The National StormSmart Coasts Network: Linking Coastal Decision Makers to Resources
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Posted byRachel Gregg
The StormSmart Coasts Network launched in 2008 in Massachusetts and expanded to include Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Texas. The program—now known as StormSmart Connect—provides local coastal communities and decision-makers with up-to-date and relevant information on storms, flooding, sea level rise, and climate change. A companion tool—MyCoast—was created to collect and share citizen science data on coastal change.
The StormSmart Coasts Network was created to provide the best available information and tools to help coastal professionals figure out how to prepare for and recover from storms, flooding, sea level rise, and climate change. StormSmart Coasts originated in the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), where it remains an active program. The national initiative has reformed into StormSmart Connect and MyCoast, a website that collects citizen science observations of king tides, storm damage, beach clean-ups, and living shoreline projects.
The National StormSmart Coasts Network was launched by the NOAA Coastal Services Center, Gulf of Mexico Alliance, Northeast Regional Ocean Council, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The initial StormSmart Coasts website shared tools and resources to support preparation and recovery efforts tailored to each participating state. The StormSmart Gulf site focused on the Gulf of Mexico states (i.e. Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas), shares resources under three categories: Before the Storm, During the Storm, and Homeowners Handbooks.
- Before the Storm: This section covers information to help local coastal communities prepare for intense storms and prevent major damage and economic loss. Users are directed to different tools covering:
- Hazard Identification and Mapping to identify areas vulnerable to storms, erosion, and flooding, and providing details on how to interpret the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and Flood Insurance Study (FIS) reports, and where to find additional information.
- Planning to protect people and property. This section includes details on creating community land use plans, multi-hazard mitigation plans, and risk mitigation strategies.
- Regulation and Development Standards to provide details on different opportunities to protect people, infrastructure, and resources through ordinances, regulations, and development requirements.
- Mitigation to limit or eliminate damage from intense storms. Options presented include protecting land and infrastructure through natural and engineered solutions (e.g., beach nourishment, planting stabilizing vegetation, flood/erosion control structures) and retrofitting, relocating, or elevating structures.
- Infrastructure to share protection options (e.g., protecting, insuring, siting, retrofitting) for roads, utilities, police and fire stations, hospitals, water supply facilities, wastewater treatment facilities, schools, power systems, and communication buildings, among others.
- Emergency Services Planning to share resources on how to improve emergency services, including creating an emergency response and disaster recovery plans.
- Training and Outreach to improve awareness of hazards for local officials, citizens, and visitors.
- During the Storm: This section provides users with local emergency and non-emergency contacts at the local, state, and federal levels.
- Homeowners’ Handbooks: This section shares guidance for coastal homeowners developed by Gulf coastal states focused on key hazards, the protection of life and property, insurance, and recovery options. The Florida Homeowner’s Handbook includes a section on climate change-driven impacts to the coastal zone, including storms, floods, droughts, and sea level rise, and recommendations on individual mitigation measures (e.g., reducing energy expenditures) and adaptation options (e.g., trimming trees to limit the effect of strong winds, elevating homes, and using fire-resistant plants in landscaping).
Outcomes and Conclusions
The StormSmart tools aim to direct local officials to the most pertinent information on the risks from coastal storms, flooding, sea level rise, and climate change. The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management maintains a statewide StormSmart Coasts Program to share resources with coastal professionals and homeowners. The program has created tools (e.g., Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Viewer, Shoreline Change Project), implemented pilot projects, and developed resources to support floodplain management and reduce erosion.
Gregg, R. M. (2021). The National StormSmart Coasts Network: Linking Coastal Decision Makers to Resources [Case study on a project of StormSmart Coasts]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: https://www.cakex.org/case-studies/national-stormsmart-coasts-network-linking-coastal-decision-makers-resources (Last updated October 2021)