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FEMA increases community access to draft floodplain mapping data
James Johnston, CFM, GISP
The California Coastal Analysis and Mapping Project (CCAMP) provide online access to draft FIRMS (a.k.a. work maps) through FEMA’s GeoPlatform prior to the official release of the Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps.  The FEMA GeoPlatform is an ArcGIS online application that allows FEMA to share geospatial data with communities and other interested stakeholders through a simple and intuitive web-based interface. The GeoPlatform allows non-GIS users to view the draft FIRMS without the need for previous GIS experience.  This is exciting because it allows communities to have continuous access to the data in a dynamic platform not possible when limited by the paper products of the past.  
 
The draft FIRMs are first presented to community officials and floodplain managers at the Flood Risk Review Meeting. Following this meeting, a secure (i.e., password-protected) online access to the draft FIRM is provided to community officials for 30 to 60 days through the Flood Risk Review and Commenting Tool (Tool). This Tool allows community officials to review and comment on the draft data in a convenient and easily-accessible online format. At the conclusion of the comment period, several San Francisco Bay Area communities – the first communities to use the Tool – requested continued access to the draft FIRM to support planning and mitigation efforts. In response to this request, FEMA has now made the draft FIRM available on the GeoPlatform.
 
FEMA successfully used the GeoPlatform to provide immediate access to the latest draft maps and data following Hurricane Sandy. This increased awareness of this technology as an effective means of sharing draft data. Since Hurricane Sandy, the FEMA GeoPlatform has expanded to currently house geospatial data and analytics in support of emergency management across a broad spectrum of potential hazards. The availability of this platform made it easy for FEMA to respond to community requests to have continued access to the draft maps. So far, the FEMA GeoPlatform has housed data for the following counties in the San Francisco Bay Area: Contra Costa, Sonoma, Solano, Alameda, and Napa. Links directly to the draft FIRMs are provided on each county’s page at www.r9map.org. The draft FIRMs are removed from the GeoPlatform when the official Preliminary Flood Maps are released which then can be found at FEMA’s Map Service Center at msc.fema.gov.
 

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