, training is necessary before it becomes part of everyday practice, particularly in the frantic time of an emergency.

That information is a strategic asset to manage emergency, even after its peak, that is after search and rescue activities are over, is confirmed by the report that has been prepared for the 16th December meeting. It is strategic in that information on damage is the initial and necessary component of any identification of needs in terms of sheltering, temporary facilities, criticalities in public facilities and lifelines.

Yet there is the need to improve in this regard, by easing the task of data input to leave more time and reasoning for the understanding of criticalities and needs, whereas at the moment the report results more from a puzzle of data collected from different organizations and administrations rather than from a structured and coordinated effort.

If we compare to some years ago the situation is certainly much better, however a lot can be done still to improve and also to make such data a knowledge patrimony that can be reused for further analysis and investigations.

The idea of coordinating the data collection and analysis needs to be further shared and by the different authorities, and training should be provided so that the various agencies and public administration offices can familiarize with its use.

Key messages

Key messages for Civil Protection Organizations

  1. Better damage and loss data are important to support a number of policies, from international, such as the indicators of the Sendai Framework for DRR, to European, in particular with respect to the Guidance for Recording and Sharing Disaster Damage and Loss Data (EU Working Group, 2015), to national. At the latter and at regional levels better damage data are not useful only for accounting purposes, but to support a more resilient recovery and reconstruction as the case of the Central Italy earthquake clearly shows in our own reconstruction of the event for the Umbria Region. Enhanced damage data are fundamental for evidence based decisions regarding mitigation measures, to better understand damage mechanisms so as to reduce pre-event vulnerabilities and also for improving risk assessments that need to be more contextualized fully acknowledging the characteristics of the built environment and of urban and regional fabric.

  2. Better damage data in the long run will permit to improve substantially damage accounting to support programming of resources that will be needed to cope with future events, particularly if climate change and other social and economic drivers that may change the situation we were used to in the past, are considered.

  3. Improving the quality and the detail of damage data is not impossible, as shown in the case study of the Umbria Region. One need coordination capacity, willingness to interact with stakeholders of different private and public organizations to collect the data. Enhanced and enabling IT system should permit a better organization of data, their storage and subsequent query.

  4. Data should not be collected just as a formal compliance to some norm or international policy; rather they should be used and exploited as much as possible to extract all possible information content in analyses of different types from forensic to accounting, and also to improve risk modelling. Different types of reports, for different purposes are much easier to produce once the data have been collected in a rational, coordinated and systematic way. We simply lack this type of reports. Reports that are available, but become soon outdated and many times get lost, are like the one we have used for the earthquake in Umbria, made for administrative and very specific purposes like a meeting or a request by the national government.

  5. Improving the quality and the detail of data will not avoid issues of reliability, double counting, and subjective judgement. As shown by Handmer (2002) in his compelling article titled “The chimera of precision: inherent uncertainties in disaster loss assessment”, there is no such thing as “true” or “perfect” damage data. However a lot can be done to make both the collection and the use of data for reporting more transparent, rigorous and beneficial for different communities (from citizens to researchers to insurers, to public officials to decision makers).

Key messages for the public

  1. The public should become increasingly part of damage data collection and analysis, not only because direct surveys are made at their house or firm but because they can contribute with self-reporting taking advantage of IT systems that will include interfaces for the input of data by different stakeholders.

  2. Citizens may have enormous advantages in improving the quality and the speed at which damage data are collected, as they may have more control on the entire process from self-declaration to confirmation and validation by certified surveyors to compensation.

  3. Social media have become an important vehicle for transmitting and sharing data regarding disasters: even though their use by authority is still at an initial phase, it is clear that there is an immense potential, together with important issues of credibility, traceability, verification.

  4. Having at societal disposal overtime better damage databases will permit decisions that are more grounded on facts and evidence rather than on assumptions that may prove to be wrong leading to mitigation measures that are both expensive and not as useful as hoped for.

Key messages for researchers

  1. In a multi-stakeholders partnership it may well be advisable that research institutions take on themselves the task of developing some types of comprehensive reports of damage scenarios, to improve the understanding of the damage drivers and causes (forensic) and for enhanced risk modelling.

  2. Working with real data, developing complete and comprehensive assessments of damage and losses may help researchers to be closer to the ground and to reality, to overcome established assumptions that are shared among researchers but cannot be verified in reality. For example many scientific articles deal with damage provoked by floods to residential houses, however our work has clearly shown that at least in some contexts (mountain areas for example) damage to economic activities and lifelines is much more relevant and more effort should be invested in understanding such damage and modelling it.

  3. Researchers are sometime very focused on specific aspects of the risk condition, for example on the hazard or on specific aspects of the built environment (such as material and construction techniques). Whilst this is certainly welcome to advance in the scientific understanding of the risk mechanisms, public administrators and civil protection organizations need to intervene on the entire spectrum of the disaster. An approach that considers in a more systematic fashion the different sectors that may be affected by the event, their mutual interdependency and their interaction with the specific features of the hazardous phenomena is key for a practical use of damage analyses. Such work may be also useful for researchers to put the specialized work they are conducting on his/her own into a wider context.

  4. Working together with civil protection officials in collecting data provides a huge advantage to researchers that compensate for the time consuming effort. In fact, this way researchers become more aware of what the data they will use for scientific purposes actually mean, what type of damage description or what costs is actually implied by the figures. It is a rather different situation when researchers receive the data already packed in a closed form from administrations or insurance companies.


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