FORT COLLINS, CO - Frequent flooding events have plagued Fort Collins over the decades, disrupting lives and destroying property. A 1997 flood resulted in five deaths and damages to more than 2,000 homes and businesses. Because citizens acted, the community saw much less destruction in the September 2013 flood.
Prior to the September event, the city had already launched a community education and outreach program to inform and prepare its citizens for future flood events. The program offered educational opportunities through numerous multimedia events in the community.
During Flood Awareness Week, city leaders educated the community about the reality of floods and how to minimize loss through “Floods Happen in Fort Collins.” Citizens were given information to help protect themselves, their family and their property, and were informed about the need for flood insurance.
During the week, displays at libraries, community centers, city hall and other locations offered information. Flood hazard data, preparedness tips and safety information were sent to floodplain residents and property owners. Flood safety videos were shown on the city-operated television station as well.
A second phase of the program focused on educating school-aged students about flooding. The city’s stormwater utility teamed up with the Natural Areas Department to create Red Fox Meadows, a natural space located in a flood zone, where kids could explore and learn. The lessons were also designed to be of interest to the children’s parents.
Creating the natural area in the floodplain had several purposes:
- Provide local flood protection,
- Restore valuable wildlife habitat, and
- Allow students to get first-hand experience in a natural habitat.
The natural area has outdoor classrooms where students can learn about flood preparedness, water quality and stormwater management. Signs located in the natural area explain mitigation efforts.
“The city believes that educating students early about the hazards involved with flooding and purposes of mitigation techniques will give them a better understanding of how to protect against floodwaters in the future,” said Marsha Hilmes-Robinson, Floodplain Manager for Fort Collins Utilities.
Another component of the education and outreach program is to keep residents informed about the local stream flow levels and precipitation amounts.
The utilities department operates a flood warning system with 66 gauges located throughout the Fort Collins area. When the gauges exceed a set level, emergency management personnel take action.
The warning system alerts residents to view real time data, as well as floodplain maps on their smartphones, allowing for quick implementation of their personal emergency plans.
To further increase safety, all Larimer County residents are encouraged to sign up for free emergency notifications on landlines, business phones and cell phones, and via text and email messages at http://www.leta911.org/.
Another option is to follow the city’s various social media updates. Additional flood protection information is available from the following websites: Fcgov.com/floodwarningsystem Fcgov.com/flood-safety Fcgov.com/cable14/ Fcgov.com/stormwater.