Community provides flood warning system for Venice

An audio system based around Community’s R-Series loudspeakers has been installed in the city of Venice as part of a flood warning system.

The system, which was supplied by Prase Engineering, was specified by audio consultant Umberto Nicolao and installed by Verona-based S.T.A.S.

The canals, which lie at the heart of the city’s transport infrastructure and carry thousands of gondolas, barges and water buses, are tidal and therefore constantly changing. High tide levels reduce headroom under bridges, meaning the city’s transportation may need to re-route. When pavements and other pedestrian areas disappear under water, raised walkways may need to be erected. And while the city’s population and its large number of commuters are used to this, accurate information about the tides remains vital so that changes can be made to keep day-to-day life on track.

A number of ways to inform the city about water levels have been adopted, including a website, a toll-free phone line and a smartphone app. There are also a number of touchscreen information points at newspaper kiosks around the city. An old siren-based audio system had also been used for many years, but it was increasingly unreliable due to mechanical deterioration, and it could only broadcast one alert signal.

The Previsioni E Segnalazioni Maree (Tidal Forecasting and Signalling Centre) is the local government department charged with monitoring and predicting the water levels and communicating them to the city. They identified four different tidal bands: the lowest, 110-120cm above normal sea level, affects 12 per cent of the population, while the highest at 140cm and above affects as much as 90 per cent. If the water rises beyond 190cm it impacts the city’s entire population. This banding defined a multi-level requirement for the warning system.

The new multi-tone audio system uses a specially developed version of Community’s R.5 loudspeaker, designed precisely for the power, frequency response and dispersion required. Size was also crucial in being able to deliver and mount the loudspeakers in some of the ancient towers where they were to be deployed. Located in fifteen bell towers in central Venice, and at a further 15 locations on outlying islands, the loudspeakers play a series of alert and musical tones that inform residents of the coming tidal levels.

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