Flood mitigation measures implemented by private households have become an important component of contemporary integrated flood risk management in Germany and many other countries. Despite the growing responsibility of private households to contribute to flood damage reduction by means of private flood mitigation measures, knowledge on the long-term development of such measures, which indicates changes in vulnerability over time, and their effectiveness, is still scarce. To gain further insights into the long-term development, current implementation level and effectiveness of private flood mitigation measures, empirical data from 752 flood-prone households along the German part of the Rhine are presented. It is found that four types of flood mitigation measures developed gradually over time among flood-prone households, with severe floods being important triggers for an accelerated implementation. At present, still a large share of respondents has not implemented a single flood mitigation measure, despite the high exposure of the surveyed households to floods. The records of household's flood damage to contents and structure during two consecutive flood events with similar hazard characteristics in 1993 and 1995 show that an improved preparedness of the population led to substantially reduced damage during the latter event. Regarding the efficiency of contemporary integrated flood risk management, it is concluded that additional policies are required in order to further increase the level of preparedness of the flood-prone population. This especially concerns households in areas that are less frequently affected by flood events. © 2012 Author(s).