Resources for CFM Studying

February 28, 2022

Floodplain managers throughout the country play crucial roles in minimizing the loss of life and property in high flood risk areas. Their work is increasingly important as climate change and sea level rise puts more communities at risk. The Association of State Floodplain Managers’ (ASFPM) Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM) program has equipped floodplain managers with knowledge, continuing education opportunities, and professional accreditation since 1999. The ASFPM’s CFM program has expanded over time, as more and more individuals have opted to expand their skill set with CFM certification – to wit, membership has grown from 792 members in 2001 to over 6,000 in 2020.

To become Certified Floodplain Managers, candidates must pass a “rigorous, closed book exam…comprised of 120 questions” with a score of 70% or better. The exam is comprehensive but the knowledge can be incredibly useful for individuals in both the public and private sector who deal with floodplain ordinances regularly (just ask the CFMs on Forerunner’s team!). It is always helpful to lean on state and federal resources to thoroughly understand what to expect with the exam and the greater CFM program. There are a multitude of tools that are helpful in understanding how to prepare for the exam and expand your overall floodplain management knowledge. Chief among them are ASFPM’s own study guide and FEMA’s floodplain management documentation. Here are some that we found most useful: 

  • FEMA 480 Floodplain Management Requirements: A Study Guide and Desk Reference for Local Officials (FEMA): This 600 page document is ASFPM’s recommended place to start. The comprehensive document covers a plethora of information about floodplain management. Published by FEMA, this reference text is a great study guide to utilize when learning and understanding floodplain terminology. This source is divided into 10 units, and walks you through a unit-by-unit breakdown (pg. 0-5) to assist with note-taking and study methods as you go through the material. It also highlights the key subjects to familiarize yourself with and this helps to assess what you may need to spend more time on or confirm what you may already know. Overall, it is a key resource to anchor in.
  • 44 CFR Parts 59 & 60 (Code of Federal Regulations): This resource defines federal regulations regarding floodplain management—specifically Emergency Management & Assistance and the role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It covers the requirements that are to be upheld by floodplain managers to ensure their community is operating to code and receiving flood insurance as needed. This includes definitions of floodplain management language used to further understand the code of regulations and guidelines for the Insurance and Hazard Mitigation program. Part 59 specifically covers eligibility requirements for communities to qualify for the NFIP and Part 60 explains criteria regarding land management and use. While this referring directly to 44 CFR may be more complex, the legal language of the Code of Regulations emphasizes the minimum regulatory requirements that must be enforced as a CFM and followed closely by your community. To better understand the language of these relevant regulations, you can look into Unit 5 of the FEMA 480 for a detailed breakdown of the text. Related codes of regulation that are helpful to study are 44 CFR Part 60.3 and 60.5 and 44 CFR Part 73.
  • Become a CFM (Pennsylvania Association of State Floodplain Managers): A few state organizations create great resources for CFM training and Pennsylvania’s is especially thorough. The PAFPM guide is divided into 6 units that cover mapping, regulations, flood hazard mitigation, and more. Their prep materials include slide decks that can be downloaded, mapping and elevation certificate exercises, and a practice exam to test your knowledge. If you are looking for information regarding exam registration the PAFPM guide has information on how to find exam sites, how to register, and more. Whether you live in Pennsylvania or not, the PAFPM and other state-specific resources offer thorough study guides that you can add to your CFM study session.
  • How to Read a FIS / How to Read a FIRM (Ashokan Watershed Stream Management Program): A portion of the CFM exam requires test takers to interpret Flood Insurance Studies and Flood Insurance Rate Maps. AWSMP has published video guides that explain How to read a FIS and How to read a FIRM and their YouTube channel has a playlist where they upload floodplain management material. Having these visual resources, in addition to more formal publications, offer different options for a well-rounded study experience. An effective way to practice map reading is to visit the FEMA Map Service Center, use your own community to put your knowledge to the test! 

We’ve also compiled additional study resources and information for prospective CFMs in this spreadsheet. Beyond the publications highlighted above, the spreadsheet includes information about NFIP regulatory standards, flood insurance, and flood hazard mitigation. While the list is not comprehensive, we hope that it adds a few additional resources to your tool belt.

Lastly, our work at Forerunner is focused on equipping floodplain managers with the resources that they need to be successful in their work. If you’d like to learn more about how our floodplain management software does that, feel free to reach out.  Best of luck on the exam! 


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