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This project was undertaken working with AB Risk Corporation and National Flood Insurance, an American partnership who deal with nationwide flood risk and insurance.
Floods are a growing issue in the USA with rising risk in both coastal and inland areas. Flooding remained the greatest underinsured risk in the country. For example, in the case of Hurricane Harvey, which flooded hundreds of thousands of homes, the majority of victims had been told they lived in low flood risk areas, due to the government’s flood maps, provided by FEMA, being reliant on heavily outdated information.
The partnership challenged Shoothill to develop a solution to raise awareness, manipulating current up-to-date data to provide a realistic and easily interpreted overview of a user’s risk. Our customers were open to our own innovation regarding this project, keen to provide their audience with a system which met the modern consumer’s digital expectations whilst also spreading the word on flood risk and providing access to support.
Fuelled by ideas from our design and planning team, Shoothill created My Flood Risk, a free and interactive web portal available to public users. The portal was designed with a high-quality UX (user experience) in mind, whilst manipulating data using cutting edge techniques to offer a comprehensive analysis of location specific flooding risk. Through this software we had provided a tool to raise awareness amongst at risk property owners of their vulnerability to damages.
My Flood Risk locates the user’s property on an integrated map and generates a standardised Flood Risk Score as an overview statistic. This score is calculated using industry tried and tested methodology translated to a mathematical algorithm, which draws upon data from a number of sources as input for the computation. Ensuring that our data manipulation was up to date was a vital component of this solution, and so we curated a wide array of varied and highly complex data sets, and then processed them using the most effective methods to guarantee current and accurate outputs.
As previously stated, the preceding go-to for flood risk information was the government flood maps provided by the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA). The issue was that these maps were outdated, reliant on many obsolete methods and data sets, and failed to take into consideration many recently prevalent factors. In a changing climate, flood risk changes too, with increased snowmelt, heavier rainfall, higher storm surges and altered weather trends. Accommodating for these modern contributors in our data sourcing, analysis and interpretation resulted in system far more precise and up to date than its precursor.
As Microsoft silver partners we have access to a range of MS developer tools. Our programming team used an SQL server as a data source through API integrations, uploading directly to our database. Data storage is handled through cloud computing using the Azure hosting platform. Shoothill have amassed a large portfolio of original tools, routines and functions available through Azure which we can implement for fast development of software solutions such as My Flood Risk. Through expert application of C# and .Net Core we developed MFR into a fluid and efficient back end data manipulation tool, with a sleek front-end system coded in React alongside MobX.
The result is a web hosted portal with a variety of features. Primary amongst these is the wizard tool which breaks down for the user the relevant factors to our flood risk score. Having determined the user’s location in the USA the system provides them with their FEMA flood risk band but reiterates that this scale cannot be trusted as it is an outdate standard. This point is illustrated by visualising local flood levels against their property’s elevation, and flood history by state and county. Animated diagrams display the data in terms the average person can quickly interpret, with further written detail adjacent.
We also track meteorological history as an indicator of potential flood risk and offer users a timeline to demonstrate the proximity of Hurricane’s to their property. Hurricanes are a leading cause of flood in America, with both high rainfall and storm surge rising water levels and causing damages. For example, Hurricane Harvey flooded hundreds of thousands of homes when it made landfall in 2017, yet the majority of victims had been informed they lived in low flood risk areas. Tracking and displaying hurricane activity is a necessary step in determining true flood risk.
Before summarising the user’s flood risk with their score, calculated from these data sets, the system also translates the risk to the financial repercussions, with totals given for previous insurance claims and assistance pay outs in the local area, as indicators of the monetary loss they stand to experience. For further feedback relating to the economic impact of flooding, an additional feature available on the site is an interactive cost of flooding tool, where the user can operate sliders to their property’s specification and gauge the potential damages.
With resources available through the platform, including links to flooding insurers, support for flood preparation, and various relevant curated articles, My Flood Risk spreads awareness, whilst both encouraging and empowering disaster management.
With development complete and the portal launched, My Flood Risk exceeded our customer’s expectations. AB Risk Corporation were thrilled with the end result. The software perfectly achieved the project’s aim, with extra flair from the addition or our feature suggestions. Within the first few months, thousands of users accessed My Flood Risk to assess their properties.
My Flood Risk is revolutionary in the field, filling a gaping hole in public information services. With countless examples of dire flooding across the USA, such as the nominal “Great Flood of 2019” in which record smashing river levels across the Midwest affected almost fourteen million people, the impracticality of FEMAs pre-existing flood maps could cause property owners serious issues. Now, My Flood Risk provides previously inaccessible accuracy of flood data in a comprehendible form, readily available for consumption by the general public.
The software’s game changing nature let to it catching the attention of a number of prominent American flood insurers, who rapidly recognised the benefits it posed to their customers, both commercial and private, and, indeed, the country at large.
At Shoothill we’re aware of the serious ramifications and hazards of flooding, and we were ecstatic to have worked on and contributed our skills and ideas to this project, which provides an essential resource to many who were unaware of the dangers posed to them. Producing such a progressive solution was our privilege, and we expect the positive impact will only proliferate as awareness is further raised and the user base grows.
“The final product is superior to anything we’d imagined” AB Risk Corporation offered in review, “Shoothill is highly responsive and fastidious, even with the smallest of details. They didn’t just follow our specs – they helped us to modify and improve them for maximum quality and functionality.”
Shoothill were glad to rise to this challenging project, putting into action and applying our skills in data manipulation, design and our previous experience building award winning flood tools, enabling the production of a digital platform which can genuinely make a difference in people’s lives. We expect to work further with AB Flood Risk and Nation Flood Insurance to continue applying innovation to the world of flood risk awareness and look forward to future opportunities both with this particular partnership and on other similarly challenging projects.