Boston teams with climate tech company to map floods as they happen

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Dive Brief:

  • Boston will work with climate tech company FloodMapp to monitor flooding in real time in an effort to improve emergency preparation, response and recovery, Mayor Michelle Wu announced on April 12.
  • The low-lying coastal city faces climate change impacts like sea-level rise and more intense storms. City officials said in a news release that the new insights will support “targeted evacuation planning and risk mitigation, helping to protect lives and property.” 
  • The move comes as some local advocates and residents express heightening concern about flooding. Recent events have left basements underwater, lawn chairs floating along the waterfront and roads impassable.

Dive Insight:

FloodMapp was founded in Australia in 2018. Since then, the startup has grown to serve government agencies and critical infrastructure operators in Australia and the U.S. Last year, the company announced that the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency will use its products to inform the National Flood Insurance Program

FloodMapp describes its technology as built specifically for the purpose of emergency management. The company says that while most emergency managers rely on static flood studies primarily designed for planning and construction, its products rely on a model that uses machine learning to simulate all types of flooding, from coastal inundation to flash floods. The models draw on data such as forecasted and actual rainfall, real-time stream-level gauge information and terrain information. The company says on its website that its models correctly identify up to 85% of inundated properties compared to state government damage assessment data.

Boston says it will use three products from FloodMapp, each of which correlates with different stages of flooding: before, during and after.

The ForeCast product will allow Boston officials to view on a map the predicted extent and depth of a flood, helping emergency managers target alerts and evacuations toward certain areas. The tool will also inform proactive road closures and deployment of flood barriers and resources, the city said in a news release. FloodMapp says it can typically forecast flooding six to 24 hours in advance and up to seven days in some cases.

With the NowCast product, Boston will be able to view a dynamic live mapping feed that shows the current extent and depth of a flood. “This supports emergency response activities such as search and rescue and eliminates the need to deploy personnel to dangerous environments to confirm the flood extent,” the news release says. 

The PostCast product will map the maximum flood extent after the water begins to recede, helping the city to target disaster relief resources to the areas that need it most. PostCast will also support “rapid damage assessment, ultimately fast-tracking the recovery process,” the city’s release says.

Boston isn’t the only U.S. city using FloodMapp products. Norfolk, Virginia, started using the firm’s technology in 2022, and the navigation app Waze integrated the flood information into its platform to show drivers where roads in that area may be flooded. 

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