Monday, July 9, 2012

NOAA's Critical Facilities Flood Exposure Tool

Early last month, the Coastal Services Center (CSC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began publicly promoting release of a new geospatially driven online tool that can help the Emergency Services Sector (ESS) quickly determine what critical infrastructure exists within the FEMA 100-year floodplain.  Called the Critical Facilities Flood Exposure Tool (CFFET), the program was originally created to support self-assessment efforts in flood prone areas along the Mississippi and Alabama coast, but has now been expanded to cover most coastal areas of the United States and Territories. Users can quickly determine if specific elements of infrastructure are inside the 100-year floodplain by seeing the physical location of that infrastructure on a map versus bright blue shading used to denote the flood zone. Additionally, by clicking on any specific infrastructure icon, a popup is displayed with expanded information about the location.  The CFFET uses Google's base map and features, along with data from FEMA's HAZUS-MH program to perform assessments.  

The CFFET is accompanied by "Coastal County Snapshots", which provide a text and graph based overview concerning relative risk for select counties.  To give these products a test drive, click the links below:

Comment: Over the weekend, Novorossiysk, Russia's busiest Black Sea port had to cease all operations because of torrential downpours that brought massive inland flooding, extensive damage to infrastructure and scores of deaths. Taken together with the circumstances that played out in the Duluth region late last month, comes understanding that there is good reason to carefully consider the potential for flooding in seaports and surrounding regions. Because these locations bring together several types of transportation in one place (inter-modal exchange) - the impact can be disproportional large and far reaching.  In that regard, HUGE kudos go out to NOAA for this effort to take the basic capability of HAZUS-MH and make it easily accessible, understandable, and usable by the ESS and decision making communities.  And now that NOAA has shown the way with coastal and port areas, let's hope FEMA and/or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers quickly does the same thing for the rest of the nation!

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