Main Content

Local Official Survey Findings on Flood Risk

Main Content

Since 2010, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has conducted an annual nationwide study of flood risk awareness* among local officials. Data from this survey is used to improve FEMA’s general understanding of flood risk perceptions, inform community engagement strategies and evaluate Risk Mapping Assessment and Planning’s (Risk MAP) progress in the identification, mitigation and communication of risk. The survey is authorized by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget: Control No. 1090-0007.

Research Objectives

The survey was designed to determine local officials’:

  • Awareness and understanding of flood risk
  • Mitigation actions
  • Preferences and frequency for communicating flood risk
  • Needs for assistance to advance communication efforts

Research findings will be used to inform and refine Risk MAP’s national outreach and community engagement strategies and will be shared across FEMA and other federal agencies that address common issues.

Key findings from the survey are provided below.

Risk Awareness

  • Three out of four local officials identified their community as being at risk of flooding.  This is an increase in the rate of awareness among local officFlood risk awareness bar graph for years 2010 through 2013. 2010 equals 68%, 2011 equals 68%,  2012 equals 66%, 2013 equals 77%.ials compared to previous years and suggests that Risk MAP is helping to improve flood risk awareness.
  • Fewer than one in 10 local officials surveyed believes that more than half their community is at risk of flooding. While trends in the survey data suggest that flood risk awareness is increasing among local officials, the perception persists that the majority of citizens in the community are not at risk.


  • Four out of five local officials reported that their community had taken at least one form of action to reduce its risk of flooding. Mitigation activity was particularly high among local officials who believe their community is at risk of flooding (87%). However, even among local officials who lacked awareness of flood risk in their community, a majority (54%) had taken action. Those who had taken action reported that their funding most commonly came from community transportation and public works (48%) or public safety (23%) resources.
  • One out of three local officials has a FEMA-approved mitigation plan. Stormwater management planning (67%) is the most common type of mitigation planning. Among officials who have community mitigation plans, emergency managers are most commonly cited as having participated in the planning effort (70%), followed by community planning officials (64%) and floodplain managers (58%).
  • Funding and technical expertise are the most sought-after types of natural hazard mitigation assistance. When asked which type of FEMA assistance is most preferred for advancing natural hazard mitigation, funding (73%) and technical expertise (40%) are most frequently requested by local officials. Other options include flood maps (29%), planning assistance (26%) and outreach materials (24%).

Top five mitigation activities among local officials surveyed. Building drainage improvements equals 52%, elevation equals 44%, erosion control equals 41%, acquisition equals 31%, flood proofing equals 26%.


  • In communities that are taking action, the two most commonly used channels for outreach are community events and community websites. When asked to describe their community’s actions to inform and educate citizens, elected officials and property owners about flood hazards and potential mitigation methods, local officials frequently cited community meetings, open houses or other events and community websites (57% and 56%, respectively). Media outreach (e.g., news, television, newspaper, radio) was also mentioned by local officials from these communities (45%).
  • Community websites and print media are commonly used tools for distributing new flood maps, with nearly seven out of 10 local officials expressing intent to use at least one of these resources. Nearly half of the local officials reported that their administration communicates flood risk information to the public at least once per year. However, 23% of the officials surveyed answered “every few years” and another 30% responded either that they “don’t know” or “never” communicate with their communities about flood risk.

Additional Information

*While these statistics are taken directly from the survey, the interpretation shown is the opinion of FEMA.

Last Updated: 
07/30/2015 - 15:34