DEEP: Coastal Hazards Management - Municipal Officials

Coastal Hazards Management - Municipal Officials
Tomorrow's Storm: Immediate Threats and Emergency Response Capacity:
Every community should have an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). According to FEMA, an EOP is a document that:46
  • Assigns responsibility to organizations and individuals for carrying out specific actions at projected times and places in an emergency that exceeds the capability or routine responsibility of any one agency.
  • Sets lines of authority and organizational relationships, and shows how all actions will be coordinated.
  • Describes how people and property will be protected in emergencies and disasters.
  • Identifies personnel, equipment, facilities, supplies, and other resources available--within the jurisdiction or by agreement with other jurisdictions--for use during response and recovery operations.
  • Identifies steps to address mitigation during response and recovery activities.
  • Cites its legal basis, states its objectives, and acknowledges assumptions.

If you don’t have an EOP there are several guides that can help. The CT Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP, formerly DEMHS) has an excellent list of resources for model plans derived from the FEMA Guide for All-Hazards Emergency Operations Planning. Additional planning tools developed specifically for coastal planning needs and issues can be found in the Association of Flood Plain Managers No Adverse Impact Coastal Zone Handbook.

Communities that already have an EOP in place should consider updating it on a regular basis. An EOP should be considered a "living document" that evolves to reflect the level of risks and types of emergencies. Remember, even if the type of hazard doesn’t radically change (for example, coastal storm frequencies or intensities) the risk it represents might (for example, if more people and property are concentrated in flood prone areas).

Once your community has an EOP, make it available and consider educating your community about the types of coastal hazards they face and the risks they pose.  The Massachusetts StormSmart Coasts website has ideas and resources for training, outreach, and education materials. 

As EOPs are reviewed and updated, consider conducting drills. These may be formal activities involving a live scenario and many personnel, or they can be "table –top" exercises with top-level officials working through a hypothetical scenario to ensure that the response is reasonable and workable.

Planning For the Long Run: Beyond Emergency Management
While an EOP is important, it is not the only piece of planning required. According to FEMA, an EOP is not an appropriate vehicle for all aspects of emergency management. Rather, communities should also have:47

  • Administrative plans: to describe basic governmental policies and procedures.
  • Mitigation plans: to address how communities can mitigate hazards. These are relevant to EOPs particularly in short-term recovery decision-making.
  • Preparedness plans: that cover maintaining existing emergency management capability; preventing emergency management capabilities from falling victim to emergencies; and, if possible, augmenting emergency management capability.
  • Recovery plans: Typically EOPs do not address recovery beyond rapid measures to ensure immediate life support. Beyond that lies long-term recovery. Here emergency management planning can intersect community development planning of other agencies.
The Connecticut Coastal Management Act (CCMA) is an essential tool that helps plan for and avoid damage to life and property resulting from major coastal storm events, as well as reducing public cost in protecting future development.  The CCMA encourages pro-active planning, rather than solely focusing on cleaning up the post-disaster aftermath.  This is the basis for OLISP to routinely recommend that:
  • residential structures be located out of V-zones (areas of the greatest coastal hazard where high-velocity waves compound flooding impacts) if a reasonable alternative location exists; 
  • dunes be preserved and protected so they can do the job nature intended them to do and protect whatever is located behind them; 
  • barrier beaches be preserved and protected so they can freely migrate landward without stranding coastal structures; 
  • coastal homes are set back from the high tide line as far as possible (and not built out over the water) to eliminate the need to build a new seawall; 
  • coastal septic systems be properly designed and located so they don’t break out of the ground during flooding events, and that material contained in the septic system doesn’t leave the system and mix with flood waters; 
  • conversions of summer vacation homes to year-round residences be avoided in order to reduce the density of the coastal population during severe winter storms; 
  • existing population density in coastal flood hazards areas is not increased during renovations by adding more bedrooms to existing homes; 
  • hotels, assisted living facilities, and other residential-type uses that house vulnerable populations or visitors unfamiliar with the area (both of which need evacuation assistance) be avoided in coastal hazard areas; and 
  • development in coastal flood hazard areas provide detailed evacuation plans, ensuring that evacuation routes themselves are not subject to severe flooding during storm events.

Helpful Planning Resources
In order to help provide resources to assist in all phases of community hazard management, here is a list of useful information and tools.

  • Connecticut General Statutes Section 22a-92(b)(2)(F) requires towns to manage coastal hazard areas in a particular fashion to ensure that development proceeds in such a manner that hazards to life and property are minimized.  The Connecticut Coastal Management Manual developed by the Office of Long Island Sound Programs offers guidance to communities in this regard via this section on coastal hazard areas.
  • The Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (formerly DEMHS) offers guidance documents on how to safely weather hurricanes and other natural disasters.
  • Consider using the StormSmart Coasts Network "Connect" tool to help identify and contact other coastal hazard decision makers.  The StormSmart Coasts National Network is a resource for coastal decision-makers looking for the latest and best information on how to protect their communities from weather and climate hazards.
  • Enroll your community in the National Flood Insurance Program's Community Rating System which can reduce flood insurance costs in your community in exchange for certain floodplain management policies and activities. Due to programs already in place (e.g., the Dam Safety Program) all Connecticut towns qualify for a 5% discount. 
  • There are FEMA grant programs that can provide funds; some examples include:

    • Hazard Mitigation Grants: Provides grants to implement long-term hazard mitigation measures after a major disaster declaration.
    • Pre-Disaster Mitigation: Provides funds for hazard mitigation planning and implementing mitigation projects prior to a disaster.
    • Flood Mitigation Assistance: Provides funding to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of flood damage to buildings, manufactured homes, and other HFIP insurable structures..
    • Repetitive Flood Claims: Provides funds to reduce/eliminate the long-term risk of damage to NFIP insured structures with one or more flood damage claims, which cannot meet the requirements of the Flood Mitigation Assistance for either cost share or capacity to manage activities.
    • Severe Repetitive Loss: Provides  support to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of flood damage to residential properties insured under the NFIP that meet the definition of severe repetitive loss and to reduce losses to the National Flood Insurance Fund (NFIF).
  • In addition to FEMA, the CT Strategic Planning and Grant Administration division within DESPP may also be able to assist in obtaining grants for hazard planning. The DESPP Grant Program Information page is good place to start.
  • The American Planning Association (APA) provides a wealth of resources on its Hazards Planning Research Center website. The APA’s mission is to support the development of safe, resilient communities that can both minimize losses from disasters and efficiently marshal their resources afterwards to recover stronger and better prepared than before.
  • Review the Association of Flood Plain Managers "No Adverse Impact in the Coastal Zone" concept. This is a set of legally defensible floodplain policies and regulations that encourage communities to go beyond the minimum standards of the NFIP. The NAI Coastal Zone handbook is a resource for communities to implement these concepts.  Also included are case studies and documents that investigate legal and liability issues.
  • The Nature Conservancy has developed a Coastal Resilience web-based toolkit to provide communities, planners, businesses, and officials with easy access to information on projected changes in sea level and coastal storm impacts in order to assist in coastal planning and management decisions.
  • The NOAA Coastal Services Center provides several hazard-related resources:
    • Roadmap for Adapting to Coastal Risk is a participatory process for assessing a community's vulnerability to hazards and for incorporating relevant data and information about hazards and climate into ongoing local planning and decision-making.48 The training is provided as a 3-hour WebEx and can be applied to AICP certification maintenance.
    • Coastal Inundation Toolkit: Developed by the Digital Coast Partnership Group to help communities understand and address coastal inundation. It provides the context and guidance for connecting resources in the Digital Coast to managers.
    • Coastal County Snapshots: A tool that provides local officials with a quick look at a county’s demographics, infrastructure, and environment within the flood zone.
    • For those with the technical skills and access to data, the Hazards Assessment Template is a tool that helps to construct websites that identify potential hazards for specific locations.  Requirements include:
      • Staff - Geographic information system (GIS) staff with Internet mapping experience.
      • Hardware and Software - Various templates are offered and require different hardware and software configurations.
      • GIS Data - Hazards zones, parcels, streets,, roads , boundaries (city, county, state), other data such as planning areas, conservation, or permitting zones, etc.
Generally speaking, responsible land use and floodplain management is one of the best ways to make your community ready for coastal hazards. Smart, safe development in areas prone to flooding, erosion, and high winds saves lives and money by mitigating damages and making response and recovery safer and less costly. Examine how your community manages land and infrastructure; explore ways to minimize exposure to hazards, mitigate damage from storms; and define and implement adaptation strategies to build coastal resilience.
Post-Storm Response 
Often the first and most important steps in post-storm management are ensuring public safety.   
The CT Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (formerly the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security) and the Departments of Public Health, Transportation, Insurance, and local utilities (CL&P, Northeast Utilities, and United Illuminating) all have resources available:
The American Red Cross also provides this checklist to help guide you to a safe and speedy recovery.
Additionally, provides numerous online resources designed to provide information on how you might be able to get help from the U.S. Government before, during and after a disaster.  If the President of the United States makes help available to individuals in your community after a disaster, you can visit this site to:
  • Learn what help you might be able to apply for.
  • Reduce the number of forms to fill out & shorten the application time for aid. 
  • Check the progress of your applications online.
  • Continue to receive government benefits even if you have to leave your home. 
  • Apply for help from FEMA online. 
  • Learn about Small Business Administration loans using an online application. 
  • Have your Social Security benefits sent to a new address. 
  • Find federal disaster recovery centers near your current address. 
  • Search a list of housing available for rent. 
  • Get the latest news on declared disasters. 
  • Find information about: 
    • Evacuating 
    • Finding shelter 
    • Getting food and water 
    • Getting medical services 
    • Locating loved ones 
    • Recovering and rebuilding
  • Locate resources in your community that can help you move forward.
Regulatory Info
When a storm causes damage to coastal property, resources, and infrastructure there is always a need to clean up and begin the re-building and repair process.  To ensure that these activities are efficiently and properly executed, here is some guidance.

Coastal Permitting
Temporary and Emergency Authorizations can be issued by the Office of Long Island Sound Programs (OLISP) to cover immediate and critical needs. In general:
  • Temporary Authorizations may be issued for some types of temporary repairs. To be eligible, the regulated structure or fill must be in place for 30 days or less, be necessary to protect human health or the environment or otherwise necessary to protect the public interest, and must cause only minimal environmental impact.
  • Emergency Authorizations may be issued for repairs that are not covered under temporary authorizations. To be eligible, the repair must be necessary to prevent hazards to life, health, or welfare or significant loss of property. If an emergency authorization is needed, please contact OLISP to discuss the information required for this authorization. Keep in mind that all emergency authorizations must be followed up within 30 days of their expiration with an application to retain the work undertaken.
If a repair is required that does not meet the criteria for an emergency or temporary authorization, the following options are available:
  • A general permit for dock repairs is being prepared. This general permit is likely to cover repair or even complete replacement of docks that have been damaged in the storm, provided they have been previously authorized. This general permit is not yet in place but may be complete by the end of 2011. If waiting for this coverage under this upcoming permit is not an option, other authorization types are possible.
  • A Certificate of Permission is available for minor activities regulated pursuant to Sections 22a-361 through 22a-363c of the Connecticut General Statutes. The specific activities eligible under this program include: substantial maintenance and minor alterations or amendments of authorized or pre-jurisdiction structures, fill, obstructions and encroachments; maintenance dredging of maintained permitted dredged areas; removal of derelict structures and vessels; and other enumerated minor activities.
All other repairs not eligible for authorization under any of the processes mentioned above require an individual permit pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 22a-32 and/or Section 22a-361.
Non-regulated repairs: Routine maintenance of structures, fill, obstructions, and encroachments which have received authorization or which have been in place since prior to June 24, 1939 and continually maintained and serviceable are exempt from coastal permitting. Routine maintenance is defined as:
  • replacement and repair of out-of-water structures, which include the surfaces of docks, piers, wharves and bridges,
  • replacement or repair in any year of up to 25% of pilings, and
  • seasonal reinstallation or repair of floating docks, provided that all locations, dimensions, elevations, and materials remain the same.
Note: Substantial maintenance, which means rebuilding, reconstructing or re-establishing to a pre-existing condition and dimension any structure, fill, or encroachment, requires authorization.

For questions and assistance, please call OLISP at (860) 424-3034, visit the Coastal Permitting webpage, or use the staff contact list to contact the DEEP permit analyst specific to your town.  The list provides information regarding town assignments, staff phone numbers, and staff email.

Inland Watercourses and Wetlands Permitting:
Diversion of Water: The CT Dept of Energy & Environmental Protection Inland Water Resources Division (IWRD) may issue emergency authorizations to work in wetlands or watercourses for diversion of water for a public water supply, or dam/bridge repair. Receiving an emergency authorization begins with a phone call to (860) 424-3019 and should be followed up with the submittal of a written request sent to the division director.  To be eligible your activity must be necessary to prevent, abate or mitigate an imminent threat to human health or the environment and must be consistent with certain federal laws. Refer to Section 22a-6k of the Connecticut General Statutes for more information.  Authorization for your eligible emergency-related activity can be issued within 24-hours. 
Stream Channel Encroachment Line and Dam Safety: IWRD may issue emergency authorizations for repairs to structures, embankments, dams, roadways and bridges that would have typically required a Inland Wetlands, Stream Channel Encroachment Line, Water Diversion and / or Dam Safety permit from the Inland Water Resources Division. To be eligible, the repair must be necessary to prevent hazards to life, health, or the environment. If an emergency authorization is needed, please call IWRD at (860) 424-3019 to discuss the information required.

Debris Management
The State Disaster Debris Management Plan establishes the framework for proper management of debris generated by a natural disaster, with the goal of facilitating prompt and efficient recovery that is cost effective, eligible for FEMA reimbursement, and protective of the environment. The Plan applies to all levels of government and describes the contracts in place to use in response to a catastrophic natural disaster; both for debris removal and monitoring of these types of operations. It also outlines the planning and operation functions for Temporary Debris Storage and Reduction Sites and the two phases of clean-up.
Content Last Update January 3, 2012