FEMA Moving from Map Modernization to Risk MAP

FEMA recently met with its flood map stakeholders to discuss FEMA’s transition from its Map Modernization program to its Risk MAP program. Under the Map Modernization program, FEMA focused on digitizing maps to provide “timely, accurate information to community planners” using increasingly available technology. It began in 2004 and will end with 92 percent of the population covered by new, digitized flood maps. For FEMA, this is a success.

FEMA is now moving into its Risk MAP program. Risk MAP (Risk Mapping, Assessment and Planning) further enhances the flood maps, involves communities during the assessment and planning stages, and guides and encourages communities and stakeholders to communicate risk to their constituents. FEMA notes that its vision for Risk MAP is: “through collaboration with state, local, and tribal entities, Risk MAP will deliver quality data that increases public awareness and leads to action that reduces risk to life and property.”

RISK Map Goals

FEMA established five goals for its Risk MAP program, with ways to measure each.

Goal one is to address gaps in flood hazard data. FEMA will measure the success of this goal by ensuring that 80 percent of the nation’s flood hazards are current by 2014. By “current” it means that the flood hazard data are new, have been updated, or are deemed still valid through the Risk MAP review and update process.

Goal two is to provide a measurable increase of public awareness and understanding of flood hazard risks. FEMA will measure the success of this goal by an increased level of understanding of flood risk by state, local, and tribal officials.

Goal three is to lead effective engagement in flood hazard mitigation planning. FEMA will measure its success by ensuring that 80 percent of the U.S. population, excluding territories, is covered by a local or tribal hazard mitigation plan that is approved or approvable pending adoption.

Goal four is to provide an enhanced flood map digital platform. FEMA will measure its success by the percent of local hazard mitigation plans approved using quality Risk MAP data or better.

Goal five is to align risk analysis programs and develop synergies. FEMA will measure its success by establishing a “culture of continuous improvement and executing projects aimed at reducing process cycle time and improving the quality of Risk MAP products and services.”

Elevation Data Needed

With the goals of Risk MAP in place, FEMA is starting to look to new types of related data to help meet those goals. One of those new types is elevation data. Elevation data acquisition will establish FEMA’s elevation data foundation and will enable credible Risk MAP products.

FEMA is planning to work with both the public and private sector to acquire reliable elevation data. For example, it plans to work with NOAA on its Height Modernization program and use some of the elevation data developed in that program, and it will work with private sector surveying and mapping professionals to acquire additional elevation data.

The need for elevation data is so important to Congress that it directed FEMA to develop a plan for its acquisition. In its FY10 Appropriations Conference Report, Congress noted the following: “FEMA is directed to develop a National Digital Elevation Acquisition and Utilization plan for the purposes of supporting flood plain map updates. FEMA shall collaborate with the United States Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and states that have experience in acquiring and incorporating high resolution elevation data in the flood plain map updates. FEMA shall submit this plan to the Committees within six months after the date of enactment of this Act.” FEMA will set aside $20 million of its $220 million FY10 Flood Map Modernization federal funding for the acquisition of elevation data.

Communicating Risks to the Public

As noted above, one of FEMA’s goals in its Risk MAP program is to communicate an understanding of flood hazard risks to the public. It will do so through its Risk MAP Production Plan. The FY10 Risk MAP Production Plan will provide county-level mapping information including coastal, levee, and riverine designation and state-level FEMA mapping funding.

Surveying and mapping professionals can use the production plan to determine when FEMA will be doing work in their local area. Since FEMA is committed to using private-sector service providers for a good portion of Risk MAP work, surveying and mapping professionals can look for business opportunities when FEMA does work in their local areas.

FEMA believes that if it can communicate the flood hazard risks to the public, the public will take appropriate steps to protect itself from flood hazard risks. As a way to accomplish this, FEMA developed a national outreach strategy (NOS) as a blueprint for communications to ensure that individuals, businesses, and communities understand their risk and take action to protect themselves and their property. According to FEMA, the Risk MAP NOS strategy provides consistent, integrated messages from multiple sources; an actionable roadmap and timeline to achieve objectives; details on “what,” “whom,” and “how” (including integration with other FEMA divisions); and the specific roles and responsibilities for national and regional project activities and audiences.

FEMA’s plan is to develop communications of flood hazard risks at a program level so that they can be tailored at a project level to address the unique needs of different communities and stakeholders (including surveying and mapping professionals). FEMA expects that its flood hazard risk communications will be distributed on a local level through media, local meetings, and by community preference.

Click here to learn more about FEMA’s Risk MAP program.

About the Author

  • Laurence Socci
    Laurence Socci
    Laurence Socci is the chief executive manager and senior lobbyist of The CLA Group, LLC, a government consulting, lobbying, and advocacy firm in Washington, D.C., specializing in representing businesses and associations. He is also the government affairs consultant for the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM).

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