DEEP: Coastal Hazards Management - Individuals & Property/Business Owners

Coastal Hazards Management - Individuals and Property/Business Owners
Hazard Management and the Coastal Management Act
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 so they can 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.
A note regarding groins, seawalls, jetties, bulkheads and similar "hard" structures: These are often built protect coastal property, but many have unintended consequences. For example, seawalls can cause erosion in front of them as well as undermining the seawall itself by reflecting rather than absorbing wave energy as a natural beach does. Groins can interrupt sand movement, starving adjacent beaches while creating others. Although these may provide localized, temporary protection against erosion, they are often not useful in addressing flooding. Coastal flood damage tends to be caused not by direct wave action but by backflooding from wetlands and streams behind the shore and can only be avoided by elevation or relocation of threatened structures. Because of these complex coastal processes, shoreline flood and erosion control structures are regulated and discouraged by the CCMA. By law, hard structures may only be permitted to protect existing inhabited structures, water dependent uses such as marinas, or infrastructure facilities—and then only when there is no alternative with less environmental impact.

Of course, no one expects owners to allow their properties to fall into the sea. Many non-structural options may be available, and coastal management standards do permit repair of existing structures and construction of measures necessary to protect homes. However, a new bulkhead or seawall designed to expand a backyard is unlikely to be permitted. Connecticut law has long recognized that natural coastal processes change property boundaries. Accordingly, a property owner is not automatically entitled to build protective structures simply to expand or preserve a boundary.

For further explanation, consult the Shoreline Flood and Erosion Control Structures Fact Sheet (part of the Connecticut Coastal Management Manual).

Get Ready for the Next Hazard Event
The following sections provide useful guidance to help assist you in being hazard-ready. Some activities are one-time items, while others may require revisiting over time.

Individual Preparation – Keep You and Your Family Safe
Familiarize yourself with your town's natural disaster plan or emergency operations plan,. Knowing the "big picture" can assist you, such as knowing where the nearest shelters are or which routes are designated as evacuation routes. Then make sure that you and your family have your own Emergency Plan and Emergency Supply Kit. The following guidance is taken directly from the Connecticut Guide to Emergency Preparedness:49

  • Create an Emergency Plan:
    • Identify safe places in your home in case you must SHELTER IN PLACE.
    • Identify two different routes to get out of the house in case you must EVACUATE.
    • Identify a place for your family to meet in case you are separated.
    • Pick a place in your neighborhood that can be a meeting point for your family.
    • Pick a place outside of your neighborhood that can be a meeting point for your family. Identify two contacts (one local, one out-of-state) that the members of your family can contact in case of separation.
    • Include information to keep your pets safe.
    • Know how to turn off electricity, gas, and water within your home.
    • Make sure everyone knows the plan.
  • Make an Emergency Supply Kit:
    • A three-day supply of water (at least one gallon per person per day – more for children and nursing mothers, as well as during hot summer months.)
    • Food for at least three days – canned/sealed foods and juices that do not require refrigeration or cooking. Foods for infants or the elderly.
    • Non-electric can opener, cooking tools and fuel, paper plates and plastic utensils.
    • Paper towels, toilet paper, soap.
    • Battery-powered radio, flashlights and cell phone, with extra batteries.
    • Blanket/sleeping bag/pillows for each family member, a change of clothing.
    • Baby and children’s items (diapers, games, toys and books).
    • First-aid kit. Prescription and non-prescription medications, eye glasses and contact lens supplies.
    • List of family physicians.
    • Pet care items – picture of your pet, immunization records, food and water, a pet carrier or cage, medications, muzzle, ID collar and leash.
    • Extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash and important documents
    • Vehicle fuel tanks filled, oil and windshield wiper fluid should be checked.
    • Enclose this preparedness guide in your emergency supply kit.
    • Refresh your kit regularly, checking expiration dates.

More information on personal emergency strategies are available via the Connecticut Guide to Emergency Preparedness and the FEMA website

Property Preparation – Keep Your Property Safe
Flooding is a significant risk to Connecticut’s coastal property owners so you should understand your risk.  This can be done online by going to the NFIP web site,, and entering your address. If you don't have flood insurance already, you might consider purchasing it through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Note that most homeowner insurance policies DO NOT cover flooding.

Consult the Connecticut Insurance Department’s Process for Storm Preparedness. This guide can help you to:

  • Ensure the safety of you and your family first by having a plan in place;
  • Complete an Inventory of your Property. A downloadable checklist is available to help with this process.
  • Review your insurance coverage to understand what it does and does not cover and if the types and limits are appropriate. It might be a policy that was set up years ago doesn’t reflect today’s needs.
  • Understand what to do if your property is damaged,from contacting insurance companies, to assessing damages, to working with contractors.
  • Floodproofing involves keeping water out and reducing the amount of damage if it gets in.  A good guide for these techniques is FEMA's Residential Coastal Construction Manual. For example, creating "freeboard" involves elevating a structure so the lowest floor is above predicted flood elevations (generally 1-3 feet above National Flood Insurance Program requirements).  Since there are many reasons why FIRM flood heights might be wrong, freeboard provides a buffer against uncertainty. It can also reduce flood insurance premiums, sometimes paying for itself within a few years. See the Massachusetts StormSmart Coasts freeboard primer for more information.
  • Here are a few more resources that can provide information or guidance relative to protecting property on the shoreline.
    • Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH): a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to promoting disaster safety and property loss mitigation.50
    • Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS): The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s mission is to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other property losses by conducting research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparation practices.51
    Business Preparation
    A useful source of information specifically designed for business can be found at Ready Business, a part of the FEMA program.52 It provides practical steps and easy-to-use templates to help you plan for your company's future. The recommendations reflect the Emergency Preparedness and Business Continuity Standard (NFPA 1600) developed by the National Fire Protection Association and endorsed by the American National Standards Institute and the Department of Homeland Security. It also provides useful links to resources providing more detailed business continuity and disaster preparedness information. Ready Business includes resources and strategies to help owners address continuity of operations, involve and assist employees, and protect investments.

    Weather the Storm
    Regardless of whether you are an individual property owner or a business owner, during a hazard event follow these simple, common-sense approaches to stay safe:

    • Remain calm; don’t panic.
    • Follow the advice of state and local emergency official.
    • Implement your Personal Emergency Plan.
    • Gather your Emergency Supply Kit.
    • If told to evacuate, do so! Evacuations are not called for lightly, and are done with careful consideration to a number of factors. Remaining in place during an evacuation can place extra burden on emergency officials whose capacities may be limited or are required elsewhere.
    • Monitor official emergency alert notifications. In Connecticut, these can include (but are not limited to) the Emergency Alert Systems (EAS), the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (formerly DEMHS), the Department of Public Health (DPH), the National Weather Service (NWS), or NOAA Weather Radio.
    Post-Storm Recovery 
    After a storm, a primary concern of home and business owners is to assess and tend to the safety and family and property. 
    The Departments of Public Health, Transportation, Insurance, and local utilities (CL&P, Northeast Utilities, and United Illuminating) 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 Updated January 3, 2012