FEMA Community Rating System (CRS) User Groups
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Community Rating System (CRS) is a voluntary program that incentivizes floodplain management practices that reduce local flood risk. The CRS program supports communities in mitigating flood hazards by reducing flood insurance premiums for residents within jurisdictions that implement solutions that go beyond the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)’s minimum floodplain management standards. Municipal and county governments participating, or considering participation, in the CRS program can join existing or start new CRS User Groups to achieve benefits for flood mitigation through regional coordination and networking. In deepening their CRS participation, local governments can create more peer-learning opportunities to adapt to intensifying flood risks, while finding new ways to save residents money on flood insurance.
As a community improves its CRS rating through approved flood adaptive measures, it is eligible to receive increasingly higher discounts on flood insurance premiums. FEMA recognizes 19 creditable activities in the CRS program, organized under four categories of Public Information, Mapping and Regulations, Flood Damage Reduction, and Warning and Response. Local governments can earn CRS credits toward improving their rating by, for example, preserving open space in the floodplain that can receive flood water, relocating buildings out of the floodplain, or educating the public about flood hazards. When communities earn CRS credits, property owners can save up to 45 percent on their insurance premiums.
Many CRS communities across the U.S. have formed CRS Users Groups representing municipal, county, regional, and state networks that collaborate to meet local flood mitigation goals, and support one another in qualifying for CRS credit.
According to CRS Resources, there are approximately 45 active CRS User Groups across the country, including:
- Arizona CRS Users Group
- Three in California: Marin County, North Central, and Santa Clara County
- Colorado Association of Stormwater and Floodplain Management CRS Committee
- Delaware CRS Users Group
- Ten in Florida: Santa Clara County, Central Florida, Florida Keys–Monroe County, Miami-Dade County, Northeast Florida, Okaloosa County, Palm Beach County, Southwest Florida, Tampa Bay–Pinellas Regional CRS Committee, and Volusia County
- Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina Coastal CRS Users Group
- Illinois CRS Users Group
- Southern Illinois CRS Users Group
- Four in Louisiana:
- Capital Region Area Floodplain Task Force (CRAFT)
- Flood Loss Outreach and Awareness Task Force (FLOAT)
- Jefferson United Mitigation Professionals (JUMP)
- Southwest Informational Floodplain Team (SWIFT)
- Cape Cod CRS Users Group (Massachusetts)
- Maryland CRS Users Group
- Michigan CRS Committee
- Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska — MOKAN CRS Users Group
- Coastal Hazards Outreach Strategy Team (Mississippi)
- Outer Banks, Southeast North Carolina Users Group
- New Hampshire Users Group
- Four in New Jersey: Middlesex County CRS/MS4 Assist, Monmouth County, Morris County, and Ocean County
- Long Island CRS Users Group (New York)
- New York CRS Users Group
- Oklahoma CRS Workgroup
- Pennsylvania CRS Technical Working Group
- Rhode Island CRS Users Group
- Coastal South Carolina
- South Carolina CRS Users Group
- Floodplain Awareness Success in Texas (FAST)
- North Central Texas CRS Users Group
- Coastal Virginia CRS Workgroup
- King County, Washington CRS Users Group
- Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington – Northwest Regional Floodplain Managers Association CRS Committee
While there are benefits of starting and participating in CRS Users Groups, it is important to note that they no longer are eligible to earn CRS credits themselves. As of the publication of the 2013 CRS Coordinators’ Manual, FEMA changed the scoring system for communities in the CRS, where communities no longer receive CRS credit for CRS Users Groups. However, new and existing User Groups continue to meet and work together in regional floodplain resilience planning because of the benefits of CRS Users Groups. Specifically, the substantial benefits outside of direct crediting add up to support more successful participation in the CRS. In turn, jurisdictions may implement more programs and creditable activities as inspired by learning and networking through User Groups.
Additionally, the 2013 manual also instituted a new creditable outreach activity called the Program for Public Information (PPI), which is accredited under Activity 330 (Outreach Projects). A PPI is an ongoing local effort to implement and monitor a range of public outreach and education activities that meet local flood mitigation and preparedness goals.
Profiles of some CRS communities’ progress can be found at successwithcrs.us, and FEMA’s Repetitive Flood portal. A few are highlighted below for their noteworthy participation in CRS User Groups.
Grand Prairie, North Texas Users Group
Grand Prairie, Texas has a long history of flooding, and of progressive urban floodplain adaptation planning. Today, the city now earns CRS points for open spaces, stormwater management, and drainage system facilities. The city once had 43 severe repetitive flood loss properties; and as of 2016, only one remained.
The North Texas CRS Users Group is composed of Grand Prairie and other communities in the Dallas–Fort Worth area. This group works together toward regional flood resilience by discussing its lessons learned in floodplain management and the CRS program, and providing one another with feedback on implementing CRS-related activities. The North Texas group meets every other month.
Peoria County, Illinois CRS Users Group
Peoria County, Illinois has acquired more than 125 floodplain properties. In 2015, the city received two Hazard Mitigation Grant Program grants to remove another 40 flood-prone structures. County officials recognize that being rated as a Class 5 in the CRS brought credibility that helped to secure these grants.
Peoria County participates in the Illinois CRS Users Group. The county has branched out to develop an additional CRS Users Group for southern communities in Illinois. The Illinois Users Group is based in Chicago and focuses on urban flooding impacts, and the “downstate” group focuses on rural, riverine conditions. The Chicago-based group meets three or four times a year and the downstate group meets an additional one or two times during the year — all working together to help one another to adapt to flooding across the state.
Shawnee, Kansas, MOKAN CRS Users Group
Today, the majority of the floodplain of Shawnee, Kansas is now 98 percent open space. To achieve this result, the city has largely precluded all new floodplain development, protected open space, and worked to restore the natural functions of the floodplain. Many of these protected areas also serve as public parks, for which the city receives CRS points.
Shawnee has enhanced its floodplain regulatory standards as well. The city exceeded the state’s minimum freeboard or elevation requirement for new structures. Specifically, the State of Kansas has a one-foot freeboard requirement for floodplain development. Shawnee amended its local floodplain management ordinance to increase the city’s freeboard requirement to two feet above the base flood elevation.
Local government representatives from Shawnee participate in the Missouri–Kansas (MOKAN) CRS Users Group. This group grew directly from active engagement with the CRS program, and has been a great resource in providing floodplain management support to communities across the region.
Capital Region Area Floodplain Task Force (CRAFT), Louisiana
One of four CRS User Groups in Louisiana, members of CRAFT are pursuing a multi-jurisdictional PPI, which is in development.
CRAFT is composed of representatives of a number of communities within or the surrounding Baton Rouge metropolitan area. The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness are often in attendance at CRAFT meetings — bringing state agency feedback and support to flood mitigation planning, across communities. Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO)/CRS Specialists also participate in CRAFT meetings. ISO works on behalf of FEMA and insurance companies to review CRS applications, verify communities’ credit points, and perform program improvement tasks. CRAFT meetings are held monthly and are facilitated by The University of New Orleans’s Center for Hazards Assessment, Response, and Technology (UNO-CHART).
Flood Loss Outreach and Awareness Task Force (FLOAT), Louisiana
The Lake Pontchartrain Louisiana Area FLOAT group has focused its efforts on increasing outreach to the public regarding flood preparation across the southeast region of Louisiana. FLOAT has assembled the outreach activities of its twelve member jurisdictions into a single coordinated multi-jurisdictional PPI, in turn avoiding a strain on resources for individual communities undertaking this effort alone. Educational and outreach projects have been developed with “input and support from environmental volunteers, numerous partners, and with the use of creative and innovative tools.”
FLOAT was established with the support of the Office of the Louisiana State Coordinator for the NFIP, the Louisiana Region CRS Coordinator for ISO, and UNO-CHART.
UNO-CHART facilitates both CRAFT and FLOAT, bringing benefits of its work across all participating jurisdictions. UNO-CHART provides research on the latest federal NFIP updates, as well as information from conferences, outside experts, academia, and more. UNO-CHART also serves as a liaison with Louisiana’s ISO, the entity that verifies community projects for CRS accreditation. UNO-CHART offers the support of using a nongovernmental facilitator to supplement local government resources and capacity, while further enhancing and disseminating the recognized benefits of participation in CRS Users Groups.
- Jefferson Parish, Louisiana: Jefferson Parish Watershed Management Plan and Balancing Water Campaign
- FEMA Community Rating System
- Greauxing Resilience at Home: A Regional Vision > Goal Five: Greaux implementation and capacity-building efforts to increase resilience. > Objective 5.4:
- Greauxing Resilience at Home: A Regional Vision > Goal Five: Greaux implementation and capacity-building efforts to increase resilience. > Objective 5.5: