Rising Flood Support for Winnetka Residents


Flooding Levels Rise, Costs Climb 

When a major storm moves through the area and rivers and creeks begin to overflow their banks, communities with floodplains go on high alert to manage floodwaters, and, notably, every community monitors potential risks to lives and property.  The Village of Winnetka works to go above and beyond with floodplain management by participating in FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS). In order to effectively participate in this program, Winnetka discovered that a collective effort among departments helped streamline their process and bring success to this project.  


FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS) program incentivizes communities to reduce flood damage to insurable property, strengthen the insurance aspects of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and take a comprehensive approach to floodplain management. This rating is evaluated every 5 years and can provide residents with lower flood insurance premiums, which is a way the community can provide benefits back to its residents. This year, when the time came to update the ratings, Winnetka was concerned that their hard work to improve their scores would not be reflected because the data for CRS was out of date. Unless the community could provide proof of their improved floodplain management, Winnetka’s residents could not receive the benefit of lower flood insurance premiums  


The Calm After the Storm 

To get this information updated and better take care of their residents, Assistant Village Engineer and Winnetka’s CRS representative, Susan Chen, partnered with their GIS Analyst to update the CRS data. These data updates included revisions to identifying repetitive loss properties, floodplain permit locations, adding new impervious surfaces, and new open space locations. Susan and the Engineering Department produced maps and conducted an analysis to support the update of the CRS data. Susan and GIS scheduled time together (two weekly meetings prior to the deadline) in order to guarantee availability for both parties to facilitate questions, problems, and address any last-minute requests. Having this time routinely scheduled allowed the Village to be at ease through the update process, and they confidently knew that their Analyst would be available to work with them during that time.  


Hard Work Pays Off 

Through this work, the Village and GIS built a true partnership that exemplified confidence and trustBy having dedicated time each week for this project from both sets of helping hands, Winnetka had high confidence and peace of mind that complicated construction projects would be entered in a timely fashion and be reflected in their FEMA results. In addition to building confidence and trust, the Village will be able to support having lower flood insurance premiums for residents in flood plain areas. The processes have also been refined so there is a clear count of homes in the flood plain and record of actions Winnetka has taken to mitigate flood activities. By refining this process now, the process will be more sustainable in the future when the ratings are reevaluated in 2024. 


Partnership: A Solid Foundation 

When FEMA releases the official updated score, the process will be revisited by GIS and the Village to fine tune it for standardization to ensure Winnetka can successfully participate in this program in 2024. The solid foundation of partnership built through the CRS update has laid the groundwork for many upcoming projects this year.  


Thinking Ahead

By engaging in a lasting partnership with your GIS program, many routine tasks can be streamlined or innovated. Reach out to your site analyst today to start identifying opportunities to innovate, which in turn could evolve or promote a new partnership. People drive success! To read more about Winnetka’s Flood Plain Management and additional CRS Program information click here. 

Author: Caitlin Pennington, Analyst