Integrating Asset Management and the Community Rating System

storage basins

Activity 540 SBM provides CRS credit for inspections of storage basins. Credit: LAN.

By Tak Makino

Asset Management

Infrastructure asset management is gaining widespread acceptance as a best management practice. Simply put, infrastructure asset management is the set of practices that balance the costs of operations and maintenance of public infrastructure with desired levels of service and a tolerable degree of risk. Asset management takes an integrative approach, combining models of financial planning, maintenance, and replacement to ensure that public infrastructure is managed in a fiscally prudent manner.

Often, asset management software integrates into geographic information system (GIS) software. It is critical to understand where assets exist when making decisions about assets. For example, if a section of roadway is due for repair, it is important to consider if there are underground utilities below the road. In that case, it is prudent to perform maintenance on the underground utilities ahead of schedule to avoid the cost of repairing a newly resurfaced roadway. If these public infrastructure assets are integrated into a GIS, these sorts of analyses can be performed.

If public infrastructure assets – specifically stormwater assets – are integrated into a GIS, the stage is set for using infrastructure asset management to support a Community Rating System program (CRS). Over the past decade, much has been written about asset management and its various benefits. However, one topic that hasn’t received much attention is how asset management can strengthen a city’s CRS program.

Community Rating System

The Community Rating System (CRS) program is a voluntary, incentive-based program that rewards communities for engaging in floodplain management practices above the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) minimum standards by providing reduced-cost flood insurance premiums to policy holders. The program has many benefits such as reducing flood damage, increasing flood insurance coverage in a community, and freeing up money for use in the local economy.

The CRS program assesses the quality of a community’s floodplain management standards through a class system. Classes range from Class 10 for communities that are not significantly exceeding the NFIP minimum standards to a Class 1 for communities that demonstrates superlative floodplain management standards. Most CRS communities fall between a Class 6 and Class 9 ranking. One community in the nation, the city of Roseville, Calif., has achieved a Class 1 ranking.

Class rankings are how CRS discounts are determined. Each CRS class improvement provides a 5 percent reduction in flood premiums to insurance policies in the 100-year floodplain. Policy holders outside the 100-year floodplain can enjoy up to a 10 percent discount in flood insurance rates. Class rankings are established by points accumulated through successfully documenting CRS activities and elements.

CRS Activities and Elements

FEMA publishes and periodically updates the CRS Coordinator Manual which spells out the practices and documentation requirements to secure credit under the CRS program. The manual is broken in to four thematically distinct activity series:

300 Series – Public Information
400 Series – Mapping & Regulations
500 Series – Flood Damage Reduction
600 Series – Warning & Response

Each series is organized in a hierarchy. Within each series, there are a range of activities that have a narrower focus. Within each activity, there is at least one element, further narrowing the focus. For example:

400 Series – Mapping & Regulations
Activity 420 – OSP: Open Space Preservation
Element – OSP: Open Space Preservation
Element – NFOS: Natural Functions Open Space

In this example, Element OSP provides credit for open space areas in a community’s regulatory floodplain. NFOS provides credit for open spaces such as a nature preserve that is retained in its unaltered, natural state.

CRS activity and element points are structured so there is a range of credit available. In the example provided above for Element OSP, credit points are provided on an area-weighted basis. If 45 percent of a community’s floodplain is preserved as open space, the community receives 45 percent of the available 1,450 credit points – 653 points.

Activity 540 CDR requires a map

Activity 540 CDR requires a map and inventory of all open channel drainage components in a community. Credit: LAN.

The Asset Management and CRS Link

A community can enjoy a successful CRS program without the benefit of asset management. However, a well-designed asset management system provides a large dataset that can be mined for CRS credit. Several CRS activities and elements can take advantage of asset management. For example, Activity 540 provides the best example of pulling data out of an asset management system to bolster a CRS program. Activity 540 is the Drainage System Maintenance activity. Within Activity 540 are five elements:

CDR – Channel Debris Removal
PSM – Problem Site Maintenance
CIP – Capital Improvement Program
SDR – Stream Dumping Regulations
SBM – Storage Basin Maintenance

Except SDR, the remaining four elements have strong connections to asset management. A full-scoring CDR Element can provide a community 200 CRS points. To obtain CRS credit for this element, the community must provide a map of the open channel stormwater conveyance systems, an inventory of system components (i.e. stream segments, bridges, culverts, etc.), and inspection records demonstrating that all system components are inspected at least annually. Once a GIS-integrated asset management system includes the data to produce the required map, the inventory of components and the inspection and maintenance records can be pulled straight from an asset management database.

The PSM Element provides 50 points for augmenting the community’s CDR element. To obtain CRS credit for this element, a community must flag problem sites on a map, inspect flagged problem sites at least annually, inspect problem sites after storm events, and take action after an inspection identifies a need for maintenance. If historical trends show a particular infrastructure asset to have above-average maintenance needs, it can be tracked in a GIS-integrated asset management software and easily added to the CDR map. An asset management system that generates work orders automatically at specified intervals can ensure that inspections take place at least annually. Similarly, if a major storm event takes place in a community, work orders can be generated in asset management software to ensure that inspections take place.

The CIP Element, if full CRS credit is achieved, provides 70 points. The foundation of a CIP Element is a master list of sites planned for future improvement projects. The CRS Manual suggests that the list may be generated maintenance reports. If a community tracks maintenance and inspection actions in an asset management system, it can examine records to arrive at a master list of projects for CIP credit.

Element SBM credit is structured very similarly to CDR credit, but rather than the community’s open channel conveyance system, it is concerned with detention and retention storage basins. To obtain the full 120 CRS point credit for the SBM Element, the community must provide a map of all the storage basins in the community, an inventory of storage basins (both public and private), and inspection records demonstrating that all storage basins are inspected at least annually. Once a GIS-integrated asset management system includes the data to produce the required map, the inventory of storage basins and the inspection and maintenance records can be pulled from an asset management database.

The four asset-management-related elements under Activity 540 provide up to 440 combined CRS points. Only 500 points separate each CRS class. Each CRS class improvement provides a 5 percent discount in flood insurance premiums in the 100-year floodplain. Depending on the size, the nature of development and policy in the floodplain, this could be sizable savings across the community.

CRS table

This table shows the relationship between CRS classes, insurance discount rates and CRS credit points. Credit: LAN.


One critical issue that can come up is a lack of interdepartmental communication. If the person administering a community’s CRS program is closely tied into the department administering a community’s asset management program, there may not be significant obstacles to using asset management data in a CRS program. However, if the flood plain administrator, or whomever is administering the community’s CRS program, is not closely tied to the department running the asset management program, this data integration may not come easily. It is critical that good interdepartmental coordination and relationships are fostered to effectively integrate a community’s asset management and CRS programs.

Once healthy interdepartmental coordination is achieved, the potential benefits are impressive. Asset management data not only bolsters Activity 540 (worth nearly 500 points alone), but also supports a number of other activities. It is conceivable that integrating asset management into a CRS program could move a community up one CRS Class, saving flood insurance policy holders in the 100-year floodplain an additional 5 percent on their flood insurance premiums.

Tak M. Makino, CFM, is a flood mitigation manager at Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, Inc. (LAN), a national planning, engineering and program management firm. Makino specializes in floodplain management, land use planning, spatial data analysis, data management and natural hazard mitigation.

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