Your browser is unsupported and may have security vulnerabilities! Upgrade to a newer browser to experience this site in all it's glory.
Skip to main content

Using Intelligent Flood Warning Systems to safely navigate drivers around floods

Jennifer Blair

Marketing Manager, Swarco Traffic Ltd.

Flood Warning Sign Systems can be used to advise drivers of floods and inform them of the safest actions to take when faced with them.

Often when flood waters rise on the roads, drivers will take the chance that they can make it through the flood waters without consequence. This not only puts the drivers themselves at risk but others who may follow, or for the emergency services who may need to rescue them if they get into difficulty.

On many occasions this could be avoided through informing drivers of the depth of the water or even better which diversions or alternative routes are available.

Warning systems, using electronic signage is one solution that can solve this. Using a network of intelligent signs which work in conjunction with flood sensors, authorities can automatically display set messages to advise drivers of the relevant diversions. The flood sensors can detect when certain water thresholds are reached, and specific actions can be taken at each step. Authorities may want to set a message to alert drivers when levels are beginning to rise and this message may need to be changed in line with the water levels to keep drivers informed. Using cloud-based software the sensors can also alert the necessary authorities so that they too can take the appropriate action. Whether this is to deploy other methods of flood protection or to alert the public through alternative methods, such as social media or updating control centres.

Image: Swarco

Smart flood warning sign in Powys. Image: Swarco

This kind of system lends itself to areas of low-lying road which are prone to flooding.

One example of this in use is an intelligent flood warning system to divert drivers away from a busy, low-lying section of a road near Aberystwyth in Powys, Wales.

The A44 Trunk Road to the east of Aberystwyth is prone to flooding several times a year, both as a result of adverse weather conditions and its close proximity to the Afon Rheidol river.

The system comprises of four warning signs on the approach roads advising drivers of the flooded road ahead and subsequent diversion route.

The solution is based around the bespoke hazard warning signs and an intelligent flood sensor which sends warning messages directly to the traffic monitoring centre in Conwy, informing them when the system has activated and warn the appropriate teams as soon as water levels have risen above a normal level.

John Lister, Senior Project Engineer says the new system has significant benefits:

“The previous ‘bad weather’ procedure of regular inspections and then manually erecting warning signs was far too time consuming. Automated warning signage provides an immediate response to a flood situation.

“Engineers can now allocate their time more effectively. They can concentrate on other areas, knowing the automated system will activate as soon as there is a flood situation. Once informed, they can inspect and then erect the appropriate traffic management more efficiently.’’