Introducing the Forerunner Academy, a learning platform for floodplain managers
Explore now

Welcome to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Situated in eastern Iowa, Cedar Rapids contends with both the benefits and challenges presented by the Cedar River, which flows through its downtown area. The city faced a major flood in 2008, resulting in losses estimated at ~5 billion dollars, with far-reaching economic and societal impacts. The experience prompted a strategic shift, leading to the implementation of robust flood control measures, the introduction of new floodplain management programs, and a commitment to taking a dynamic and proactive approach in the face of future climate challenges. The Mayor, City Council, and City Manager continue to make this their top priority. Mathew Langley, Floodplain Administrator in Cedar Rapids, has been at the forefront in developing the floodplain management strategies, and the collaboration with Forerunner has played a pivotal role in translating these ideas into actionable initiatives.

New Maps

An important first step for the team in building their strategy was to update their flood maps to get a more accurate understanding of their risk. Most of the city’s maps were from studies dating back to the 80s and 90s with several revisions along the way. When someone had a request for development, the team spent a lot of time parsing through hard copies of various maps, many of which were outdated.

Cedar Rapids updated their maps in 2010 and 2021 and created new maps for their tributaries, providing them with more accurate data. They also worked with Forerunner to consolidate the maps into one platform. The consolidation made understanding the city’s true flood risk a lot easier, and they can now find the information they need much faster.

Higher Regulatory Standards 

Another important step for the team was to implement several higher regulatory standards, including freeboard, new code requirements, and a new ordinance with a much stricter Substantial Improvement (SI) cumulative threshold. 

Part of this process involved collaboration across departments, particularly in an effort to align floodplain requirements with a new zoning ordinance. They worked to ensure the zoning code actively reinforced floodplain protection measures, working in tandem to enhance overall resilience and provide cohesive guidelines for future development.

The team is in the midst of exploring stricter requirements for floodways and are identifying other incremental improvements they can make. “We want to do everything possible to protect residents and property, and minimize risk,” Mathew noted. 

Forerunner has been a key partner as Cedar Rapids has started to implement these new standards. The platform enables the team to manage Cedar Rapids’ property data and documentation within the platform’s property profiles. This allows the floodplain management team to quickly make SD determinations, track floodplain determinations, and access other property-level data required for enforcing regulations.

Public Communication 

Mathew emphasized that transparency and communication with their community about flood risk is very important to the team at Cedar Rapids and is a key part of their resilience strategy. “We want to ensure the residents and any individuals developing properties in the area are aware of the evolving risk scenario,” he noted. 

Forerunner’s public website enables them to do just that - giving residents, developers, and other stakeholders the ability to navigate FIRMs, submit questions to the team (which are automatically logged for internal recordkeeping), and review their individual property profiles to identify their SI threshold, review documentation, and more.

The team has also shared Forerunner with realtors. “We presented at the realtors association to help realtors understand how to use Forerunner and how to communicate risk to potential buyers. We shared QR codes with instructions on how to reach the Forerunner site and how to complete basic tasks,” Mathew highlighted.

In addition to using Forerunner, they do outreach through standard mailers and coordinate with rental groups to keep tenants informed.

The Community Rating System (CRS) Program 

Developing their CRS program has been instrumental in their strategy as well. When Mathew was able to dig into the program, he realized that his community had the potential to gain a significant number of CRS credits, however the tasks that qualified for the credits were distributed across various departments and had not been identified as relevant to the CRS in the past.

For instance, in a previous cycle, Cedar Rapids encountered challenges validating properties funded through HMGP funds. For recertification, he collaborated with a real estate expert and uncovered a master spreadsheet that tracked different projects and funding sources. This revealed that they had actually underreported their numbers - leading to not only a more accurate reporting of properties, but also a net increase in points. 

Mathew highlighted the importance of communication with various groups, citing another example where he engaged with the Stormwater Team to explore an MS4 program and to learn about drainage maintenance. This collaboration helped them align internally, unlock additional CRS credits, and foster a more connected program. They are committed to an ongoing effort to consolidate scattered points and drive efficiencies internally.

Forerunner has been a key partner in the CRS program, particularly as it pertains to Elevation Certificates. Mathew is the only person responsible for maintaining and verifying Elevation Certificates for Cedar Rapids, and meeting the 90% accuracy bar for the CRS is very challenging and time-consuming. Forerunner’s EC Error Detection Tool can identify over 100 potential clerical, compliance, and elevation issues that need to be addressed in ECs before submitting to the NFIP or CRS.  

“Being able to digitize our ECs from a record preservation standpoint is important, and that secondary check on the errors provides fantastic coverage. We double check our ECs from the start to make sure we catch errors, and communicate that back to engineers, architects, surveyors.” he noted.  

Cedar Rapids has undergone a transformative journey in enhancing its resilience strategy, including updating maps for a more accurate risk assessment, implementing higher regulatory standards, and engaging in extensive public outreach. The community embraced the Community Rating System (CRS) program, and collaborated with various departments as well as with key partners like Forerunner. We admire their eye towards the future, and commitment to the well-being of their residents and the overall prosperity of the community.

Sign up for our newsletter!

Receive a monthly update from us with news, product updates, and resources from our team.

You can unsubscribe at any time. View our Privacy Policy.

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Ready to increase your community’s resilience?

Request demo
Sign up for our newsletter!

You can unsubscribe at any time. View our Privacy Policy.

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.