About The High Water Mark Initiative

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The High Water Mark Initiative is a national program for communities who want to raise flood risk awareness and conduct mitigation actions to protect the public from future flood events. The audience for this page includes local officials, emergency management personnel, community leaders as well as FEMA Regions, Federal, state, and local entities who are interested in raising flood risk awareness and committing to long-term actions to raise resilience in communities around the United States.

FEMA and other federal agencies developed the “Know Your Line: Be Flood Aware” initiative to improve the public’s awareness of flood risk and encourage them to take mitigation action to reduce it. The initiative helps communities showcase their local flooding history and motivate their residents to take action by posting high water mark signs in prominent places to show how high flood waters have risen in the past.

HWM Projects are structured so that communities take the lead in holding a high profile HWM Launch event where a sign or signs are posted.  Communities can leverage Federal, state and local partners to support a project. Ultimately, however, it is the community’s responsibility to both run their HWM Project in their community, post signs and implement long term mitigation actions.

FEMA Headquarters, will pay for the HWM signs in communities who commit to resiliency actions.

Participating Federal Agencies

The Value of the HWM Initiative

FEMA interviewed 68 stakeholders after pilot projects were completed.  After an analysis of best practices and lessons learned, FEMA determined the value of the initiative is as follows:

  • HWM Launch events effective at sparking discussion around flood risk
  • HWM Launch events were effective in building relationships across Federal, state, and local entities because of the shared goal of putting on an event
  • HWM Projects enable whole community engagement across various groups including emergency responders, faith-based groups, neighborhoods, children/schools, businesses and local organizations
  • The campaign was a good entry point for mitigation discussion on the community level
  • The HWM Initiative can ease the transition for communities interested in using the Community Rating System Rating (CRS) or to obtain more CRS points for those already engaged
  • The HWM Initiative enables communities to develop and engage in mitigation and action measures

Moving Communities to Action

The goal of the HWM Initiative is to drive more communities to take mitigation action by posting HWM signs and using HWM Launch events as precursor to take long-term mitigation action(s).

To effectively run a HWM Project, communities should consider the following four elements to make projects successful:

Administration and Planning - Institute a point of contact (POC) as the lead organizer and coordinator for all meetings, signage development, event logistics, invitations, outreach and follow on action items. The POC is also responsible for reporting on mitigation actions taken by the community after the Launch event.

Partnerships - Identify key stakeholders who can bring credibility to your event and garner good press coverage. Stakeholders would include community officials; other Federal, State, and local agencies; associations, and businesses.

Tools and Resources - Determine how many signs your community needs and where they should be located; identify campaign materials and tools which can be provided to community participants both online and in person.

Plans for Driving Action - Develop an outreach action plan which identifies actions the communities will be taking. Build awareness around mitigation actions and how long term actions will be beneficial to your stakeholders.

Last Updated: 
04/30/2015 - 18:13
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