Accuracy of visual inspection of flood defences

W. J. Klerk*, W. Kanning, M. Kok, J. Bronsveld, A. R.M. Wolfert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Prioritisation of flood defence maintenance is typically based on visual inspection. However, literature shows that the Probability of Detection (PoD) of visual inspection can vary significantly. Here we investigate the PoD for visual inspections of flood defence structures, the consistency of damage classification, and the influence of different variables on the PoD, such as past experience. Four flood defence sections were inspected by 22 different inspectors for a variety of damage types, such as animal burrowing and damage to block revetments. It is found that the PoD varies significantly both per damage type and inspector. Additionally, the estimated severity of damages varies significantly in comparison to the reference situation: over half of the registered damages is assigned a different severity compared to the reference, which potentially leads to incorrect maintenance measures. A likely explanation for the variation in results is the complexity of inspection guidelines and task definitions. Therefore it is advised to simplify inspection guidelines and use more focussed inspections for the most important types of damage. This likely leads to both a reduction of the number of false negatives associated with an increase in flood risk, and better risk-based asset management and maintenance prioritisation in general.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalStructure and Infrastructure Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • flood defence
  • flood risk management
  • maintenance
  • Probability of Detection
  • Visual inspection


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