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FLOODPLAIN TEAM: 3 staff members

ECS ON FILE: ~2820 Certificates

CRS Class: 7

POPULATION: ~220,000 (2021)

Hialeah is a primarily Cuban community in Miami-Dade County. It is located inland, but it is about ten miles from Miami’s coastline, making it vulnerable to hurricane events, storm surges, and heavy rainfall. Fortunately, Hialeah’s floodplain management team is proactive and innovative about preparation, which is reflected in their CRS Class 7 designation.  

Meet the team.

Hialeah’s floodplain management team is dynamic and enthusiastic about maintaining an approachable team that’s focused on working collaboratively with residents to achieve mutually beneficial objectives. Luis Moreno, Hialeah’s Assistant Building Official, notes, "We are opposed to ‘red-tape’ and strive to maintain simplicity." This perspective drives the team to keep residents educated about flood risk and have holistic conversations about why floodplain regulations exist.

Luis’ team juggles a lot, with just a couple of people focused on floodplain management in the large community. Lilibet Muniz and Adonis Lluch share the responsibility of handling floodplain management requests and reviews, with Lilibet acting as the community’s CRS coordinator. Because the team has a need to move quickly while still providing a high level of service to residents, Luis, Lilbet, and Adonis have worked hard to create efficiencies in their day-to-day operations. The team has a constant drive for innovation, which has led them to enthusiastically integrate new technology into their daily operations. When they first heard about the ways that Forerunner could empower their team and streamline their work, they jumped onboard.

A proactive and pragmatic approach.

Although Hialeah hasn’t experienced a significant flooding event in the last decade, preparation is always top of mind since a major storm in the future is likely. The community also faces various water-related challenges such as roof leaks, wind-driven rain, and water filtration problems.

In order to tackle their existing challenges and prepare for the future, the community enrolled in the Community Rating System program, a rigorous program designed to give communities discounts on their NFIP flood insurance policies as an incentive for mitigation actions. Hialeah has been committed to the CRS program for over 10 years and has excelled in Series 500 activities (Flood Damage Reduction), earning a CRS Class of 7 and up to 15% in flood insurance discounts for residents.

Digital transformation with Forerunner.

Upon discovering that Forerunner can facilitate over 600 credits in the CRS program, Luis’ team started to use the software to drive some of their floodplain management workflows.

“Prior to Forerunner, our CRS files were scattered in piles on our desks. With Forerunner, I can gather all the files and information we need efficiently. Whenever we approve a permit, we immediately enter the information in. This saves us a significant amount of time,” Lilibet explained.

The community leverages other Forerunner features as well, such as Elevation Certificate (EC) Error Detection, which runs hundreds of validation checks on their ECs, identifying potential clerical, compliance, and elevation issues that need to be addressed before they’re submitted for review. Because Elevation Certificate correctness is crucial to staying in the program and maintaining the discount that the City is able to offer to residents, having a second set of eyes on review is immensely helpful.

The Hialeah team also set up a Forerunner public website to handle requests for Elevation Certificates and flood risk information more broadly. The website securely stores documentation around flood risk on its corresponding property profile, allowing the community to easily access the information they need in a timely and easy-to-use manner.

“I always get calls from people asking for their Elevation Certificates - now we can skip that step. They can go into Forerunner and download it themselves,” Lilibet noted.

Prioritizing education and trust.

As simple as Forerunner made it to access Elevation Certificates, a major challenge for the Hialeah team is enforcing regulatory requirements in the community.

"Despite our efforts to emphasize the long-term benefits of elevation and the potential consequences of non-compliance, some individuals prioritize short-term goals such as cost reduction and meeting minimum requirements," explained Lilibet.

The team has been working hard to find the right way to approach this discussion with residents and are focused on education. They encourage residents to use Forerunner’s public website to determine if their home is meeting requirements, better understand substantial improvements, and make more informed decisions. They also prioritize building trust in the community - they believe when residents trust the government, they are more receptive to their requests.

Hialeah aims to incorporate Forerunner's additional features and other new technologies to further drive innovation in their department. The team is eager to streamline their processes and optimize their workflows to stay ahead of the curve and deliver the best possible service to their community.

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