January 25th - 29th, 2016 - Blacksburg, VA

Virginia Tech’s Center for Geospatial Information Technology (CGIT) hosted the Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation during the week of January 25th in order to train over 20 individuals to become FEMA Certified Floodplain Managers.  The course titled “Managing Floodplain Development through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)” was attended by CGIT staff members along with other local government organizations across Virginia including Montgomery County, Virginia Beach, Franklin County, and many others.

Peter Sforza, director of CGIT, attended a morning session and thought the course offered great contextual insights to floodplain management.  “CGIT is focused on leveraging our expertise as a geospatial research center, as well as the broader capabilities of Virginia Tech, to help solve society’s complex problems. In the case of coastal and riverine flooding, advances in the science and technology within the context of local knowledge and regulatory constraints provides an excellent opportunity for Virginia Tech and CGIT to deepen our engagement and make a positive impact on local communities in the Commonwealth.”

The four-day course, taught by EMI trained instructors from FEMA Region III and VA DCR Floodplain Program staff, trains local officials responsible for administering local floodplain management ordinances.  The training focuses on the NFIP and concepts of floodplain management, maps, studies, ordinance administration, and the relationship between floodplain management and flood insurance.  After the four-day course is concluded there is an option to take the Certified Floodplain Manager Exam the following morning to become certified by the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

Brandon Herndon and Ingrid Mans of CGIT attended the course in order to better understand the challenges faced by FEMA, VA DCR, and local jurisdictions in Virginia based on NFIP requirements and the implementation of floodplain management - especially in “zone A” areas where there is a requirement to carry flood insurance but there is no determination of base flood elevation (BFE) given.  By better understanding these challenges, CGIT’s research programs will be poised to simplify and improve compliance to save DCR, FEMA, local communities, and residents time and effort by utilizing cutting edge LiDAR processing methods coupled with geospatially enabled databases, web-enabled information and decision making tools.  One goal of this research is to improve the accuracy and resolution of estimating BFEs in zone A areas - an advantage that will be faster and more accurate than the current contour interpolation methods and cheaper than obtaining a surveyed elevation certificate.  Collaboration with DCR, FEMA, and relevant departments will also provide support for floodplain managers by enhancing their awareness and understanding of correct and available data when implementing NFIP regulations.