• flooding;
  • hydrodynamics;
  • human instability;
  • loss of life;
  • risk assessment

Abstract:  Loss of human stability in flood flows and consequent drowning are a high personal hazard. In this paper, we review past experimental work on human instability. The results of new experiments by the Flood Hazard Research Centre (FHRC) are also reported. These new results show that low depth/high velocity flood waters are more dangerous than suggested based on previous experimental work. It is discussed how human instability can be related to two physical mechanisms: moment instability (toppling) and friction instability (sliding). Comparison of the test results with these physical mechanisms suggests that the occurrence of instability in the tests by FHRC is related to friction instability. This mechanism appears to occur earlier than moment instability for the combination of shallow depth and high flow velocity. Those concerned to identify locations where high flood flows could be a threat to human life need to modify their hazard assessments accordingly.