Kentucky Approach to Community Engagement and Risk Communication


In a region that experiences numerous storms, a community’s mindset is often focused on disaster recovery, rather than mitigation actions that reduce losses. Compound this situation with budget constraints that have forced many communities to cut positions and with varied messaging from federal agencies, and local officials can become overwhelmed. Kentucky’s goal is to empower local officials by providing tools and resources to help them make informed decisions to keep their communities safe.


An important aspect of empowering local officials is to become their partner, rather than coming into the community, executing a project, and leaving. Kentucky recognized that a shift in mindset would not occur quickly, but that by providing assistance and developing stronger relationships, they could gradually work with community officials to effect change. The Kentucky Division of Water (the Cooperating Technical Partner, or CTP) held a series of vision sessions in which they met with various stakeholder groups to discuss examples of mitigation actions that have and have not been successful in the past.

New information was a crucial part of demonstrating the impact of future flood risk. The CTP found that residents often have trouble relating to data on the 100-year flood, thinking that if it only happens every 100 years, it will not happen to them. Instead, the CTP provided Risk MAP project data demonstrating the annual chance of flooding over 30 years (the course of an average mortgage).

These data were showcased at community meetings and open houses. Residents were able to see their own home in that data, and better understand the risk of flooding over the period of their own mortgages.

Additionally, the use of webinars was impactful. By using GoToMeeting or other remote access technology, the CTP could employ interactive user training with subject matter experts for communities. This allowed specific hands-on training, based on user needs, and has been cost-effective.

To further increase awareness of local flood risk, the CTP and the Lower Cumberland watershed Risk MAP project created augmented reality scenarios of locations without flooding, with a 1%-annual-chance flood, and a 0.2%-annual-chance flood. The scenarios featured locations in Crittenden, Livingston, and Trigg Counties. The immersive augmented reality experience increases the users understanding of the risk and impact of flood events.


 Partnering with the community and empowering them to recognize and understand their risk and take ownership of mitigation actions, the state, and CTP help ensure that a community’s needs are met and their unique community interests are factored into the decision-making process. Citizens and communities have been positively and directly impacted by this strategy.


Citizens and communities have been positively and directly impacted by this strategy. 

Creating a culture for success: 

  • Local champion(s) 
  • Partners are in agreement 
  • You have their attention 
  • Alignment with community goals 
  • Good projects 
  • Sense of urgency 
  • There is a plan in place 
  • Funding source 

Lessons Learned

Risk MAP Phases

This project involved the following Risk MAP phases:

  • Data Development and Sharing
  • Risk Awareness and Mitigation Outreach
  • Proposed NFIP Map Changes and Impacts
  • Preliminary Map Release and Mitigation
  • Due Process and Path Forward

Risk MAP Goals Advanced

The Risk MAP goals that were advanced through this project included:

  • Increasing Awareness and Educating the Community
  • Advancing Action

A great deal of feedback was received from the vision sessions, both positive and negative. 

Success factors included: 

  • Local champion/sponsor 
  • Political support 
  • Recent disaster or major flood event 
  • Risk was obvious to the property owner 
  • Popular to be “green” 
  • Local/State funding alternatives 
  • Linkage to other efforts (infrastructure, 
  • Interagency cooperation stormwater, environment) 

Factors leading to failure included: 

  • People forget about the event 
  • Economics vs. public safety 
  • Sense of heritage/tradition 
  • “I don’t know what to do or who to talk to” 
  • Disagreement on priorities 
  • Not enough data 
  • Time delays—loss of momentum 
  • Multiple agencies are responsible for floodplain, stormwater management, infrastructure, etc. 


Kentucky Floodplain Management

KY Risk MAP channel

Training modules range from providing guidance on technical components of mapping, basics of using the flood hazard and risk products, to implementing risk reduction measures in a local community. 

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