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Larry A. Larson Speaker Series: Creating Flood Resilient Communities

The intent of this series, which is organized by the ASFPM Foundation, is to create opportunities for interaction among the nation’s thought leaders on flood risk reduction policy. Future events will maximize timely exposure to relevant discussions and debates on community-based flood risk management, an area of policy and practice that was notably shaped and influenced by Larson’s life work. This series will be of lasting benefit to foundation donors and event participants.

2018 -  Big Data = Big Future + Big Challenges
From L-R: FEMA's Daniel Cotter, NOAA's Ed Clark, Willis Towers Watson's Samantha Medlock and HDR's David Ford. Photo by Matt Koch.The fourth annual Larson Speaker Series event was held on Sept. 5, 2018, as a plenary session at the Floodplain Management Association's Annual Conference held in Reno, Nevada. The keynote speaker was Daniel Cotter (far left), director of the First Responders Group in the Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Cotter was joined by a panel of experts (left to right) including Edward Clark from NOAA National Water Center; David Ford from HDR/David Ford Consulting; and Samantha Medlock from Willis Towers Watson. More than 350 conference participants attended this event.

Big data methodologies are being used increasingly to provide flood risk information at scales ranging from the community level to the entire nation.  It represents the use of large volumes of structured and unstructured data, analyzed and manipulated to capture trends or observations that might be considered meaningful.  At its simplest form, it can range from leveraging massive geospatially referenced data sets into physical models, to using data analytic tools searching for trends in equally massive data sets.  

Recently, big data solutions have been applied to flood risk identification, providing data analytics and results in new ways, and with notable consequences.  Potential applications include determination of flood risk, informing of insurance ratings, flood forecasting, investment modeling, post-event damage assessments, post-event planning analytics, and other uses.  Each of these applications can have profound consequences for the end users and the public.  Challenges include assumptions made with incomplete data, appropriate reporting of results, sensationalizing of headlines, understanding of the limitations of specific results, the proper role of professional engineers in risk data that impact public safety, and what investments must be made to improve big data usage in the future.  A recent application of big data for flood risk uses has signaled potential downgrade of future municipal bonds for high risk areas, while in another recent instance, there were serious concerns about the results and what they suggested.  Furthermore, when entities developing these data sets are asked to explain assumptions, LALSS 2018 Sponso rsquite often there is little to no res-ponse or proprietary analyses are claimed, preventing full transparency into the development and reporting of results.

The purpose of this plenary session was to start a discussion on the ben-efits, risks, and challenges associated with the use of big data in flood risk identification and flood risk management.  This plenary session was presented by the ASFPM Foundation in collaboration with FMA, as part of the foundation’s Larry A. Larson Speaker Series. Thank you to our sponsors and to FMA for making this event possible.


2017 - Floodplain Management and Community Resilience in a World with Changing Contextual Factors 

The 2017 Speaker Series was held in conjunction with the 42nd Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop. Dr. Dennis Mileti, professor  emeritus of sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder and director emeritus of the Natural Hazards Center was the featured speaker for the third annual Larry Larson Speaker Series event held on July 9, 2017. The 90-minute program began at 7 p.m. with a presentation by the keynote speaker followed by a facilitated panel and audience discussion. Dr. Mileti discussed and highlighted his observations of how community factors such as connectedness, political climate, resources and catalysts can  impact floodplain management and community resilience. 


2016 - Effective Coastal Adaption Requires Getting a Fix on Sea-level Rise 
Dr. Don Boesch, professor and president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and vice chancellor for environmental sustainability for the University System of Maryland, was the featured speaker for the second annual Larson Speaker Series event. This event was held October 6 at the NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction (Ground Floor Main Lobby, 5830 University Research Court, College Park, MD). The program also honored NOAA’s Margaret A. Davidson for her career-long contributions serving coastal resource management needs across the nation. The NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction was the selected location due to the strong ties between NOAA, ASFPM Foundation and ASFPM. Here is a video of Boesch's presentation


2015 - Protecting Federal Investments through National Flood Risk Management Standards
The inaugural event, which more than 60 attended, featured Ali Zaidi, associate director for Natural Resources, Energy and Science Programs in the Office of Management and Budget, Executive Office of the President. His speech, "Protecting Federal Investments through National Flood Risk Management Standards,” highlighted the administration’s efforts with partners to reduce the costs and suffering from floods. The event was held March 17, 2015 at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. 

 



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