Gov. Terry McAuliffe last week announced updates to the Virginia Flood Risk Information System (VFRIS), an online tool for Virginians to view and assess their flood risk and to help communities plan for resiliency.
The new VFRIS was developed by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s Center for Coastal Resources Management in partnership with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the agency responsible for the state floodplain management program.
“Flooding is the most common natural disaster our we experience in the Commonwealth, and our Hampton Roads and Eastern Shore communities are particularly at risk for severe damages caused by recurrent flooding.” said Gov. McAuliffe. “It is my hope that VFRIS becomes a mainstay for homeowners, businesses, and communities going forward. March begins Flood Safety Awareness Month and I encourage all Virginians to access VFRIS to see how a flood might affect their home or business.”
With a few clicks, VFRIS provides the latest flood hazard maps, models and data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Users can search by address to see if a property is in a floodplain. Flood insurance rate maps based on river flow, storm tides, rainfall and topographic surveys can be downloaded or printed for future use. Changes to FEMA maps are automatically synced with VFRIS, a key feature of the updated system. For some properties, estimates of flood depth are also provided.
“Tools such as VFRIS are critical as we work to make Virginia more resilient against climate change and increased storm surges,” said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward. “Access to the latest maps and information helps communities — and citizens — consider their flood-proofing options.”
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation is responsible for the state’s floodplain management program. The program’s goal is to help communities meet requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program. To do so, DCR reviews local floodplain ordinances, provides support and training for community floodplain managers, coordinates with other state and federal agencies on floodplain issues, and helps property owners to understand flood insurance and flood risk. DCR also helps coordinate participation in the Community Rating System, a higher standards program that reduces flood insurance rates.
“VFRIS is a powerful tool that displays the latest available data on floodplains and flood risk,” said DCR Director Clyde E. Cristman. “It’s free for anyone to use, and we anticipate adding features in the coming months to further support effective planning on flood issues.”
Property owners can use VFRIS to make decisions and understand rates for flood insurance coverage. Homeowner’s insurance does not cover damages from flooding. Communities with access to the latest flood-risk information are better equipped to plan for the protection of natural floodplains, which often contain wetlands and other important ecological areas that directly impact local economies and environmental quality.
“You don’t have to be in a high-risk area to be at risk for floods,” said Jeffrey D. Stern, state coordinator of emergency management.
“Virginians who know their flood risk can take action to become prepared for emergencies, protecting their safety and property. Citizens, emergency responders and government must work together to ensure Virginia is ready and resilient in the face of every risk facing our commonwealth.”
The Center for Coastal Resources Management exists to develop and support integrated and adaptive management of coastal zone resources. To fulfill this mission, the center conducts research, provides an advisory service and offers educational outreach. The staff includes scientists and technical experts funded through by a mix of state funding, grants and contracts.
While flood maps are developed at the federal level, localities are responsible for implementing and enforcing their own floodplain management programs if they participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.
“Natural floodplains provide for faster recovery from floods, which reduces flood damage and cleanup costs,” said Carl H. Hershner, director of VIMS’ Center for Coastal Resource Management. “The elements of a natural floodplain work together as a total functioning system, so disruption to one element can have long-lasting, negative effects to the entire system.”
The updated Virginia Flood Risk Information System can be found at http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/dam-safety-and-floodplains/fpvfris.
For more information about ways to keep safe throughout the commonwealth, visit vaemergency.gov.