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FEMA Levee Visualization Dashboard – Region III: PA, VA, WV, DE & MD

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Region III has over 100 levees in need of remapping to reflect current conditions. However, budget limitations allow for only a limited number to be addressed in any given year. To effectively allocate resources in the event of failure, FEMA needed a method to determine which systems posed the greatest risk to life, infrastructure, economy and environment.

To assist FEMA in prioritizing its levee investments, T&M’s planning and technology groups teamed to develop a land-use analysis and GIS mapping algorithm to establish an unbiased scoring for each system, with the results presented in an intuitive and user accessible Levee Visualization Dashboard. Parameters used in this dashboard included population characteristics, economic importance, housing, transportation infrastructure, sites of unique historic and cultural heritage, intensity of development, places of national strategic importance, record of past damage, energy infrastructure, risk of environmental contamination, and critical community facilities such as hospitals, police and fire stations, and emergency shelters.

Each parameter was scored relative to all levees in the region. The parameter scores were then summed to obtain a total score for each levee system. The levee systems were then ranked within each state and the FEMA region overall. Results were then presented in tabular format and mapped with color gradient scale to depict relative risk.

While external, hard-to-quantify factors, such as community interest, may influence some project priorities, the tool provides an impartial ranking to enable the region to objectively plan the use of its study budget.

In addition to assisting FEMA with levee prioritization, the underlying data and mapping provide a valuable resource for objectively illustrating risk and helping to prioritize actions in vulnerable geographies such as levee protection, dam inundation, flood hazard and areas subject to potential storm surge. The underlying data and mapping highlight the importance of understanding risk and encouraging communities to develop plans to mitigate these risks. In addition, they have facilitated rapid response efforts to specific storm events.

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