A Post-Event Review of the October 2015 Floods in South Carolina: A Deep Dive into the Columbia and Charleston Event

Using the narrative of the October 2015 flood in South Carolina, this report focuses on how to better reduce risks, improve response activities, and be more strategic about planning for flood recovery. The report analyzes flooding in both Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina, drawing on interviews with impacted people and hard data on economic and physical impacts. The report recognizes that climate change will be an ongoing stress in the region, and offers lessons about planning for flood resilience, but does not focus specifically on climate impacts.

Review lessons from South Carolina's 2015 flooding to understand what your community can do now to be more prepared for similar risks. 

Key lessons and recommendations include:

Risk Reduction

  • Foster a cultural shift for seeking to understand risks and make this information readily available from government agencies
  • Place major assets outside of known floodways and floodprone areas
  • Use buy-out funds to remove high risk properties from the building stock
  • Include design elements, such as safe failure, to avoid cascading/catastrophic impacts
  • Use green infrastructure to reduce flood risk
  • Incentivize meaningful risk reduction, not just insurance rate reduction


  • Leverage the opportunity provided by technology, by strengthening early warning systems and making the warnings themselves more relevant and actionable
  • Communicate the limits of knowledge and the places where individuals need to be prepared to respond to the unknown
  • Promote responses that allow people to leverage their social capital and resources on their own behalf and on behalf of others

On page 54, the report discusses how FEMA’s policies around deferred maintenance perpetuates and exacerbates inequity. The report explains that FEMA denies disaster assistance if it determines that the damage was due to deferred maintenance prior to the storm. This provision makes it much less likely low-income people will receive the full amount of assistance needed or any assistance at all. Since deferred maintenance issues occur in households that cannot afford the repairs in the first place, this only entrenches vulnerability for future flood events. It also increases the number of people who may need to find temporary housing after an event.


  • Encourage governments and non-profit organizations to plan for recovery, so that processes can begin sooner and engagement is sustained for the long-term
  • Encourage better understanding of private insurance, government and nonprofit support and options to fill gaps

This report serves as a platform for understanding where resilience can be built, particularly in response to floods in foothills and coastal locations, and what capacities can be leveraged for building resilience.


Publication Date: October 11, 2016

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Kanmani Venkateswaran
  • Karen MacClune
  • Michael Szoenyi
  • Sierra Gladfelter

Related Organizations:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Policy analysis/recommendations

States Affected:


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