Flood Plain Management

What is Risk MAP: Mapping, Assessment and Planning Program?

We partner with the Federal Agency Management Agency (FEMA) to run the Risk Mapping, Assessment and Planning (Risk MAP) program in Washington. This program delivers high-quality data, risk assessment tools and mitigation expertise to communities, tribes, and State and local agencies in their efforts to reduce the risks from natural hazards including floods, earthquakes, wildfire and landslides.

Introduction to Risk MAP

Washington State continues to leverage its strong, long-standing relationship with FEMA Region X and our mutually beneficial responsibilities in flood hazard reduction and natural hazard mitigation.

What is Risk MAP? FEMA Publication

Through the Cooperating Technical Partnership (CTP) Program and the implementation of its eighth mapping business plan update, the Washington State Department of Ecology is coordinating FEMA’s Risk Map program throughout the State of Washington. Risk MAP uses state-of-the-art spatial analysis and delivers high-resolution mapping products to the communities focused on the ultimate objective of increased resiliency to flooding and other natural hazards. Over the past fifteen years, Ecology has contributed a dedicated team of mapping, analysis, and mitigation experts combined with robust IT and online mapping applications that continue to advance the agency’s programs and policies.  

As a prime objective, Risk MAP delivers quality data that increases awareness and leads to action that reduces risk to life and property. Washington State faces unique challenges in and around our floodplains. Levees, endangered species, and coastal areas are all current issues this program plans to address.

Risk MAP lifecycle

Risk MAP combines flood hazard mapping, risk assessment tools, and mitigation planning into one seamless program. The intent of this integrated program is to encourage beneficial partnerships and innovative uses of flood hazard and risk assessment data to ensure the greatest possible reduction in flood losses.

We are the Risk MAP coordinating agency assisting the Federal Agency Management Agency (FEMA) in the implementation of the Risk MAP concept in Washington.

Program links, publications, and business plans

Focus of Risk MAP studies: Coastal Flood Hazard Mapping

Through Flood Map Modernization, FEMA updated the methodology for identifying and mapping coastal flood hazards along the Pacific Coast. During Risk MAP, FEMA is using a new Pacific coast methodology to study the entire populated coastline in detail, including new topography and base flood elevations along all revised areas. FEMA also initiated a study examining the potential impact of climate change on the flood hazard identification process. The results of the climate change study may drive additional changes to the methodologies.

FEMA publication: Coastal Flood Risks: Achieving Resilience Together

Phases of Risk MAP


Discovery is the process of data collection and analysis with the goal of initiating a Risk MAP Project. Through this process, every jurisdiction in the project area is contacted and interviews with local officials are conducted. Discovery meetings are held in the communities to expand on the information sharing and begin project scoping. A Discovery Report compiles all of the information and is distributed to the local governments. A mapping project is initiated if a first pass analysis shows value added for the cost.

FEMA publication: What is Discovery?


Mapping is done by FEMA and delivered to the community in draft, preliminary and final phases. Local or tribal governments use these Flood Insurance Rate maps to administer the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA delivers them in a digital format as well, known as the Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map (DFIRM).

We meet with communities during each phase of mapping to ensure the final product meets their need. The map is the foundation for each non-regulatory Risk MAP product.

  • DFIRM: Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map. The DFIRMs are digital representations of the official Flood Insurance Rate MAP. DFIRMs are delivered in GIS formats compatible with most GIS and online applications.
  • Draft DFIRM: draft maps are presented to community officials in a Flood Risk Review meeting prior to the start of an appeal period. This enables the communities to see revisions to their maps ahead of schedule.
  • Preliminary DFIRM: preliminary data is provided to the public to allow the community to see the updated flood hazard area. Preliminary data cannot be used to rate flood insurance policies or enforce the Federal mandatory purchase requirement.
  • Effective DFIRM: is the official map that shows Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) and the risk zones applicable to a community. Risk zones indicated on FIRMs provide a basis for establishing flood insurance coverage offered through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).


This is the final leg of the Risk MAP process. Resilience includes an introductory webinar for elected officials. The meetings are held in the communities and facilitated by Ecology. At the meeting, FEMA introduces the Risk MAP Program to both elected officials and community staff. For coastal communities, Ecology engages its Coastal Hazards Resilience Network lead to assist with coastal planning and mitigation. Washington Department of Natural Resources presents landslide and earthquake and provides expertise on projects that can mitigate those natural hazards. WA Emergency Management Division briefs the communities about funding opportunities available pre and post disaster. The meeting concludes with a workshop environment by jurisdiction where mitigation strategists and subject matter experts review previously identified mitigation actions, identify potential mitigation actions, and explore grant options that could advance those actions through plans, projects, and policies.

Some topics of discussion include:

  • What actions do you currently take to reduce risk?
  • What plans do you have in place?
  • What additional actions can you take?

Washington state Risk MAP vision

The vision for Risk Mapping, Assessment, and Planning (Risk MAP) is to deliver quality data that increases public awareness and leads to action that reduces risk to life and property. Through more precise flood mapping products, risk assessment tools, planning and outreach support, Risk MAP strengthens local ability to make informed decisions about reducing risk. It provides the quality data and tools that enable analysis and awareness of natural hazards. Communities can use Risk MAP data and tools to create or improve mitigation actions and disaster recovery plans, make informed decisions about land use and building codes, and communicate flood and other risks more effectively to citizens.

Contact us

If you have questions about Risk MAP or flood hazard mapping, contact Jerry Franklin at (360) 407-7470.

If you have questions about the National Flood Insurance Program or floodplain regulations contact our regional floodplain specialists.

Related links