Forerunner's first customer, Chris Parlow, is the Borough Administrator for Bay Head, a quiet coastal community on New Jersey's Barnegat Peninsula. Despite being geographically small, the Borough is surrounded by several bodies of water. As a result, flood protection and adaptation are top of mind for both Chris and the residents of Bay Head. In his role, Chris manages the day-to-day operations of Bay Head, hand-in-hand with its Mayor and Council. The Borough is a relatively small municipality, with a population just under 1,000 people. Working for a community of this size presents unique opportunities and challenges. In his words,
"...In small municipalities we all wear a lot of different hats. I am the Borough Administrator, the Safety Coordinator, and also the CRS Coordinator. On top of that, I only work for the Borough part-time...Everybody in small municipalities has to hold dual roles in order for us to make this all work."
Chris' jobs also create practical benefits — they allow him to utilize different hats to coordinate seamlessly with different departments and to expedite processes that might take longer in larger communities.
While embodying many roles in a small municipality can be both exciting and rewarding, it also presents some unique challenges for Chris. One of his roles is to serve as the Borough's Community Rating System (CRS) Coordinator. The Community Rating System (CRS) is a voluntary program administered by FEMA that rewards communities engaging in mitigation activities with flood insurance discounts for insured properties within their jurisdiction. The program is immensely valuable to local residents, but it is also a heavy lift for Chris.
For one, maintaining Bay Head's CRS class requires ongoing yearly documentation of mitigation work, permits, and regulations. This can get complicated when flood-related tasks spans departments:
"When I first came to Bay Head...the records were all over the place, there wasn't a central location...As soon as I saw Forerunner, it immediately got to my attention that this may be a solution for us to draw all this information together."
Even when documents are readily available, ensuring ongoing compliance with the program and, as an extension, with flood regulations is an job unto itself — one that spans multiple departments in Bay Head.
Additionally, in order to advance in the program (with the goal of additional flood insurance savings), Chris needs a deeper understanding of his community's assets so that he can identify mitigation opportunities, conduct better outreach, and make better planning decisions.
Limited resources as well as complex land use and environmental problems have required Chris to be judicious with both his funding and his time. Forerunner's software offered him a way to increase his floodplain management capacity along several avenues for a relatively low cost (as he likes to put it, "the goal here is to make my job easier and keep me compliant.").
Floodplain management is a multifaceted practice — coastal communities like Bay Head have to juggle large-scale, often infrastructural, decisions affecting entire neighborhoods with targeted projects meant to communicate risk to individual residents. Forerunner's features were built specifically with this challenge in mind, so that Chris can manage permits like Elevation Certificates (ECs) more efficiently, leverage EC data for planning, deliver that data along with general flood information to residents, and track resident interactions.
Making whole-community decisions is a lot easier when you have access to analysis and communication tools. For users like Chris, whose responsibilities span several departments, Forerunner also represents a way to increase municipal capacity while not outsourcing work entirely. In purchasing Forerunner, Chris was looking for a way to lower his community's flood risk long-term, in a way that empowered municipal staff and alleviated their ongoing administrative burdens:
"Doing more here internally, and making it easier to do things internally, is going to save the Borough in the long run. And without a doubt, it has already...What sold me on the product right away is the idea that this is a tool that I can utilize because [floodplain management] is not the only thing that I do here. I can use Forerunner to do things like make sure that we also continue our compliance obligations. "
Chris' feedback has been integral to the development of Forerunner's product offering — we are currently working with him to hone our compliance featureset. In turn, working with Forerunner has afforded Chris an opportunity to take action through innovation. After Hurricane Sandy, the community invested heavily in better understanding exposure through flood studies. Now, the community is ready to leverage its data to plan for the future and equip residents with flood knowledge. As Chris puts it,
"We have binders and binders full of studies. I know it and I agree, we flood. When it's a northeast storm followed by a south wind, we flood. Now, we need some action."