Kristiansand is on the Road to Resilience

February 21, 2018   |   Kristiansand, Norway


Mayor of Kristiansand Harald Furre (centre) shows King Harald V around the areas affected by the major floods that hit the municipality in October 2017.

IMAGE: Svein Tybakken

The Norwegian city of Kristiansand suffered from devastating flooding in autumn 2017. Lessons from the floods and participating in the European project Smart Mature Resilience (SMR) are putting the municipality of Kristiansand on the right track towards increased resilience to disasters and crises.

“What does the word ‘resilient’ actually mean?” The Mayor of Kristiansand Municipality, Harald Furre and the municipality’s Emergency Response Manager Sigurd Paulsen have been working closely on the SMR project and on the concept of resilience, which is a new concept in the Norwegian language.


Civil protection


“In everyday speech words such as robust, durable or resistant are probably the best synonyms for ‘resilient’. However, we know that these words do not cover the definition of ‘resilient’ as applicable to the Smart Mature Resilience project,” explains the Mayor, who believes that beyond traditional civil protection, real resilience means getting better at protecting lives and infrastructure.


“But, now we’re on the subject, having collaborated on the SMR project with European cities both large and small for a few years now, we believe that the word ‘resilient’ is not as fitting and all-embracing as ‘durable’. Nonetheless, the measures that a city takes with regard to preventive work and to be able to handle undesired incidents, and the way it both learns from challenges and shares experiences with other cities facing the same challenges, must all be ‘resilient’.”






Many homes and outbuildings were destroyed by flood water when the River Tovdalselva burst its banks in what were termed “once-in-500-year” floods in October last year.

IMAGE: Fædrelandsvennen

Autumn floods


The “once-in-500-year” floods that hit southern Norway in October 2017 were caused by two fronts of torrential rain in three days. Mayor Furre explains that most of the municipality’s rivers and streams burst their banks. Two major rivers, the Otra and Tovdalselva, flow through the municipality of Kristiansand. The River Tovdalselva is an unregulated watercourse and rose more quickly than the Otra. In a matter of hours several residents had to evacuate themselves and their animals as water breached homes and outbuildings in the middle of the night.


A couple of weeks later, once the floods had receded, the Mayor visited the affected area with the King of Norway, Harald V.



Sigurd Paulsen is Kristiansand Municipality’s Emergency Response and Civil Protection Manager. Here we see him visiting one of the landslides caused by the extreme weather in October last year.

IMAGE: Svein Tybakken

No loss of life


“Norway’s royal family are extremely caring people with a great commitment to the community. When the King saw pictures of the floods in the media he quickly decided to visit the affected area to talk with the residents. We were met by caring and compassionate fellow human beings who had looked after each other and were in good spirits despite having lost house and home when the river burst its banks. The King stated he was particularly pleased that no lives were lost in the floods, as are we all,” commented Mayor Furre.


“Norway’s Minister of Local Government Jan Tore Sanner and Minister of Petroleum and Energy Terje Søviknes visited the flooded areas and those affected immediately after the floods, and witnessed the major material damage first-hand. A total of 186 claims were registered with insurance companies in the municipality of Kristiansand alone. 89 per cent of these, with a value of NOK 82 million, were flood-related. The River Otra is well regulated and Agder Energi’s emergency response team were able to slow the water flow by as much as 30–40 per cent. Without their efforts, the damage would have been much greater,” explains Mayor Furre, who points out some of the challenges that the municipality is more aware of following the floods.


“Many existing homes, businesses, road networks and electricity and fibre cables are in areas already at risk of landslides or flooding. While we can use the Norwegian Planning and Building Act to protect new areas, or areas that are changed as a result of rebuilding or new regulations, it’s more difficult to change things in already vulnerable areas. People don’t generally plan for once-in-500-year floods,” explains the Mayor, and emphasises that Kristiansand has a good emergency response team and is adept at handling undesired incidents.


“But we can always improve,” he says, before adding that Kristiansand is currently collaborating on the SMR project as well as with other authorities and organisations active within the community.


Norwegian Minister of Local Government Jan Tore Sanner and Minister of Petroleum and Energy Terje Søviknes visited the flooded areas and those affected immediately after the floods. Here we see them standing on the bridge over the River Tovdalselva. The Ministers are centre-left in the picture.

IMAGE: Svein Tybakken

The University of Agder


“We’ve enjoyed excellent help from the University of Agder on the project and its Centre for Integrated Emergency Management (CIEM) and dedicated laboratory. The University has helped us to improve the way we communicate with both partner agencies and the general public. We have also had the pleasure of working closely with Vejle Municipality in Denmark, which prepared a forward-looking resilience strategy in 2016. We have studied this and incorporated some of the design into our Municipal Master Plan for the period 2017–2030.”


The SMR project started in 2015 and is due to be completed in June this year. On 13 February, Mayor Furre welcomed delegates to the second Regional Workshop of the Smart Mature Resilience project in Kristiansand, where the city presented its progress on the SMR project tools and highlighted how Kristiansand has benefited from the project. The workshop gathered 24 participants not only from the city of Kristiansand, but also from the Norwegian municipalities of Sandnes, Søgne , Vennesla, Songdalen and the city of Linköping. Amongst others, stakeholders like the Fire Brigade, advisors from Agder Energy and the County Governor's office and the Norwegian Red Cross joined the workshop, provided feedback on the European Resilience Management Guideline and tested three out of the five tools of the SMR Resilience Toolbox (Resilience Maturity Model, Risk Systemicity Questionnaire and Resilience Building Policies Tool). The workshop focussed on the uptake of the SMR Resilience Toolbox for tackling relevant hazards for Scandinavia and Northern Europe, like extreme flooding events and their cascading effects and failure of critical infrastructure.



Overlooking Kristiansand and the River Otra as it flows southwards into the Skagerrak

IMAGE: Trond Even Tønnesen

European cities invited to join Kristiansand in building resilience


The SMR project will share its tools and guidelines with cities in public events between now and summer 2018. Following the Kristiansand workshop, European cities are invited to Brussels for a Stakeholder Workshop as part of ICLEI Europe’s Breakfast at Sustainability’s series, a showcase at the Open European Day at Bonn Resilient Cities on 25th April, and a series of regional clustering workshops in Spring 2018 in Kristiansand (Norway), Malaga (Spain), Berlin (Germany) and Athens (Greece). Global cities also received training on the SMR tools at the UN World Urban Forum on 9th February in Kuala Lumpur.





More information and registration for the events are available at


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