The Use of Individual and Societal Risk Criteria Within the Dutch Flood Safety Policy—Nationwide Estimates of Societal Risk and Policy Applications


Address correspondence to Sebastiaan Jonkman, Delft University, Faculty if Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Stevinweg 1, Delft, 2628 CN, Delft, The Netherlands; tel: 31615943962;


The Dutch government is in the process of revising its flood safety policy. The current safety standards for flood defenses in the Netherlands are largely based on the outcomes of cost-benefit analyses. Loss of life has not been considered separately in the choice for current standards. This article presents the results of a research project that evaluated the potential roles of two risk metrics, individual and societal risk, to support decision making about new flood safety standards. These risk metrics are already used in the Dutch major hazards policy for the evaluation of risks to the public. Individual risk concerns the annual probability of death of a person. Societal risk concerns the probability of an event with many fatalities. Technical aspects of the use of individual and societal risk metrics in flood risk assessments as well as policy implications are discussed. Preliminary estimates of nationwide levels of societal risk are presented. Societal risk levels appear relatively high in the southwestern part of the country where densely populated dike rings are threatened by a combination of river and coastal floods. It was found that cumulation, the simultaneous flooding of multiple dike rings during a single flood event, has significant impact on the national level of societal risk. Options for the application of the individual and societal risk in the new flood safety policy are presented and discussed.