Alabama Puts SAFE-T First

Jan 21, 2020 | Prepared Communities, Reserves, Weeks Bay, Alabama, What We Work For

Flooding causes major damage across coastal Alabama. That’s why, with the help of Weeks Bay Reserve, these communities are teaming up to better address flooding issues throughout the state. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Four billion dollars—that was the cost of severe storms and flooding in Alabama in 2018. When the problem’s that big, collaboration is critical. That’s why the Weeks Bay Reserve developed the  South Alabama Flooding Engagement Team (SAFE-T)—to help floodplain managers meet, share resources, and communicate to improve flood management and outreach across their communities. 

“SAFE-T brings together people from different disciplines and backgrounds to collaborate on issues related to floodplain and watershed management,” says Lannie Smith, Floodplain Administrator for Orange Beach, Alabama.  “As past president of the Alabama Association of Floodplain Managers, I can say that this type of regional collaboration has been a goal at the state level for years. I believe that, in the near future, we will see tangible results in the form of better management practices and lower flood premiums due largely to the work of SAFE-T.”

SAFE-T was created from a 2016 NOAA-funded Community Resilience Initiative to help coastal Alabama communities address flooding and floodplain management. Coastal towns like Orange Beach identified training and communication as high priorities. In response the Weeks Bay Coastal Training Program (CTP) convened the first SAFE-T meeting in 2018.

Weeks Bay Reserve works to meet training needs identified by the community floodplain managers who make up SAFE-T. Recent trainings focused on risk communication and FEMA Elevation Certificates.

The group meets quarterly and engages community floodplain managers, planners, local Community Rating System (CRS) coordinators, private insurers, consultants. and state agency representatives. The Weeks Bay Reserve supports them by identifying speakers and sponsoring  trainings. Recently, the Reserve brought NOAA’s risk communications training to SAFE-T and the organizations they represent in coastal Alabama. They also brought together a FEMA Elevation Certificate training in collaboration with Grand Bay Reserve.

Funds have been made available through the same Community Resilience Initiative that led to SAFE-T for non-structural flood management projects and community policy development. So far, four communities brought together by SAFE-T have secured small grants through this program.

“The Weeks Bay Reserve and the Alabama DCNR brought the right people together to initiate the conversation regarding the benefits of a users group and the results have been amazing to watch,” says Smith. 

With the ongoing pressures of climate change, the importance of SAFE-T to Alabama’s coastal communities is only growing more vital. “SAFE-T is still in its infancy, but moving forward it is important that there is a forum to discuss floodplain management concerns facing all of Alabama’s coastal communities,” says Mike Shelton, Coastal Training Program coordinator for Weeks Bay. “The Weeks Bay CTP and partners will continue to support the group with facilitation at meetings, training on topics that SAFE-T identifies as necessary or useful, and with technical support.”

What We Work ForPrepared CommunitiesAlabama Puts SAFE-T First