Risk/opportunity:(from the Climate Change Risk Assessment for Scotland 2012):
FL1: Number of people at significant risk of flooding FL7/FL24/FL27:Flooding of non-residential property BE10/BE11/BE12/BE15/BE18/FL6/FL24: Property at risk of flooding GNr1: Emergency response to events (floods)

Narratives: Flooding and infrastructure, Resilience and resource use, Climate change risks to society and our capacity to adapt

SCCAP theme: Buildings and infrastructure Society

SCCAP objectives:
B2: Provide the knowledge, skills and tools to manage climate change impacts on buildings and infrastructure
S1: Understand the effects of climate change and their impacts on people, homes and communities
S2: Increase the awareness of the impacts of climate change to enable people to adapt to future extreme weather events
S3: Support our health services and emergency responders to enable them to respond effectively to the increased pressures associated with a changing climate

Latest figures


SFRS attended 606 flooding events that are considered ‘relevant’ to a weather related event (of which 42  were almost certainly weather related)[1]

[1] Currently the incident recording system does not clearly attribute flooding to weather events as opposed to other sources, and assistance at a flood event may be recorded under another category (Rescue or Evacuation from Water)

At a glance
  • Across Scotland, 3308 flooding events attended by SFRS (and likely to be attributable to extreme weather) occurred in the six years to March 2015.
  • The majority of these events affected residential dwellings, though community services, emergency services and utilities were also impacted, particularly health and education facilities.
  • Climate change is likely to result in increased precipitation and heavy rainfall events in all regions for all emissions scenarios progressively across the three reference periods this century, which will increase the risk of flood events.
  • Scottish Fire and Rescue Service as well as other Category 1 responders will need to take account of this in their next round of strategic planning.

Different types of flooding – pluvial, fluvial and coastal – have different impacts at different scales on society.  The flooding of dwellings has physical and psychological impacts on the people who live there; the flooding of schools has a wider impact on communities and the local economy due to secondary effects such as parents’ unplanned absence from work to look after their children. The flooding of emergency services facilities – fire, police and ambulance stations – and critical national infrastructure (CNI) – water treatment works, electricity generating facilities – has the potential to disrupt entire regions.

Climate Change projections indicate an increase in precipitation and heavy rainfall events across all regions of Scotland over the course of this century. Recognising that the strategic planning cycle for Category 1 Responders is typically 10 years in advance, a better understanding of the patterns of actual flooding enables more accurate flood modelling and investment in adaptive capacity to be targeted appropriately.

Statistics are presented for the three operating regions: North, West and East.  The Local Authorities in each of these regions are catalogued in the Methodology section.

Related Indicators:

BB1/BB3: Property at risk of flooding (residential/non-residential)

CRS12: Number of community services at significant risk of flooding

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service recorded 1,367 flooding related events[1] in 2014-15 (Table 1). However, attribution of flooding due to weather events is problematic as a result of the way that the data are captured - see Methodology.  As a consequence, of these 1,367 flooding events only 606 (44%) are considered to be ‘relevant’ to a weather related event, using the criteria outlined in the methodology for widespread flooding, and of these only 42 events (7%) are almost certainly so (Table 2).

The Scottish Fire & Rescue Service (SFRS) is a unitary force.  It operates across 3 Service Delivery Areas: North, East and West.  The majority (53%) of all flooding events during this period occurred in the West; a quarter (25%) in the North and just over a fifth (22%) in the East (Table 1). However, weather related flooding events had a more significant impact in the North (Table 2).


Source: SFRS & National Records of Scotland

Source: SFRS & National Records of Scotland

The majority (64%) of these events resulted in household flooding which affected just over 7 people in every 100,000 of the population (Table 3).  Critical National Infrastructure (CNI)[2] (Scottish Government, 2011) and Emergency Services were relatively unaffected with 2 utilities (sewage and water works) and 2 fire stations flooded in 2014-15.  Flooding events in health facilities were primarily on individual hospital wards. 

Source: SFRS

Of the 3 fatalities recorded in flooding/water events in 2014-15 (2 in the East and 1 in the West), none are likely to have been due to weather related flooding events. Of the 15 injuries sustained during the year (10 in the North and 5 in the West) probably only 1 was weather related. Of the 95 rescues (8 in the East, 44 in the North, 43 in the West) 39 were probably as a result of weather related events (1 in the East, 10 in the North and 28 in the West).

[1] This includes rescue/evacuation from water events which may have been as a consequence of the weather

[2] Water, road transport, health and social care, regional and local government and food (production, processing, import, distribution and retail) are devolved powers.  Fuel, finance, central government, aviation, maritime and rail are reserved.

Since 2009 there have been 10,436 flooding events in Scotland.  Of these, 3,308 are likely to have been as a result of weather events (Table 4), while 13% (445) almost certainly have.

Of the 3,308 events that can be said to be ‘weather relevant’, 3 affected public institutions and 13 affected Utilities (CNI) in Scotland in the period 2009 - 15. There was a significant impact on facilities associated with education (65 events), health (108 events) and emergency services (21 events).

The majority (39%) of weather related flood events were in the North area (1,283 events) with the West and East showing similar numbers of events (938 and 954 respectively).  In each of the three regions over half of all events resulted in flooding to dwellings (Table 5).

Over this period, of the events with a clear attribution to the weather, there were two fatalities, both in 2009-10 (1 in the North and 1 in the West), a very small number of injuries (6 in the North, 6 in the West and 1 in the East) and 334 rescues (108 in the North, 166 in the West and 60 in the East)- around 6 each year for every 100,000 of the population (Table 6).

An increase in winter precipitation is projected across all regions for all emissions scenarios.  It is very unlikely that winter precipitation would increase by more than 55%, but very likely it will be greater than 12%, under the High emissions scenario (A1F1) in the West in the third reference period centered around 2080.  A 6% to 30% range is projected even under the Low emissions scenario (B1) (UKCP09, 2009).  Each of these scenarios will increase the incidence of flood events in the future and will need to be considered by SFRS in their next round of strategic planning, given the 10 year lead time to implementation.

  1. The indicator is populated from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Services Incident Reporting System.  Under the Civil Contingencies Act (2004) the SFRS (and other Category 1 Responders) have a statutory duty to respond to emergencies defined as: “[…] an event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare […] which threatens serious damage to the environment of a place […] war or terrorism, which threatens serious damage to the security of the United Kingdom” (UK Government, 2004).  They respond also to (flooding) events as a duty of care where other commitments allow them to do so.  Consequently, the data presented here may underestimate the number of actual events.
  2. Prior to 2012, flooding due to extreme weather events was not distinguished from other types of flooding in the SFRS IRS.  Since the initial release of the DCLG system in April of that year, the ability to capture widespread flooding where casualties occur has been available in all areas except Strathclyde[1].  Where no casualties have occurred (or in Strathclyde) the methodology provided in Table 4 below has been used to estimate flooding events caused by extreme weather.  The DCLG system is due to be replaced in the near future at which time Strathclyde will migrate to a single UK-wide system.  This will make reporting more consistent.  However, specific enhancements to the system would need to be requested in order to clearly attribute flooding to weather events as opposed to other sources.

Data related to other extreme weather events – extreme heat, extreme cold, storms and high winds - are unavailable.  This makes any consideration of capability and capacity

[1] Although legacy Scottish fire services were replaced by SFRS in April 2013 the manner in which each legacy service still complete IRS reports remains the same therefore there are inconsistencies in the way incidents are recorded in the old ‘Strathclyde’ area as opposed to the rest of Scotland.

UK Government (2004) Civil Contingencies Act 2004, available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/36/pdfs/ukpga_20040036_en.pdf

UK Government (2012) Incident Reporting System – Questions and Lists (Version 1.6 XML Schemas v1-0n), Department of Communities and Local Government, London 2012.

Scottish Government (2011) Secure and Resilient.  A Strategic Framework for Critical National Infrastructure in Scotland, available at: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/Doc/346469/0115308.pdf

UKCP09 (2009) Jenkins, G., Perry, M. & Prior J. The Climate of the United Kingdom and Recent Trends.  Hadley Centre, Met Office, Exeter.  Available at: http://ukclimateprojections.metoffice.gov.uk/media.jsp?mediaid=87933&filetype=pdf . (Accessed 23 Jan 2015).  See also: Climate Projections for Scotland, available at: http://www.environment.scotland.gov.uk/get-interactive/data/scottish-climate-projections/

Scottish Government (2012) Police & Fire Reform (Scotland) Act, available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2012/8/pdfs/asp_20120008_en.pdf

Lead author: Mike Bonaventura (Crichton Carbon Centre)

Chris Fitzpatrick, Performance Data Services Team Leader, Scottish Fire & Rescue Service.

Kirsty Bosely, Head of Fire Research and Statistics, Justice Analytical Services, Scottish Government.