Edited Version of March 18, 1998 Transcript
EIIP Virtual Forum Online Panel Discussion

"Flood Plain Management, High & Dry"

Terri Miller
NFIP State Coordinator, ASFPM Chair

Brian Iserman substituting for Jonathan Fuller
J.E. Fuller Hydrology & Geomorphology Inc.

Burrell Montz
Professor of Geography, Binghamton University

Robert (Bob) Durrin
NFIP Specialist, FEMA Region IV

EIIP Panel Moderator - Avagene Moore, CEM, EIIP Coordinator
EIIP Virtual Forum Moderator - Amy Sebring

The original transcript of the March 18, 1998 online Virtual Forum panel discussion is available in the EIIP Virtual Forum Archives (http://www.emforum.org). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each input were deleted but the content of questions and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers from the participants to questions by the audience are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Avagene Moore: This is a moderated session which means your questions go to our moderator who will submit questions as appropriate to our panelists individually or collectively. As members of the audience, you may word and send your questions to the moderator at any point during the discussion. However, if you wait a few minutes, the speakers may address your question in their remarks. If you have a question that is not addressed, there will be a few minutes for one-on-one Q&A in the Brown Bag session immediately following.

We will not have time to cover all aspects of today's topic in this online discussion. Therefore, you are urged to use the Virtual Forum Discussion Groups and corresponding Mail Lists to continue a dialogue on today's topic or other topics related to and of interest to the emergency management community. We request no direct messaging to our speakers or the moderator during the formal part of today's session. Please save any side conversations until we are in the informal Brown Bag session.


Avagene Moore: It is an honor to present our panel who will address today's feature topic: "Flood Plain Management: High and Dry" (alphabetically):

- Robert Durrin, NFIP Specialist, FEMA Region IV
- Terri Miller, NFIP State Coordinator (Arizona), Association of State Flood Plain Managers (ASFPM) Chair
- Burrell Montz, Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies, Binghamton University.

And now our questions to our panelists.


Avagene Moore: Terri, congratulations on being the Chair of the ASFPM; please tell us a little about the history, purpose and mission of the Association of State Flood Plain Managers (ASFPM).

Terri Miller: The purpose of ASFPM is to promote and expand the practice of floodplain management to mitigate the losses, costs and human suffering caused by flooding and to protect the natural and beneficial functions of floodplains.

Avagene Moore:(Excuse me, Terri, Mr. Fuller has now joined us; Mr. Jonathan Fuller, Hydrologist, from J. E. Fuller Hydrology.)[Brian Iserman substituting for Jonathan Fuller, (Editor)] Terri, how many members do you have?

Terri Miller: ASFPM has been around for more than 20 years and has about 3000 members now, including about 15 state chapters.


Avagene Moore: Terri, would you please brief us on the flood plain management role of the Arizona Department of Water Resources where you work?

Terri Miller: In AZ, ADWR acts as State Coordinator for the NFIP and other federal agencies involved in flood mitigation. We work in partnership with our Emergency Management Dept., do Community Assistance Visits and generally, do whatever we can to help communities stay in compliance with NFIP.

AFMA has been great for floodplain management throughout the state. It provides a forum for locals to discuss problems and solutions. Many consultants also participate. Everyone is kept up to date on national issues, NFIP changes and mitigation opportunities. AFMA also has a very strong voice with our State Legislators since it represents all of our communities.


Avagene Moore: My next question is addressed to Jon Fuller. Jon, we understand that private sector involvement is important to the success of a flood management program. Please tell us about your involvement in the fpm program --- what are you and others trying to achieve throughout the area?

Jonathan Fuller: Brian Iserman is sitting in for Jon Fuller.

Avagene Moore: Glad to have you here, Brian. Can you address this question?

Brian Iserman: As consultants, Jon and I feel that one of the best ways for us to be involved and understand the issues is to stay involved with AFMA (Arizona Floodplain Management Association).

Avagene Moore: So you work very closely with the state association?

Brian Iserman: Through AFMA we have gotten to know floodplain managers on a more personal level. Jon chairs AMA's Technical Committee and I sit on the Flood Warning Committee. We also present papers and try to stress the importance of understanding river systems in the southwest (i.e., understanding sediment. transport, and geomorphology issues, not just hydraulics).


Avagene Moore: Bob, what is FEMA's role in flood plain management?

Bob Durrin: FEMA provides program oversight and technical assistance to communities participating in the NFIP. We develop policy, procedure, and guidance for implementing floodplain management programs.


Avagene Moore: Bob, what are some of the latest initiatives in this area?

Bob Durrin: In Region 4 here in Atlanta, for instance, we are conducting "Community Profiles", a process that will allow us to identify where our greatest needs are whether they be technical assistance, training, enforcement actions, etc. We've, so far, identified a significant need for training. We expect to expand our training initiatives to meet this need. Additionally, a "Substantial Damage Estimator" is under development. A computer program that solicits information, processes it, and provides potential answers. It promises to be of great assistance to local administrators struggling with the issue of post disaster damages to buildings.


Terri Miller: Excuse me, Bob. What are you going to do with the community profiles?

Bob Durrin: With the profiles we will use MS Access to compile the data.


Avagene Moore: Burrell, my question to you is in 3 parts: What type of research has been done in flood plain management? Are we making progress in this area? Why/or why not?

Burrell Montz: There is a wide range of research on floodplain management. Some focuses on the effects and effectiveness of the National Flood Insurance Program. For instance, studies have looked at the effect that designating areas as flood prone has on property values and on costs of development.

Other studies have looked at whether or not the NFIP is actually reducing the number of structures in floodplains. Still others have investigated the relocation of structures and of entire communities out of the floodplain -- including the circumstances under which relocation is chosen and how it changes the community over the longer term. Some research concentrates on who is at risk, that is, who is living in floodplains, what is their capacity to evacuate, what are their needs, etc.


Avagene Moore: Are we making progress, Burrell?

Burrell Montz: We are making some progress in the sense that we are coming to understand better the implications of managing floodplains -- economic, social, and political implications. Because of this research, we are making better decisions about how to manage floodplains since we know what can happen under different circumstances. And the more we know the more complex we realize it is. But there is still much to be learned.


Avagene Moore: Terri, I understand ASFPM has undertaken a certification program for flood plain management. Where is the organization in the process?

Terri Miller: The certification process will be introduced at our Annual Conference in Milwaukee in May. There will be a test at the conference and it will be fine tuned after that. The details of administration, etc., are currently being worked out.


Avagene Moore: Bob, do you have other comments on Terri's earlier question?

Bob Durrin: Yes, thank you. We will then analyze it to design our "oversight future". Terri, I would be interested in taking the Certification test myself....possible?

Avagene Moore: Excellent points from each of you --- now let's open up the discussion to questions from the audience.

[Audience Questions]


Amy Sebring: Dr. Montz, are there any trends emerging from the research?

Burrell Montz: With some 18,000 communities designated as flood-prone, we have a wide variety of flood situations to deal with. How floodplain management plays out in one place does not necessarily apply to other communities or regions. So, we cannot generalize from one or several communities to the nation as a whole. I would suggest that there is a trend to recognizing that floodplain management is important, if only because it is required. Still the economic, political complexities complicate things.


Avagene Moore: Terri, what is your vision for the certification program?

Terri Miller: It's meant to give professional status to floodplain managers. In New Mexico, they have a certification program and I understand that those who have completed it have seen increases in salary.


Cindy Rice: Bob, the computer program you spoke about --- is it public domain or are there licenses which need to be purchased at the local level for use?

Bob Durrin: MS Access is a component of MS Office. Official US Government software should be easily accessible. However, let me say this data is to be used for design of FEMA and State future assistance activities, not compliance actions. A real positive and productive action.


Avagene Moore: Terri, in your part of the country, is there a close relationship between flood plain management and emergency management? Do the same people deal with both programs?

Terri Miller: In our communities, there are usually flood plain administrators and emergency management coordinators. We've been working at getting them together to do some mitigation planning.


Eddie Henderson: Terri, are old flood plain managers grandfathered into certification, or must they begin the training process anew?

Terri Miller: All the "old" floodplain managers have to do is take the certification test. If you know the program, you should be able to pass easily.

I'm sorry, I forgot to mention that there will be a charge for the FPM certification test and a requirement for continuing education and renewal every few years.


Avagene Moore: Jon Fuller or Brian: What are your recommendations for tying floodplain management and the private sector more closely together?

Brian Iserman:I think that what we are doing in Arizona through AFMA has been instrumental in getting private and public sector together with respect to floodplain management issues.


Avagene Moore: Terri, are the requirements for the certification program on the ASFPM web site?

Terri Miller: They're not on the web site yet. The details are still in the works. I'm not sure that we've planned the web site for it, but we'll surely be considering it soon.


Amy Sebring: Bob, did you say you were working on a loss estimation model as well and does that relate to what NIBS is doing with HAZUS?

Bob Durrin: We are creating the "Residential Substantial Damage Estimator", a "tool" that will assist local floodplain management officials with inventorying and estimating damages post -flood. It is available in beta format and should be available sometime this summer.

Avagene Moore: Might mention that Philip Schneider, HAZUS, will be in the Tech Arena next Wednesday. Should be a very interesting demonstration. That is March 25 at 12:00 Noon EST. We are about out of time folks --- one more quick question of our panelists?

Final Question:

Eddie Henderson: Bob, for my high school session on FPM, is there a good reason flood damages continue to increase in the country, considering all we have done prevention wise? You would think that with the NFIP, flood damages would decline at some point in time.

Burrell Montz: Eddie, your question is one that hazards researchers are looking to answer. Part is due to the wide variety of flood situations to deal with.

Terri Miller: In Arizona flood damages have decreased even though the damage figures don't reflect that. We haven't had a flood since "93, but at that time the IFG figure was greatly reduced the cost of repairing public structures continues to increase each year.

Bob Durrin: Well Eddie, good point. Based on my experience, it's is in large part due to the old adage... "Outta sight outta mind"....simply, people forget very quickly. I also find that effective acceptance of the "flood" problem and the floodplain management program at a local level is not overwhelmingly prevalent. Ever heard the term FEMA Program? Or FEMA Variance? These comments are indicative of the failure to have well founded local programs in place.


Avagene Moore: Thanks to our audience today. Our panelists did an excellent job --- thanks to Bob, Jon/Brian, Terri and Burrell. If you will all join us in the Virtual Forum room, and our speakers will hang around for just a few moments, we can all appropriately express our appreciation.

You can ask other questions in the Virtual Forum room also. Remind you all to join the Round Table discussion tomorrow night 8 PM EST. Let's adjourn now to the Virtual Forum.