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Living with Levees: Ideas for Effective Outreach

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This page provides community officials with information regarding how levee statuses can change over time and how to effectively communicate this information through various outreach programs. Information is provided for outreach activities with the media, local affected industries, residents, and much more.

Community Officials: Levee Status Changes - Ideas for Effective Outreach

Know Your Risk, Know Your Role, Take Action Today!

Informing a family of their flood risk Revised flood zone counseling Public distribution of flood zone construction information

The Community Officials Levee Outreach webpages provide many of the essential materials needed to begin communicating with a variety of different audiences about levee status and map changes in your area. The following tips will help ensure your overall approach to community outreach is on target. Keep these tips in mind while using the materials to make communications around levee and map changes in your area a smooth - and successful - process.

Start early - these things take time

Outreach activities should begin several months prior to the release of preliminary flood maps or large Letter of Map Revisions (LOMRs) that promise to include changes to area flood zones and levee status. This time frame allows for ample discovery; message creation, testing and refinement; and partnership development among key stakeholder groups. Getting started on outreach efforts as early as possible will allow you to identify and address key issues and obstacles as well as secure the broad-based support needed prior to the rollout of new maps.

The media will tell the tale - engage them

Local and regional media outlets will have an interest in this issue and will want to know how map and levee changes will affect the average citizen. They will also be the first to applaud, or critique, the way the process is being handled. Providing the press with access and giving them good information in advance of the release of new maps will help ensure that they have a solid understanding of the process. Holding media pre-briefings and making presentations to newspaper editorial boards prior to the release of new maps will allow reporters and editors to delve into key issues and ask important questions that will help them to cover the map release completely and accurately.

Here are a few tips for engaging the media:

  • Include concrete information and statistics. Materials should include local data on recent flooding, numbers of flood insurance claims, map update schedules, recent levee improvements and other “hard” information.
  • Emphasize the benefits of flood insurance and flood hazard mapping. Highlight the benefits and availability of flood insurance, including cost saving options, as well as the importance of having an accurate picture of flood risks near levees. Efforts to accurately define flood risks will help individuals make better decisions about protecting themselves and their properties.  The updated information also helps guide building and development to make structures less flood-prone.   
  • Clearly define the timeframes associated with levee status and map changes.  When the status of a levee  and/or flood risk information changes on local flood maps, the media needs information that will help them to convey what is happening and when it is happening.   Presenting media with key dates and time frames in materials will help promote coverage that clearly establishes when residents or communities need to take action. 
  • Use a variety of materials to convey your messages. Press releases, fact sheets, answers to frequently asked questions, and brief PowerPoint presentations can all be helpful for securing media coverage. Following up a press release with a fact sheet, for example, can help a reporter fully understand the issue and accurately report on it. A PowerPoint presentation can help to keep things “on message” at editorial board meetings and town halls.
  • Use a combination of tactics to generate broader coverage. Press conferences, one-on-one briefings, and presentations to newspaper editorial boards are all good methods to engage the media, and are most effective when used together. For example, a press conference announcing the release of new maps might be followed by more informal sit-downs with individual reporters to address their specific questions.

Representatives from affected industries can carry your messages forward - tap into their input and influence

Representatives of the insurance, real estate and lending industries will all be affected by the changes that new maps bring. They are also keenly aware of the messages and outreach approaches that will resonate with, and make a difference to, their colleagues and clients. Keeping them updated about key developments in the map change and levee review process, getting their feedback on outreach materials and using them to disseminate information to their colleagues and clients are all great ways to help ensure the right messages reach the groups who need them most. Consider forming, and regularly convening, a stakeholder advisory group that includes representatives of key industries to react to, refine, distribute and deliver key messages and materials.

Residents and business owners need clear messages about flood risks - as well as cost-saving options for protection

Individuals who have investments to protect need meaningful information about how risky it can be to take chances when it comes to flooding, especially if they live or work near a levee. After all, no levee provides full protection from flooding; they help reduce the risk. They also need to know that flood insurance can be quite affordable, especially when compared to the financial burden of repairs or rebuilding if a flood strikes. Providing the public with messages and materials that stress both risks and available cost-saving flood insurance options will make the flood insurance requirement more palatable.

Influencing behavior requires frequency, not just reach - make sure you communicate often with all audiences

Whether asking stakeholders to help explain changes and advocate for risk reduction or asking residents to make a new purchase, it is important to provide good information, address misconceptions and answer tough questions. Such open, transparent and repeated communication is the only way to build consensus and garner buy-in. Holding open houses or town hall meetings with the public gives residents and business owners an opportunity to raise issues and concerns in a friendly, educational setting. It also gives you an opportunity to proactively provide answers. Similarly, convening regular stakeholder advisory group meetings allows you to update and recruit new partners and discuss messages and materials that ensure outreach is robust, organized and effective.

Key decision makers make key decisions - get them on board!

Local elected officials and county board members will, ultimately, be responsible for adopting ordinances that make new flood maps official and effective throughout the area. They are also often the first to hear complaints from confused and concerned residents. Their ability to communicate key map change messages and foster a better understanding of the options available to residents and businesses will help diffuse many potential problems. So, make sure key officials clearly understand the map change process, insurance implications and overall project benefits. If they recognize new maps as a positive step toward increased public safety, it will go a long way toward ensuring that new maps are received positively.

Get Assistance

Answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions are provided for the following user groups: homeowners, engineers, surveyors and architects, insurance professionals and lenders and floodplain managers.

For additional information or assistance, contact a Map Specialist in the FEMA Map Information eXchange (FMIX) through the following methods:

  • Call (1-877) FEMA MAP (1-877-336-2627) Monday through Friday, 8:00 am through 6:30 pm (Eastern Time)
  • Email the FMIX
  • Chat with a Map Specialist Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (Eastern Time)

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Last Updated: 
06/04/2015 - 11:00