U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Government Website

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Safely connect using HTTPS

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


  1. Science and Technology Directorate
  2. News Room
  3. Feature Article: FloodAdapt Will Help Protect Flood-prone Communities

Feature Article: FloodAdapt Will Help Protect Flood-prone Communities

Release Date: May 30, 2024

The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has partnered with Deltares USA to conduct demonstrations, trainings, and performance testing for the new accessible compound flood and impact assessment tool, which will help at-risk communities better prepare for and respond to severe weather events.

A map with light green, dark green (for low), and purple coloring (for high) is used to display areas of high and low social vulnerability. Geographic locations that are considered to be a high social vulnerability region are colored in purple, while locations that are considered to be a low social vulnerability region are indicated with dark green. A “pop-up” graphic demonstrates how FloodAdapt considers variables such as building damage; flooded and displaced populations; and damaged roads when modeling h
FloodAdapt enables users to see how floods could impact their community and model how various demographic factors may affect recovery. Photo credit: Deltares USA.

Our coastal communities have taken a real hit in recent years. With extreme weather events on the rise, learning from past incidents and emerging trends is the key to protecting lives and property. Having the right compound flood modeling systems and data in place to study, simulate, and predict threats makes collaboration and critical decision-making that much easier, so when the time comes, response can be swift.

S&T has been working with Deltares USA and the city of Charleston, South Carolina, for two years to develop and pilot a state-of-the-art suite of community-oriented flood-hazard modeling and impact assessment technologies and software that will soon be available to inform field operations and emergency response before and after any events make landfall. The tools, now collectively known as FloodAdapt, will provide responders, emergency managers, and policy makers in flood-prone communities with capabilities to establish stronger planning and preparation strategies.

“Our efforts in Charleston have played a critical role in the ongoing development of FloodAdapt,” said S&T Program Manager Ron Langhelm. “Thanks to engagement with local emergency managers, first responders, and community decision makers, along with continual performance and user testing, we’ve been able drastically improve upon FloodAdapt’s tools, and enhance their capabilities and scope of use.”

FloodAdapt has unique, user-friendly components that help users create community-specific flood simulations, study related impacts, and investigate the efficacy of potential preventive and mitigative efforts and responses.

SFINCS is an open-source modeling tool that rapidly and dynamically simulates compound flooding events that impact large-scale coastal environments, and calculates interactions between related phenomena such as rainfall, storm surges, and river discharge. Delft-FIAT is an open-source flood impact assessment modeling tool that evaluates flood damage to buildings, utilities, and roads.

FloodAdapt incorporates innovative decision-support features, helping bring them into practice. These include an equity-weighting tool that (optionally) incorporates income data in determining equity-weighted damages and risk, infographics that use social vulnerability data to evaluate the equitable distribution of impacts and benefits, and a benefits calculator to assess the risk-reduction benefits of measures or strategies that will help lessen the impact of future flood events.

“With these advanced capabilities, FloodAdapt is able to provide some of the most accurate flood-related models, infographics, and infometrics that are currently available,” explained Langhelm. “Users can integrate FloodAdapt into their own toolsets and plug in publicly available data or use their own. They can then study past weather events, simulate hypothetical scenarios, and evaluate vulnerabilities, risks, and mitigation strategies that are the most relevant to their needs or interests.”

A map with varying shades of red (from 0 to 60%) and blue (showing flood depth in feet measurement) is used to display damage percentage associated with a flood event.  Geographic locations that are colored in red have been damaged by flooding – minor damage is indicated with light shades of red, while severe damage is shown with dark shades of red. Areas on the map that have experienced flooding are shown in blue – minor flooding is indicated with light shades of blue, while severe flooding is shown with dark shades of blue. The map is divided by a line down the middle. The lefthand side displays the effect of a recent extreme weather event, while the right-hand side simulates the amount of damage that would have been caused if that same event had caused an additional 12-inch rise in sea level and associated flooding.
FloodAdapt enables users to utilize a map comparison feature to analyze different scenarios. This picture shows a recent weather event on the left, and the same event with a 12-inch rise in sea level on the right. Photo credit: Deltares USA.

While it is currently being piloted for coastal flooding research in Charleston, Langhelm and the Deltares team are working hard to raise awareness about and further improve FloodAdapt before it transitions to the field.

“Continuing to spread awareness about, improve, and develop new innovations for FloodAdapt are major priorities for us,” said Langhelm. “We want to make sure that it will always be accessible and useful to anyone who may want to use it—whether they are government organizations, academia, emergency managers and responders, or just everyday citizens who have their own interest in learning about flood modeling and research.”

FloodAdapt stakeholders sit in a room at computer desks while attending a FloodAdapt workshop in Charleston, South Carolina.  Deltares’ FloodAdapt developer, Panos Athanasiou, is presenting at the far-right end of the room. On his left, a large television screen is displaying one of FloodAdapt’s map comparison features.
Deltares FloodAdapt developer Panos Athanasiou (top right) provides an overview of FloodAdapt’s new capabilities and improved tools to stakeholders in South Carolina. Photo credit: Deltares USA.

To meet these goals, in March 2024 the Deltares team conducted demonstrations, trainings, and performance testing with members of the flood research and response communities in Charleston and Baltimore. Both trips were a great success.

“FloodAdapt made quite an impression in Charleston and Baltimore,” said Langhelm. “Our emergency managers in South Carolina were impressed with the improvements we’ve made and the capabilities we’ve added and are looking forward to using them with their current models and datasets as a part of their future flood research and planning efforts.”

“Our colleagues in Maryland weren’t as familiar with FloodAdapt,” continued Langhelm. “However, they found it to be a powerful, user-friendly tool, and believe that it can play a key role in their current flood research and mitigation efforts. We are preparing additional training materials for them so that they can continue to get more comfortable with FloodAdapt and eventually teach their regional partners how to use it as well.”

The team has also been consulting with academia to make FloodAdapt even more effective in the field.

Deltares Senior Advisor Kathryn Roscoe stands in the center of a conference room behind a podium. In the audience are members from Maryland’s Department of Emergency Management sitting around tables. Kathryn is teaching them about FloodAdapt and the role that it can have in their future flood planning and research efforts.
Deltares Senior Advisor Kathryn Roscoe (top center) introduces members of the Maryland Department of Emergency Management to FloodAdapt during a March 2024 workshop in Baltimore. Photo credit: Deltares USA.

“We’re working with the George Washington University to study income, population, and other related factors, and looking at how these social indicators should be better accounted for when implementing flood-related policies,” explained Langhelm. “And our colleagues at Dartmouth College’s School of Engineering have created an uncertainty framework for damage modeling, that, if incorporated into FloodAdapt, will help users more accurately predict the probability of a flood occurring in any given area.”

A growing number of international partners in the European Union, including the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts and emergency responders in Ireland and Denmark, are also interested in exploring ways to implement FloodAdapt into their regional and local coastal communities.

“All of these partnerships are critical,” said Langhelm. “Ultimately, we all have the same shared goal: to raise awareness about FloodAdapt and teach interested users how to effectively use it to enhance their communities’ resilience to flood events.”

In the coming year, the team will implement two new FloodAdapt capabilities to address technical gaps identified during recent user engagements: the ability to evaluate accessibility impacts (like access to a hospital) when roads are flooded and the ability to evaluate the damage-reduction effectiveness of coastal nature-based solutions (like coral reefs and coastal wetlands that serve as buffers from waves and high-tides).

Findings from the Charleston pilot will be documented in a peer-reviewed paper. The team is also creating and disseminating a series of FloodAdapt tutorial videos and technical manuals.

“The paper will serve as another means of spreading the word about FloodAdapt and its utility, while the videos and manuals will be valuable resources to anyone who is interested in accessing and using FloodAdapt,” explained Langhelm.

Each video will provide a brief overview of a specific functionality and demonstrate how it can be used, while the online technical manuals, which can be accessed directly from within FloodAdapt, will offer complementary written instruction.

S&T and Deltares plan to make FloodAdapt available to the public this October and will continue to expand upon, enhance, and promote it based on continual feedback from stakeholders in the flood research community.

For related media requests, please contact STmedia@hq.dhs.gov. Visit S&T’s Community and Infrastructure Resilience page to learn more about our ongoing flood-related research and development efforts.

Last Updated: 05/30/2024
Was this page helpful?
This page was not helpful because the content