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Mastering the Certified Floodplain Management (CFM) Exam: Lessons from a Certified Floodplain Manager

October 3, 2023
Susanna Pho, CFM

Floodplain managers play a critical role 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.  

To become Certified Floodplain Managers, candidates must pass a rigorous exam that assesses their knowledge and competence in various aspects of floodplain management. A score of 70% or better is required to pass. The exam is comprehensive, covering a wide range of topics, including floodplain regulations, floodplain mapping, flood insurance, flood hazard mitigation, and emergency management. The knowledge can be incredibly useful for individuals in both the public and private sector who deal with floodplain ordinances regularly. 

To better understand how to prepare, we thought it would be helpful to talk to someone who has been through it. We sat down with Sophia Clavel, Account Executive at Forerunner, to get her insights and tips on how to conquer the exam with confidence. 

When Sophia embarked on her career at Forerunner in 2021, she realized the importance of understanding the complex world of floodplain management. To equip herself with the necessary knowledge and skills, she decided to take the Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM) exam. 

In terms of preparation, Sophia found the ASFPM website to be essential. She used their guidelines and on-demand learning to get started. Then, she dove into the CFM exam resources, which included the most comprehensive and relevant information for preparing for the exam. To ensure she grasped the material, she went through them several times. 

Sophia highlighted two other resources as helpful supplements to the guide. The first was a Floodplain Management 101 training course offered by ASFPM, which helped reinforce the most foundational topics. The second was a review course from NJAFM, which helped her to measure her progress and identify areas that needed more attention. 

In addition to hitting the books, she found engaging with her peers and discussing floodplain management intricacies with fellow professionals, whether on LinkedIn or during conferences, greatly enriched her preparation process.

While Sophia felt well-prepared with the resources she had, she does acknowledge some areas she wished she had focused on more. Specifically, she recommends aspiring CFMs to pay extra attention to learning how to compute a Base Flood Elevation (BFE), especially for riverine communities. Understanding the historical context and nuances of legislation is also crucial for success.

Sophia's journey wasn't without challenges, but she embraced them with determination. She emphasized that the CFM exam is challenging because floodplain management itself is a complex field, and the exam ensures that floodplain managers have the knowledge they need to excel in their roles.

After becoming a certified professional, CFMs are required to stay up-to-date with the ever-evolving world of floodplain management. They have to continuously seek opportunities to expand their knowledge and to earn the Continuing Education Credits (CECs) required to maintain the credential. Sophia eagerly anticipates the monthly ASFPM policy briefing, follows influential figures in the field on LinkedIn (notably, Mitch Paine, Jack Krolikowski, and Rebecca Jones), and actively participates in floodplain management conferences and webinars to maintain her CECs. 

Sophia's path to becoming a Certified Floodplain Manager exemplifies the dedication required to excel in this vital field. She  gained a deeper understanding of the responsibilities at hand and is well-equipped to make a significant impact in her role.

Whether you're a seasoned professional looking to enhance your skills or a newcomer interested in pursuing a career in this field, we hope you feel more confident and ready to dive in. From floodplain development regulations to interpreting flood hazard maps and implementing effective flood mitigation strategies, there is a lot to learn - but there are a lot of existing resources that can be helpful in preparing for the exam and growing your floodplain management knowledge. We’ve compiled some of these in a separate blog post: Resources for CFM Studying. We recommend that you also lean on state and federal resources to thoroughly understand what to expect with the exam and the greater CFM program.

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 or request a demo. Best of luck on the exam! 

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