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Neil Byrne manages floodplain programs in two coastal New Jersey communities — Ocean City and Sea Isle City. Between these cities he holds five administrative job titles (Construction Code Official,Construction Official, Building Sub-code Official, Zoning Officer & Certified Floodplain Manager) and contributes to flood safety for over 13,000 residents. It's not a stretch to say he always has a lot of work on his hands, but he handles it with gusto. To wit, Neil was just named the Association of State Floodplain Managers's Local Floodplain Manager of the Year!
Both Sea Isle City and Ocean City are popular vacation destinations on the Jersey Shore in historic Cape May County. Situated on barrier islands in the southeast portion of the state, residents of both cities are at high risk of flooding during hydrometeorological disasters and high tide events alike. Chronic flooding is a particularly big concern on the Jersey Shore – a 2018 Union of Concerned Scientists report projected that Ocean City would have the highest number of homes at risk of chronic inundation in New Jersey by 2045. As a result, the regulation of development along the Jersey Shore is crucial to ensuring that these communities stay safe over time. To meet this goal, Neil runs high performing floodplain management departments that value efficiency and innovation. As one of Forerunner's first customers, he has been an integral proponent of our work and a crucial advisor. In return, Forerunner helps Neil build Sea Isle City and Ocean City's floodplain management capabilities by enabling greater community-level intelligence, smarter outreach to residents, and easier CRS documentation.
Continued resident education around flooding is an ongoing priority in Sea Isle City and Ocean City. The building and floodplain management departments in both communities see a high amount of inquiries about specific properties and their corresponding risk. Constantly answering property-specific questions can make completing longer tasks difficult for staff members, so accessing consolidated data quickly for these interactions can save time and increase working efficiency.
For each of these communities, Forerunner’s dashboard combines community-scale information with Elevation Certificate data from thousands of local ECs detailing an individual property’s building attributes. Streamlined, specific data delivery enables Neil's team members to provide specific, up-to-date information to residents about how their property’s risk is categorized by FEMA and its compliance with local floodplain management regulations. Additionally, Forerunner makes it easy for team members to provide Elevation Certificates to residents digitally, which helps to decrease overall inquiry numbers and ensure meaningful, well-informed interactions. Interactions with residents are logged in the dashboard for CRS record-keeping and internal conversation tracking. Says Neil: "You can go to Forerunner and look up everything you need." This is particularly crucial for the large team Neil works with in Ocean City – Forerunner helps the team provide uniform, vetted data across staff members with varying degrees of technical expertise.
The floodplain management programs in Sea Isle City and Ocean City go above and beyond minimum National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requirements to enforce stricter regulatory standards. Floodplain management regulations are typically enforced for new and substantially improved structures. A substantial improvement typically occurs when an improvement to a structure exceeds 50% of its market value. To enable accelerated adaptation, both communities track improvements over multiple years – so that the aggregate of multiple improvements is compared to market value instead. This practice, cumulative substantial improvement, can make record-keeping and the identification of substantially improved structures difficult. Forerunner addresses this with our substantial improvement and substantial damage (SI/SD) tracking feature. Since the launch of the feature, both Sea Isle City and Ocean City have switched to using Forerunner as their software of record for SI/SD. Previous to purchasing Forerunner, the floodplain manager’s SD/SI workflow involved physically visiting the tax assessor each time a calculation was made. Forerunner combines EC data, FEMA data, and parcel data, which means that valuation data is now at his fingertips.
In addition to enforcing stricter standards, Neil also offers residents sizable savings in flood insurance through participation in the Community Rating System (CRS). Sea Isle City is one of only two CRS Class 3 communities in the state, earning residents a 35% flood insurance discount. Ocean City recently reached a new discount level with a CRS Class 4 designation and a 30% discount – saving residents over $3m on flood insurance premiums each year.
Forerunner contributes to Sea Isle City and Ocean City's top-rated CRS programs by making several elements simple. The city can access flood risk information internally and communicate per-property information to residents, a requirement of 322.a-g. The application’s map feature can also be credited under CRS element 442.a, which rewards digital data availability. Lastly, Elevation Certificates are made publicly available through an automatically updated white-labeled website. This functionality is credited under element 352.a.