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Building Resilient Communities Together: Lessons from the Floodplain Management Association 2023 Conference

September 22, 2023
Susanna Pho, CFM

The Floodplain Management Association's 2023 conference, centered around the theme of "Mitigating the Equity Gap: Creating Resilient Communities Together," featured insightful discussions and presentations highlighting the importance of partnerships, technology, public education, and community efforts in achieving resilience. 

Our team was excited to exhibit and present at the conference this year. Michelle Leong, Senior Customer Success Manager at Forerunner, attended several sessions and reported some of her key takeaways!

Closing the Equity Gap

Ryan Buras, Deputy Director at California Governor's Office of Emergency Service, was the keynote speaker of the first plenary session. He underscored the need for better preparedness, especially in areas at high risk of annual flooding, and encouraged communities to educate themselves on the Social Vulnerability Index and to take advantage of FEMA grants and programs.

Additional speakers in the session included:

Ryan and the speakers shared several strategies for preparedness, focusing on how to meet the needs of underserved communities facing the most significant climate change risks. These included:

  • Utilizing science and data to inform resilience strategies.
  • Enhancing coastal and public communication methods and channels to effectively convey information to communities.
  • Strengthening collaborative partnerships to align various stakeholders towards resilience goals.
  • Understanding and assessing the risks associated with climate change and flooding.
  • Investing in new technology and innovation for flood information mapping, national weather models, precipitation analysis, and more to support resilience efforts.  

This second plenary session built upon these topics, focusing on the importance of collaboration with non-profits and enhancing community engagement.

Advanced Planning 

Joseph Yun, Executive Officer of the California Water Commission presented on some exciting changes happening in California, focusing on the Water Resilience Portfolio. He shared how they are scaling up groundwater recharge, conducting watershed-level planning for drought, and implementing better data and messaging for drought management. 

Joseph also spoke a bit about the new approach they are taking to partnerships, including incorporating representatives of underserved communities in planning and collaborating with different community groups (ie: ADA). Finally, he shared his insights on modeling and data-driven decision making, using FEMA flood maps for development, and implementing creative strategies, such as painting murals, to educate the community. 

Keeping up with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The California Department of Water Resources is committed to building a more resilient future in the face of rising flood risks and they play an important role managing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). They shared the ways that they are helping ensure communities meet minimum requirements - by providing technical assistance, reviewing ordinances, and offering training. They also provided a demonstration of the CA Floodplain Management Ordinance Dashboard, which enables cross-community interaction and includes key dates for CAVs and CACs. 

Communicating with and Engaging Underserved Communities

As they move ahead, California plans to make systemic adaptations for climate change. They are focused on institutionalizing practices - for example, adding a third chapter in the National Levee Guideline - and looking closely at how they define underserved communities. They believe highlighting the difference between vulnerable and disadvantaged communities is important. While “disadvantaged” status is measured by income, “vulnerability” is measured by social vulnerability - the ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from a disaster. The state is working to clearly determine what this means, and has defined 40 different indicators that put a community at risk. 

They are also working to establish better communication, including setting up methods to alert and warn the public during flood emergencies. They have found personalized messaging (tailored to different cultures, locations, and ages) can help bridge communication gaps. 

Overall, the Floodplain Management Association's 2023 conference was informative and left us feeling inspired and motivated to continue our work, and to incorporate new insights on inclusivity, collaboration, and innovation. 

The Forerunner team at FMA!

As a team, we were heartened to find that many of the attendees saw the benefits of technology and innovation, and the benefits of partnering with software like Forerunner to enhance communications, enable better risk management, and support greater resilience. If you'd like to hear more about our experience at the conference or if you'd like to learn more about our work, we’d love to connect. Please feel free to reach out to or request a demo.

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