Big Thompson Flood Exposes Need for Better Flood Reaction System to Save Lives

by Eve C. Grundfest, Research Assoc.; Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, Colo.,
Gilbert F. White, Prof. of Geography; Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, Colo.,
Thomas C. Downing, Research Assoc.; Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, Colo.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1978, Vol. 48, Issue 2, Pg. 72-73

Document Type: Feature article


The actions people took in response to warnings of disaster in the Big Thompson flood of 1976 affected their chances for survival. No one who climbed the side of the canyon was killed in the flood. People who tried to escape in cars or stayed inside vulnerable buildings were less likely to survive. An effective flash flood warning system can save lives. To provide effective warnings, the system should include: early and reliable prediction and detection of the flood, careful preparedness planning and consideration of the wording and dissemination of the warning message. An extensive public information program can inform people of the nature of the hazard and the range of alternatives in preparation for its occurrence.

Subject Headings: Disaster warning systems | Floods | Public health and safety | System reliability | Public information programs | Flash floods | Disaster response

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