Improving Coastal Resilience through Risk Modeling

Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

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Recovery from natural disasters can cost millions of dollars. With hurricanes, superstorms and subsequent flooding, coastal communities throughout the nation are in need of solutions and knowledge that would help them prepare for the inevitable. Numerous resources exists, including datasets, models and tools to support resilience planning. However, knowing which ones to use, and understanding how each optimally fits into a community planning process is sometimes perplexing. The opportunity is to identify which resources are best applied at what stage of the local community planning process (e.g., Climate Action Plan, Comprehensive Plan, Local Mitigation Plan, Long-Range Transportation Plan).

Initiated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and funded by the US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency, AECOM was hired to provide consulting towards a process that coastal communities can use to more effectively develop and execute plans to reduce the long-term impacts caused by the natural disasters.

AECOM teamed with NOAA Digital Coast Partner representatives from the American Planning Association (APA), Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) and National Association of Counties (NACo). Combined, the team possessed extensive experience in flood risk management on the community level, as well as exceptional capabilities to reach into their respective membership and to provide outreach to their constituents.

First, the team conducted a nationwide risk model inventory of the available place-based models. They can be used to predict the extent of damage in both the short and long term and/or determine the amount exposure that a community faces from these threats. Each model was examined and summary documentation was prepared.

AECOM and its partners then developed community planning “points of intervention” strategies to integrate the use of these models and tools into the official planning efforts performed at the local level.

The strategies developed have been demonstrated in conjunction with two local governments. The team worked with those communities to incorporate the risk assessment models into their existing planning processes. AECOM assessed the implementation process at both locations to identify strengths, opportunities and challenges, and then used that information, as well as feedback from model and tool developers, to refine the strategies tested.