By Laura Algeo, National Cooperating Technical Partners Program Coordinator
A major risk faced by communities across the country every year is flooding. I have been working on reducing risks due to flooding for over 20 years and know coming up with solutions is complicated. Each community’s unique qualities, like the landscape, buildings, population, and weather, define the kind of risk they face. There are so many people and groups that have pieces to that puzzle. When we build partnerships, we get a better picture of not just the risk but also how we can work together to reduce it.
I coordinate the Cooperating Technical Partners program, which is made up of tribal nations, communities, territories, universities, non-profits, and regional and state agencies, all of whom make the difference in reducing risk. They work with, and in, communities to identify, reduce, and plan for risks. I get to see how our network of more than 300 members is one of our greatest strengths.
Partners are in every FEMA region and represent all sizes of community. They work on identifying flood hazards and risk, communicating that risk, helping communities to find unique ways to reduce their risk, and more. Over the last two decades, there have been many successes through these partnerships. I’d like to share with you some standout partnerships that have been recognized by their peers and received the Cooperating Technical Partners Recognition Award.
The following partners all provide excellence in communicating with their communities and helping them better understand their risks and act on that knowledge:
- The Iowa Department of Natural Resources developed a web viewer and a process to collect community feedback. The goal is to share flood data with communities early and often. This results in more open and free flowing conversation with everyone in the community. The public gets a more direct line back to the state that is working to identify their risks. This helps ensure the best possible data and study of risk is done.
- The Georgia Department of Natural Resources created an online shop to access educational tools, plain language materials, and property-specific flood risk snapshots. This tool goes a long way to ensure that the public understands the risk that their community has and what they can do to make their properties safer.
- The Kentucky Division of Water uses a type of virtual reality to help people see and understand flood risk in local places in a new way. It is an amazing way to put yourself into the area of the flood risk and see what the impacts of that risk are on the area around you in an in-depth way.
The following partnerships have increased access to modeling and data that can help communities ensure development that takes place is done in a safe and forward-thinking way:
- The Harris County Flood Control District has been a partner for 20 years. In that time, their forward-thinking approach has provided professionals and residents within Harris County access to expertise, data, and educational opportunities to promote floodplain management, risk awareness, and resilience.
- The Indiana Department of Natural Resources developed a place for elected officials, floodplain administrators, and residents to access state-specific floodplain data. If you are looking to live in Indiana, this site has a lot of tools to help you better understand your risk.
- The San Antonio River Authority is part of a watershed master planning and floodplain management program. It is developing models to update flood hazard data, improve flood warning systems, and highlight areas for improvements.
This partner has improved the mapping process in its state:
- The Illinois State Water Survey created a program to streamline the state processes with the federal ones to ensure that there is maximum coordination with communities. They have developed accurate, easily accessible data for every county in Illinois, while maximizing local involvement.
Despite our best efforts to avoid damage from flooding, at times we still face disaster. This partner responded in an exceptional way to record-breaking floods in 2019.
- Nebraska Department of Natural Resources supported floodplain administrators throughout the post-disaster period. They captured lessons-learned before, during and after the flood event to create a post-disaster handbook. The handbook will be available in early 2021.
These examples show how partnerships work in creative and original ways. I have been involved with the program since it started in 1999 and the advancements made by all the partners have helped so many communities become more aware and plan safer for coming risks. I am excited to see all our partnerships continue to grow and build understanding of risk and help communities come up with inventive ways to stay resilient.