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Lessons from the 2023 ASFPM Conference

June 19, 2023
Susanna Pho, CFM

Last week, the Forerunner team had the incredible opportunity to attend the Associate of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. We gained valuable insights on best practices in floodplain management, connected with our community partners, and shared the value of Forerunner’s platform with other conference attendees. By participating in concurrent sessions and listening to firsthand accounts from communities affected by recent storms, we were able to better contextualize the significance of our work and identify more ways to help.

One of the highlights that left a lasting impression was hearing firsthand accounts shared by communities in Florida that were directly affected by the devastation of Hurricane Ian this past fall. Government officials from Charlotte County, Lee County, and the Town of Land Lake discussed their community’s unique challenges and triumphs in disaster response following Ian’s landfall. Their narratives were poignant, vividly describing the destruction experienced, ranging from lots being wiped clean to the disappearance of essential infrastructure like traffic lights and street signs.

Throughout each conversation, a few themes emerged: the importance of centralized data compilation, documentation of damages, and risk communication and education for residents.

Here’s what we heard:

  • Centralizing Data. When communities maintain property-level data, flood risk information, and damage records in a centralized location, they significantly enhance their organizational capabilities in post-disaster activities. Speakers across concurrent sessions spoke about the importance of having a comprehensive plan to leverage centralized data and facilitate the collection of additional information in the event of a storm. Those presenting also spoke to the benefits of using tools for data centralization and ensuring widespread adoption across teams pre-disaster to ensure seamless communication and collaboration.
  • Damage Assessment and Documentation. Whether it’s for grant proposals, post-disaster Community Assistance Visits, or simply record keeping, we were reminded of the importance of diligent documentation of damages in the aftermath of a storm event. FEMA officials spoke to the the pressing need and pace at which data must be gathered in the field to progress local permitting work and enable residents to begin repairs. They also advised those who conduct property damage assessments to always remember to take a few extra photos while out in the field to help paint a picture when back in the office submitting documentation.
  • Risk Communication. Claire Jubb from Charlotte County presented on lessons in risk communication and education with residents both before and after a storm event when discussing her experiences following Hurricane Ian. Government officials, like Claire, face immense demand for their time in responding to public inquiries, especially in the aftermath of a disaster when residents seek information regarding damages and permitting processes required for rebuilding. It becomes crucial to explore ways to disseminate widespread notifications to the public, while also ensuring they can easily access documentation about individual property risk. This also opens the door for conversations with the public on risk mitigation and resilience planning for future flooding events.

These personal anecdotes combined with stories we’ve heard from our other community partners will help shape our future development of features to address post-disaster workflow challenges, ultimately aiming to provide valuable assistance in recovery processes. We also had some key takeaways in terms of equity and social justice considerations in floodplain management. There were conversations about the debilitating impacts of disasters on socially vulnerable populations, especially when it comes to the inequitable distribution of resources. It was reassuring to hear that ASFPM has committed to reassessing current policies, programs, and practices in the field of floodplain management to examine approaches that alleviate inequalities.

ASFPM also gave us interesting insights that we’ve taken back for discussions on the new Elevation Certificate, the future of the CRS, and the future of CAVs. The conference serves as a great opportunity for us at Forerunner to stay abreast of the latest developments in the floodplain management industry and to stay informed on ongoing events and discussions.

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