- By Marcella Bondie Keenan, Center for Neighborhood Technology
- August 10, 2017
The Center for Neighborhood Technology, a Chicago-based non-profit that promotes more livable and sustainable urban communities, is an active member of the Calumet Stormwater Collaborative. The Calumet Stormwater Collaborative (CSC) builds intergovernmental and cross-sector partnerships to increase the effectiveness of stormwater management initiatives for the communities and ecosystems of the Calumet region through knowledge sharing, coordination and deployment of interventions at appropriate scales. Facilitated by MPC, the CSC aims to foster awareness of the many ongoing stormwater management initiatives in the region, forge a shared understanding of terms, establish common goals and identify opportunities to align existing initiatives (or develop new ones) toward those goals.
The purpose of the CSC is to help further support and leverage the projects and activities of the many agencies working in the Calumet region, like the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), for maximum beneficial impact. CNT released a new tool developed to help homeowners assess and control flooding on their properties. After completing a survey, homeowners receive customized recommendations on key improvements. Following is a blog post by Marcella Bondie Keenan from CNT that highlights this free online tool.
CNT’s RainReady Home program works one-on-one with homeowners to help them reduce their risk of flooding, providing home assessments and construction management services. Currently, RainReady is partnering with North West Housing Partnership and Neighborhood Housing Services on the federally funded Cook County Residential Resilience Program, which provides flood mitigation grants to qualified homeowners.
But RainReady is often contacted by homeowners who are seeking guidance on how to deal with their flooding issues but aren’t eligible for a grant program. To help these homeowners, CNT created My RainReady, a self-diagnostic flood assessment tool. My RainReady walks homeowners through the basic steps of a RainReady home assessment, asking questions about:
- Neighborhood conditions
- Building conditions
- Flooding history
The questions are designed to identify common risk factors that can cause a home to experience flooding, including riverine flooding, sewage backup, overland flow and foundation seepage. Once the homeowners complete the 19-question survey, they receive a customized report recommending strategies for reducing their likelihood of flooding in the future. Here are the basic steps of the tool.
- Neighborhood Conditions
My RainReady asks about local street flooding, the sewer system and depressional areas (or low spots). For properties located in Cook County, My RainReady adds information about whether the home is located in a FEMA floodplain. Homeowners who aren’t located in Cook County are able to enter the floodplain information themselves and refer to instructions for how to identify their flood zone.
For homes located in the Calumet Corridor (Blue Island, Calumet City, Calumet Park, Dolton, Riverdale and Robbins), My RainReady adds a Neighborhood Flood Risk Score calculated by CNT. While FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps model riverine and coastal flooding, CNT’s Neighborhood Flood Risk Score incorporates data from community members to track “urban flooding.” Urban flooding, which happens when the local sewer system is overwhelmed by stormwater, can create sewage backup and overland flow into homes. Note: My RainReady is intended to help homeowners with urban flooding issues.
- Building Conditions
My RainReady guides the user through a series of questions about the building and yard. RainReady Home has found that some home flooding issues, especially foundation seepage, are due to site-specific building conditions that aren’t due to broader community characteristics. For example, a connected downspout might be damaged below ground, and leaking against the basement wall. Or the yard might be graded poorly, so that water is pooling against the building instead of sinking into the ground. For each question, there are example photos and technical definitions, to help the homeowner understand the question and correctly assess their home.
- Flooding History
My RainReady asks the user to describe the type of flooding that has occurred at his/her home. In a CNT survey of Cook County residents, seventy percent of the respondents estimated that they had flooded three or more times in the last five years. By understanding the type of flooding that has happened in the past, homeowners are better prepared to prevent the type of flooding they are likely to experience in the future.
My RainReady Report
Once the homeowner completes the survey, My RainReady creates a customized assessment and recommendation report. For each flood risk factor identified, My RainReady suggests one or more strategies that may help reduce the risk of flooding. The report is meant to help homeowners have a more informed conversation with licensed contractors, insurers and local officials, as they choose the best options for their home.
The report may suggest nature-based, conventional construction or maintenance actions such as smart landscaping solutions, overhead sewers, cleaning gutters and purchasing flood insurance. Together, recommendations can provide multiple benefits which may include:
- Lowering the out-of-pocket cost of repairing flood damage
- Improving the value of the home with effective landscaping and building upgrades
- Reducing stress on the sewer system, making it less likely that the neighborhood will flood
- And most importantly, reducing stress on families, so they can worry less about flooding
RainReady was created to help communities find solutions to urban flooding. Drawing on CNT’s long history of grassroots work combined with technical innovation, My RainReady helps homeowners take action at their own homes.
Marcella Bondie Keenan is the Director of RainReady Home at the Center for Neighborhood Technology. RainReady Home partners with local governments to help residents reduce their risk of urban flooding. Ms. Bondie Keenan is a LEED AP, and holds a Masters of Urban Planning and Policy from University of Illinois at Chicago, and a Bachelors of Biology. Marcella is passionate about using green infrastructure and environmental policy to create healthier, more just communities.