FEMA Delivering New Risk Map Products

Coastal-Mapping Legislation

FEMA officials recently met with stakeholders to discuss the new products it will soon make available for surveyors and other service providers who work on flood maps. As FEMA winds down its Flood Map Modernization program and starts its Risk MAP program, it feels that these new products (which should be released in the next few months) will help surveying professionals better serve their customers.

I wrote about FEMA’s Risk MAP program previously, but to review, Risk MAP stands for risk mapping, assessment, and planning. Its mission statement is “through collaboration with State, Local and Tribal entities, Risk MAP will deliver quality data that increases public awareness and leads to action that reduces risk to life and property.”

Risk MAP is meant to be a continuation of the Map Modernization program while shifting a lot of the decision making to state, local, and tribal governments. Map Modernization focused on digitizing maps to provide timely, accurate information to community planners. Risk MAP further enhances the maps, involves communities during the assessment and planning stages, and guides and encourages communities to communicate risk to their constituents.

During the meeting with stakeholders, FEMA officials discussed details of the planned conversion from Map Modernization to Risk MAP. They laid out four tracks for the conversion, with each track containing certain objectives. The first track is called the “Essential Track,” with these objectives:
  • communicate what has changed as a result of the recent flood study and why,
  • educate community officials on how they can help maintain/update hazard data,
  • build risk awareness for community officials,
  • present ideas on how communities can address flood risk and reduce flood losses, and
  • motivate and enable community officials to effectively communicate risk to their citizens.
The “Risk Awareness and Mitigation Track” objectives are to reinforce objectives three through five of the Essential Track (above) and document mitigation actions taken and planned by community officials.

The “Data and Engineering Track” is meant to improve engineering data in an effort to support risk-assessment products.

The “Releasing of Risk  MAP Products” track’s objective is to create risk-assessment products to help the community take mitigation actions. This is where the new Risk  MAP dataset products come in.

The new Risk MAP dataset products that will be available soon are:
  • Flood Risk Database,
  • Flood Risk Report, and
  • Flood Risk Map.
Consistent with the theme of scalable flood risk products, the flood risk datasets themselves are also scalable via the ability to enhance the core dataset elements.

The Risk MAP flood risk datasets will all include:
  • changes since the last FIRM,
  • flood-depth and analysis grids,
  • flood-risk assessments, and
  • areas of mitigation interest.
Changes since the last FIRM will include a GIS layer (vector polygon based upon spatial intersect of pre-and post-SFHA datasets), information including contributing engineering factors, and enhancements such as the addition of structures and population impacts.

Flood-depth and analysis grids will include flood frequencies for 10%, 4%, 2%, 1%, and 0.2 % Annual Chance (A.C.) floods for riverines; 1% A.C. flood for coastal areas; and 1% A.C. flood for levees.

Flood-risk assessment data will include an estimation of loss in terms of dollars (resident, commercial, and other assets), which includes percent damage (structure and content considerations) and business disruption (in terms of lost income and wages).

Areas of mitigation interest will include items that may have an impact (positive or negative) on the identified flood hazards and/or flood risks, such as community identified hot spots, previous claim areas, riverine and coastal flood control structures, floodplain pinch points (such as undersized culverts and bridge openings), and significant proposed and recent floodplain development.

The Flood Risk Report will contain a background section (purpose and methods used in the report and risk-reduction practices) and project results section (changes since last FIRM, depth and analysis grids, flood-risk assessment). It will be summarized by location (communities and watersheds). The changes since the last FIRM in the report will be noted on both a side-by-side graph and an aerial map of the site. The graph will include 10-year, 25-year, 50-year, 100-year, and 500-year flood chance.

The Flood Risk Map will accompany and be a subset of the Flood Risk Report. The map will visually promote risk awareness by showing results of Risk MAP project non-regulatory datasets and additional flood-risk data not shown but located within the flood risk database.

As noted above, these new products are not released yet, but they will be in the near future. You can learn more about the Risk MAP program and how it will affect you by going to www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/fhm/rm_main.shtm.

About the Author

  • Laurence Socci
    Laurence Socci
    Laurence Socci is the chief executive manager and senior lobbyist of The CLA Group, LLC, a government consulting, lobbying, and advocacy firm in Washington, D.C., specializing in representing businesses and associations. He is also the government affairs consultant for the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM).

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