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What are Community Disaster Resilience Zones (CDRZs)?

November 8, 2023
Susanna Pho, CFM

In an era marked by increasing climate-related challenges, strengthening communities, particularly those underserved and most vulnerable, has become an important goal. To accelerate resilience in areas most at risk, FEMA is working on a new initiative that designates certain communities as Community Disaster Resilience Zones (CDRZs). The zones will benefit from new funding and the technical expertise of the partners involved in the program. The goal is to enhance the knowledge of resilience networks for everyone. 

At Forerunner, we are committed to empowering communities and building resilience. The need for comprehensive disaster preparedness and mitigation has never been more critical, and this initiative offers a beacon of hope, fostering collaboration and creating real, lasting change. 

FEMA is working with states, local governments, tribal nations, and territorial governments to ensure the designations are helpful tools in serving underserved communities. The holistic strategy fosters collaboration across philanthropic organizations, nonprofits, NOAA, the EPA, and more to transform designated areas into disaster resilience zones and drive better outcomes for all. 

A comprehensive data-driven methodology was used to identify these zones. The criteria evaluated included risk scores and percentile rankings, as well as factors such as expected annual loss, social vulnerability, and community resilience. The initial list was compiled based on the National Risk Index Tool, an online mapping tool that identifies communities at risk. Then it was cross-checked by subject matter experts and the Climate & Economic Justice Screening Tool – which removed communities that are not disadvantaged according to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Economic Justice. As a result, they identified at least one community in each state that had a high risk of natural hazards and was in need from a socioeconomic perspective. 

The CDRZs encompass approximately 2 million people, representing 0.6% of the national population. What makes these zones particularly significant is that 84% of them have a high social vulnerability rating. They experience about 7.5 times higher annualized expected annual loss compared to other areas, and 37% of these zones are located in rural areas.

FEMA has a Community Disaster Resilience Zone Platform that includes more information on the designations and methodology, as well as an interactive mapping tool for visualization. Please reference the platform to drill further into the index, and to learn how to take action and where to get help.  

Some of the core benefits for Community Disaster Resilience Zones include access to climate adaptation and risk assessments, technical assistance, and grant funding. For example, communities with the CDRZ designation are eligible for an increase in cost-sharing under the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, with the potential for up to 90%. They are also prioritized for BRIC direct technical assistance. 

FEMA hopes to get more involvement from the private sector, foundations, nonprofits, and insurance. Congress has also signaled an intent to supercharge these zones with tax incentives to start projects. They hope the program helps communities strategically plan, design, and execute projects that align with their priorities, and are committed to improving the methodology. This partnership-driven approach, supported by legislation, provides a framework for building stronger, more resilient communities in the face of climate-related challenges. As we witness the evolution of these communities over time, we remain excited about the potential of the program to not only enhance disaster resilience, but also create a blueprint for future resilience-building efforts.

To learn more about Community Disaster Resilience Zones, please visit FEMA’s Community Disaster Resilience Zones webpage.

If you are interested in learning more about how Forerunner is helping build more resilient communities we would love to connect! Please reach out to support@withforerunner.com or request a demo.

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