Roadmap for Adapting to Coastal Risk

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This three-hour instructor-led online training introduces the “Roadmap” assessment approach designed to help communities characterize their exposure to current and future hazard and climate threats and incorporate relevant data and information about hazards and climate into existing planning and decision-making efforts.

Three hours of certification maintenance credits for this course have been approved by the American Institute of Certified Planners.

The training is offered virtually by the NOAA Office for Coastal Management. To sign up for training, please click on the date of interest and fill out the registration form. Logistical information will be sent to you at least one week before training takes place.

Upcoming Virtual Roadmap Trainings

  • Next training offered spring 2015

What You Will Learn

After completing this course, participants will be able to

  • Understand key issues and impacts associated with current and future coastal hazard and climate risks
  • Identify major elements of community vulnerability
  • Apply relevant data, tools, and resources in their risk and vulnerability assessment work
  • Develop strategic "win-win" approaches for reducing risks and vulnerabilities while also addressing other community issues

Participant Requirements

Internet, speakers, and phone (Adobe Connect software and user instructions will be provided by this office in advance)

Contact Information

For additional course, hosting, or registration information, e-mail

Overview of the Roadmap for Adapting to Coastal Risk Approach

Many community planning activities provide opportunities to address hazards and climate change vulnerabilities. During planning, residents and other stakeholders work together to create or update plans and policies that guide community development. Decisions affect land use, government services, community character, and natural resource protection. Hazards and climate change impact these sectors and should be considered.

To help communities better understand how hazards and climate change are impacting these community elements, the Roadmap for Adapting to Coastal Risk provides an approach for identifying risks and vulnerabilities.

The approach is designed to

  • Engage key staff members and stakeholders in a comprehensive, yet rapid, assessment of local risks and vulnerabilities;
  • Use existing information resources, such as local knowledge and geographic data, to evaluate potential hazards and climate impacts; and
  • Collaborate across disciplines to better understand and plan for impacts.

Identify opportunities for improving resilience to current and future hazard risks using the Roadmap approach.

  • Getting Started
    Define community goals, build the team, identify priority issues, and prepare for the assessment
  • Hazards Profile
    Explore relevant hazards, climate trends, and potential impacts as a starting point in assessing community vulnerabilities
  • Societal Profile
    Evaluate strengths and vulnerabilities of the local population
  • Infrastructure Profile
    Identify the strengths and vulnerabilities of the built environment
  • Ecosystem Profile
    Consider the strengths and vulnerabilities of important natural resources
  • Risk-Wise Strategies
    Explore opportunities for risk reduction through education, planning, and regulatory processes

Training Materials

These materials are helpful when taking the Roadmap Web-based training.

Training Presentation Slides
The presentation delivered during the Roadmap Web-based training.

Sea Level Rise in Connecticut
Coastal residents discuss rising sea level and its impacts on their community.
Source: Carolyn Moreau –

This innovative flood management program uses nature to protect downstream neighbors and rivers and lakes.
Source: The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) GreenSeams Program –

Getting Started

Use these resources to help identify what to consider when setting up your assessment.

A Community-Based Social Marketing Approach to Promoting Safe Growth in Coastal Communities
This publication is a messaging tool to help planners communicate the value and benefits of comprehensive planning.

Example Assessment Maps
Examples of risk and vulnerability assessment maps from Miami-Dade County, Florida.

Geospatial Data Checklist
A checklist of spatial data sets that can be used to create risk and vulnerability assessment maps.

Introduction to Stakeholder Participation
This publication offers a guide and discusses some of the most important considerations for increasing stakeholder participation.

Potential Participant Checklist
A list of organizations and agencies that should be considered in an assessment.

Stakeholder Engagement Strategies for Participatory Mapping
This publication provides some simple strategies for facilitators leading a participatory mapping process. While there are many aspects of participatory mapping, this publication focuses primarily on stakeholder involvement.

Storyboards and Photos
Pictures from previous assessments conducted using the Roadmap process.

Understanding an Audience’s Social Values: Communicating with Americans with Different Worldviews on Global Warming
This publication provides helpful information when communicating with groups about climate change and when engaging stakeholders in risk and vulnerability assessments.

Hazards Profile

Use these resources to explore relevant hazards, climate trends, and potential impacts as a starting point in assessing community risks and vulnerabilities.

Mapping Coastal Inundation Primer
The guidebook outlines the process of creating inundation maps.

Coastal Inundation Mapping
This two-day instructor-led course offers a combination of lectures and hands-on exercises to give students a better understanding of coastal inundation issues and mapping methods using a geographic information system (GIS).

FEMA Website
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website provides links to trainings, grants, map services, and many other valuable services.

GIS Web Services for the FEMA National Flood Hazard Layer
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) site provides access to its flood hazard layer through Web map services.

Historical Hurricane Tracks
This interactive mapping tool searches and displays global tropical cyclone data. Users are able to query storms by the storm name, zip code, city, state, geographic region, or latitude and longitude coordinates.

Incorporating Sea Level Change Scenarios at the Local Level
This publication outlines eight steps to help communities calculate sea level change scenarios and communicate impacts.

NOAA National Climatic Data Center
This site provides access to climate and historical weather data and information.

Regional Climate Information from the U.S. Global Change Research Program
This site presents regional information about the implications of climate change on various aspects of society and the economy.

Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH)
The SLOSH model is a computerized numerical model developed by the National Weather Service to estimate storm surge heights resulting from hurricanes.

Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer
The viewer provides visuals of the potential impacts from sea level rise. The visuals and the accompanying data and information cover sea level rise inundation, uncertainty, flood frequency, marsh impacts, and socioeconomics.

Sea Levels Online
The viewer shows changes in mean sea level, either a sea level rise or sea level fall, that have been computed at 128 long-term water level stations using a minimum span of 30 years of observations at each location.

Sea Level Rise Tool for Sandy Recovery
The tool is designed primarily to assist long-term planning efforts in states and communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

Spatial Hazard Events and Losses Database for the United States (SHELDUS)
This site provides a county-level hazard data set for the U.S. for 18 natural hazard event types, such as thunderstorms, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and tornados. Ready-made maps and graphics are available for each state.

Societal Profile

Use these resources to help evaluate the strengths and vulnerabilities of the local population.

Flood Exposure Snapshot
The Flood Exposure Snapshot tool provides local officials with a quick look at a county’s demographics, infrastructure, and environment within the flood zone.

Social Vulnerability Index for the United States, 2006-2010
The Social Vulnerability Index (SOVI) measures the social vulnerability of U.S. counties to environmental hazards.

United States Census Bureau
TPopulation, housing, economic, and geographic data are accessible at this site.

Infrastructure Profile

Use these resources to help identify strengths and vulnerabilities of the built environment.

American Planning Association (APA) Newsletter: Zoning Practice – Practice Resilience
This issue of Zoning Practice examines smart growth principles that can support resilience to coastal hazards.

American Planning Association (APA) Newsletter: Zoning Practice – Practice Safe Growth Audits
This issue of Zoning Practice examines the need for communities to practice safe growth audits to prevent future growth conflicts.

Critical Facilities Flood Exposure Tool
This tool provides a quick assessment of a community’s critical facilities and roads that lie within FEMA’s 1% annual chance flood zone.

FEMA provides access to the National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL) through this Web map service (WMS) for geographic information system (GIS) users.

Flood Exposure Snapshot
The Flood Exposure Snapshot provides local officials with a quick look at a county’s demographics, infrastructure, and environment within the flood zone.

Hazards U.S. Multi-Hazard (HAZUS-MH)
This link presents a nationally applicable standardized method to estimate potential losses from earthquakes, hurricane winds, and floods.

National Flood Hazard Layer Web Map Service in Google Earth
The Stay Dry utility for Google Earth allows users to view basic flood hazard information for a community or an address.

Ecosystem Profile

Use these resources to identify the strengths and vulnerabilities of natural resources.

CanVis Simulation Tool
CanVis is a visualization program used to “see” potential impacts from coastal development or sea level rise.

Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP) Land Cover Change Atlas and Data Sheets
Interactive map for viewing land cover and land cover change. Data sheets and raw data available for download.

Coastal Resilience
This approach examines the social conditions and economic exposure of coastal communities and their relationship with potential coastal wetland migration.

Conserving Coastal Wetlands for Sea Level Rise Adaptation
Get data, tools, and information to identify wetland and community vulnerabilities and prioritize wetland conservation efforts.

Habitat Priority Planner
The planner is a GIS tool that helps prioritize conservation, restoration, and natural resource management actions.

Introducing Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience Training
This training introduces green infrastructure concepts that support coastal resilience and surveys the benefits received from natural resources.

Marshes on the Move
A document that provides a basic understanding of parameters, uncertainties, and appropriate uses of model results depicting potential future impacts of sea level rise on coastal wetlands.

Scanning the Conservation Horizon: A Guide to Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment
This guidance document focuses on the key components of vulnerability—sensitivity and exposure—and reviews best practices for conducting assessments focusing on species, habitats, or ecosystems.

Wetland Benefits Snapshot
This snapshot provides a quick look at how wetlands contribute to safer, cleaner, and more economically productive coastal communities.

Risk-Wise Strategies

Use these strategies to help successfully implement your risk and vulnerability assessment results.

EPA Green Infrastructure Website
A source for information, tools, and case studies related to green infrastructure.

Hazard Mitigation: Integrating Best Practices into Planning
Provides guidance on how to integrate hazard mitigation strategies into comprehensive, area, and functional plans, and shows where hazard mitigation can fit into zoning and subdivision codes. Elucidates best practices and practical applications.

Introducing Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience Training
This three-hour course introduces students to the fundamental green infrastructure concepts that play a critical role in making coastal communities more resilient.

No Adverse Impact: A Common Sense Strategy for Floodplain Management
No Adverse Impact as outlined by the Association of State Floodplain Managers provides a new and effective coastal management philosophy, and also identifies its legal underpinnings.

Smart Growth Online
A clearinghouse of smart growth-related news, research, presentations, publications, and other resources that is supported by Environmental Protection Agency funding.

The Green Infrastructure Center
Another valuable source of green infrastructure information.

Funding Resources

Explore these programs for funding opportunities.

Coastal Zone Enhancement Grants (Section 309)
The federal Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), in Section 309, provides special funding to assist states enrolled in the national program to develop or implement changes to their federally approved state Coastal Zone Management Programs.

Community Assistance Program, State Support Services Element (CAP-SSSE)
This program provides funding to states to provide technical assistance to communities in the National Flood Insurance Program and to evaluate community performance in implementing NFIP floodplain management activities.

Flood Mitigation Assistance Program
The Flood Mitigation Assistance Program provides funding to assist states and communities in implementing measures to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of flood damage to buildings, manufactured homes, and other structures insurable under the National Flood Insurance Program.

Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program
Funds for hazard mitigation planning and the implementation of mitigation projects prior to a disaster event are provided by this program.

Repetitive Flood Claims Program
This program provides funding to states and communities to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of flood damage to structures insured under the National Flood Insurance Program that have had one or more claims for flood damages, and that cannot meet the requirements of the Flood Mitigation Assistance Program for either cost-share or capacity to manage the activities.

Severe Repetitive Loss Program
The Severe Repetitive Loss grant program provides funding to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of flood damage to severe repetitive loss structures insured under the National Flood Insurance Program.

Other Funding Opportunities
Information about additional grants and grant programs. Provides links to funding opportunities in two ways: by category and by region.

Network with others addressing risk and vulnerability issues, visit...


Learn how communities are using the Roadmap and other risk and vulnerability assessment approaches and results to inform local planning and decision-making.

  • Communities using the Roadmap Approach
  • Communities using other risk and vulnerability assessment approaches
  • Informing local planning and decision-making using assessment results

Communities Using the Roadmap Approach

Community Works Together to Strengthen Resilience in Mississippi
Local, state, and county leaders were brought together during a workshop to share stories about coping with natural and man-made hazards and to learn about helpful resources that are now available to strengthen resilience in their communities.

Coordinating Community Plans and Programs
The Miami-Dade County, Florida, Office of Sustainability is using the information and relationships forged through a workshop focused on implementing the Roadmap process as a catalyst for working closely with county programs. This effort aims to evaluate current plans and identify opportunities for implementing sustainable land use, infrastructure, capital improvement, social programs, and environmental protection. For more information on this effort, view "Planning for Hazards and Climate Change Impacts: One County’s Approach" or "Adapting to Sea Level Rise in Miami-Dade County, Florida."

Related links to more information on how South Florida is improving its community resilience:

Engaging Communities in New Hampshire to Strengthen Resilience
Partners in coastal New Hampshire are using the Roadmap approach as a framework for conducting hazard risk and vulnerability assessments throughout communities. One New Hampshire rural estuarine community came together during a series of interactive meetings to build momentum towards action. For more information on this effort, view Building a Network of Champions in New Hampshire.

Building Community Resilience in Pennsylvania
To complement revitalization efforts in the City of Chester, Pennsylvania Sea Grant and other partners used the Roadmap framework to integrate resilience to hazards and climate change into community planning efforts.

Identifying Relevant Risk and Vulnerability Data and Information
The Town of Southold, New York, is updating its comprehensive plan and wanted to take this opportunity to consider the impacts that hazards and climate change have on day-to-day operations and long-term decisions. To do this, the community is using what it learned from the Roadmap training to help identify relevant risk and vulnerability data and information that could be used to inform plan policies for lessening future vulnerabilities. For more information on this effort, view "Building Community Resilience on Long Island, New York."

The town has also been working to conserve natural resources that will make the community more resilient to hazard impacts. Read more about this effort.

Partners Build Capacity for Hazards Resilience in the Great Lakes
Many national and local partners, including Digital Coast partners, have come together to provide hazards planning resources to communities throughout the Great Lakes.

Visualizing Flood Hazards with Residents and Floodplain Managers in Mississippi
Local residents and floodplain managers in Biloxi, Mississippi, learned what their towns and neighborhoods could experience at various levels of sea level rise through potential flooding scenarios demonstrated using the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer.

Communities Using Other Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Approaches

Coastal Community Resilience Index
The Coastal Community Resilience Index was piloted in several Gulf of Mexico communities to help these communities examine how prepared they were for disasters and identify where they might want to focus for a more detailed risk and vulnerability assessment.

Hazard Mitigation Planning – Risk and Vulnerability Assessment
Most counties have hazard mitigation plans that include a risk and vulnerability assessment. This is a good starting point to see what assessment has already been completed. Visit your county’s emergency management or planning department websites to see a copy of the hazard mitigation plan. See a plan from Charleston County, South Carolina.

ICLEI’s Climate Resilient Communities Program
In Groton, Connecticut, ICLEI and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s Long Island Sound Program held a climate adaptation workshop to engage stakeholders in developing climate adaptation strategies to help Connecticut and the Northeast become more resilient to climate impacts along the coast. Read more about this climate adaptation workshop.

Vulnerability-Consequence Adaptation Planning Scenarios (VCAPS) Process
In Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, the VCAPS process was used to help coastal managers and community members understand how climate change stressors influence existing management challenges, such as stormwater runoff, and to discuss options for dealing with these impacts. Learn more about this application of VCAPS.

Informing Local Planning and Decision-Making Using Assessment Results

Green Infrastructure Approaches
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Greenseams program is helping the city control excess stormwater runoff by using green infrastructure. The program is implementing porous pavement, rainwater catchments, bioswales, green roofs, and other strategies. Read more about Milwaukee’s stormwater management programs.

Habitat Protection and Conservation Planning

  • The Nature Conservancy (TNC) assessed the climate change vulnerability of species as a critical first step toward including climate considerations in the next update to the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan (WAP). Scientists at TNC-Illinois used NatureServe’s Climate Change Vulnerability Index to rank the vulnerability of 163 species of greatest conservation need listed in Illinois’ WAP. With the assessment and recommended considerations now available, Illinois conservation practitioners have the information at hand to begin developing and deploying informed, site-specific conservation efforts and begin implementing adapted conservation practices under the umbrella of the WAP. Read more about Illinois’ species assessment effort.
  • Maryland incorporated climate change impacts, specifically sea level rise, into its conservation priorities. Learn about the state’s initial considerations as it worked through this process and the geospatial best practices it incorporated to identify wetland conservation priorities for climate adaptation.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy are using sea level rise modeling trends and the Habitat Priority Planner to identify freshwater wetlands in coastal South Carolina to protect for future wildlife management. Read more about this project and view a recorded Digital Coast webinar on this project.

Integrating Hazard Mitigation and Community Plans

  • Lee County, Florida’s Unified Local Hazard Mitigation Strategy has objectives tied directly to the towns’ comprehensive plan objectives and policies that help integrate the two plans. Both focus on prevention activities that reduce risk of life and damage to property from hazards, and both support natural resource protection that preserves or maintains natural areas, such as wetland systems, to ensure their long-term environmental, economic, hazard protection, and recreational values.
    Learn more about their efforts in the American Planning Association (APA) Newsletter: Zoning Practice – Practice Safe Growth Audits.
  • The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program conducted a region-wide vulnerability assessment and developed an adaptation plan for the City of Punta Gorda, Florida. The city is working to incorporate recommendations from the adaptation plan into its next comprehensive plan, including model ordinances created to guide local decision-making, as well as climate change indicators and a monitoring plan currently being developed. Learn more about this effort.

Making Decisions with Best Available Scientific Data
Although not a coastal example, this case study demonstrates how Missoula County, Montana, is moving forward in adaptation planning in spite of uncertainty in climate change projections. They focused on using best available science data and current observations to adapt to climate change and hazards. Read a quick overview of the project.

Policy Changes

  • The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) updated the San Francisco Bay Plan to deal with the expected impacts of climate change in San Francisco Bay. The plan includes a vulnerability assessment, sea level rise scenarios, adaptation strategies, and methods used to create maps and sea level rise scenarios. The plan resulted in policy changes including
  • Risk Assessments: Sea level rise risk assessments are required when planning shoreline areas or designing larger shoreline projects.
  • Ecosystem Protection and Restoration: Where feasible, ecosystem restoration projects must be designed to provide space for marsh migration as sea level rises.

The next phase of this project is to work with local communities to assess and plan for their impacts from sea level rise and climate change. Learn more about these local assessment and planning activities.

  • The town of Chatham, Massachusetts, is successfully preventing the construction of new homes in the floodplain as a result of a zoning bylaw that prohibits new residential units in the town’s mapped floodplains. A landmark 2005 case confirmed this authority when the highest court in Massachusetts ruled in favor of preventing residential or other high-risk development in hazardous areas. Read more about this case study.

Stormwater Management Planning
New York City is addressing climate change impacts on its stormwater systems and created a plan called Sustainable Stormwater Management Plan in an Urban Environment that includes

  • Discussion of stormwater issues in the city
  • Examples of urban adaptation and the use of existing infrastructure and land use to adapt to increased stormwater
  • Practices for reducing stormwater, including costs of source controls
  • Planning scenarios