Every year, agencies across the United States hold an annual campaign for National Flood Safety Awareness Week, and this subject is a high priority here at the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) as well. We have a flood-related research and development (R&D) portfolio that emphasizes safety and security, but do you also know what S&T has been doing related to flood resilience?
Our R&D with respect to floods aims not only to keep people and property safe, but also to protect critical infrastructure and ensure uninterrupted delivery of vital services and utilities. As we’ve seen recently with wildfires in California and severe winter weather in Texas, disrupted utilities can result in life-threatening situations—and floods are just another example of this type of natural threat to our critical infrastructure. Climate change is leading to more frequent extreme weather events, and S&T has pivoted accordingly to increase our focus on mitigating flood risk. Our related work also includes projects to enhance community and climate resilience to optimize risk reduction and functional recovery.
S&T is joining forces with federal, state, local, and international partners to leverage expertise and share best practices among flood response stakeholders. Ongoing efforts to mitigate flood losses and improve flood resiliency include:
- A partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services for flood risk management and technology innovation. Together, we released the Low Cost Flood Sensors: Urban Installation Guidebook and the Flood Risk Assessment and Reduction Community Guidebook with lessons learned and best practices that can be scaled and applied to other communities.
- A collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, FM Approvals (a private certification and accreditation organization) and the Association of State Floodplain Managers to expand national standards and testing for new floodproofing product categories covering sealants and semi-permanent barriers and incorporate new standards into the National Flood Barrier Testing and Certification Program and model building codes. The American National Standardization Institute adopted these updated standards for floodproofing barriers in fall 2020.
- Work with Deltares USA (U.S. arm of Deltares Lab in the Netherlands) to develop and deliver a community-oriented, flood hazard modeling and impact assessment decisions support process and prototype configuration for compound flood events to support adaptation planning. These events result from a combination of flooding from rain driven inland and storm surge. This planning tool helps communities select adaptation measures that work best and improve their climate resilience.
- Support for the National Dam Safety Program. We joined FEMA to sponsor the Simulation-Based Decision Support System for Water Infrastructural Safety (DSS-WISETM) Lite, software that can generate maps of inundation scenarios caused by dam or levee failures by calculating water speed, depths, and the extent of land and infrastructure it would impact. This allows emergency managers to better plan for dam and levee breach incidents and helps ensure the safety for dam operators.
The complex and unpredictable nature of severe weather is a challenge to developing a plan to protect communities from flooding. We’re committed to helping localities plan for flood events and making tools and data easily accessible to flood-prone areas, particularly as flood events increase in severity with the changing climate. Through S&T’s work and our partnerships, we hope to reduce flood-related fatalities and property losses by improving the way communities plan for floods and making them more resilient.