While maps can help community members visualize the potential impacts of flooding, Delaware local governments need to engage stakeholders in the process of evaluating flood risks and planning for resiliency. Transparent and effective community engagement fosters community awareness and educates citizens about floods and strategies that need to be undertaken to protect lives, property, and community infrastructure and assets. If a local government hires an outside consultant to assess risk and plan adaptation strategies, meaningful opportunities for public involvement need to be provided.
Jurisdictions should develop a comprehensive outreach strategy to increase stakeholder involvement and understanding of current and future flood risks. Early and continuous community engagement ensures that decisions reflect public needs and interests, consider diverse viewpoints and values, and are made in collaboration and consensus with all stakeholders. This process builds mutual understanding and trust between government entities and the people they serve. Successful public participation is a deliberate and continuous process. It consists of a series of activities and actions to inform, educate, and gain input from stakeholders on decisions that affect their lives.
Public outreach initiatives can be scaled to the size and capacity of each town. Ideally, a public engagement plan should be developed to establish goals and objectives for public involvement and identify the specific approaches and tools that will be used. If it is beyond the capacity of a small town to develop a formal plan, a combination of “high-touch” (personal interaction through meetings and workshops) and “high-tech” (use of social media, digital tools, and websites) tools can be used to engage citizens in vulnerability assessment or adaption plan efforts. Early public workshops can give community members an overview of all hazards mitigation and climate change adaptation planning processes. Stakeholders should be encouraged to provide insights into current vulnerabilities in their communities and to consider how future flooding scenarios could aggravate such risks. Vulnerable infrastructure and populations (e.g., older adults, persons with disabilities, no-car households) should be given special attention.
Public information campaigns can promote awareness of flood risks and actions that need to be undertaken by the community. Local government websites can provide links to educational resources, information on the benefits and risks of adaptation measures, awareness of combined risk factors, and changes occurring in the insurance industry that may impact coverage and cost. Website links can be provided to the Delaware Complete Communities Planning Toolbox, Delaware Coastal Programs adaptation materials, DNREC’s Climate Impact Assessment resources, Delaware Sea Grant publications, and National Flood Insurance Program resources.
Local governments can enhance awareness to interested property owners about potential flood risks and insurance requirements. Jurisdictions can require prospective property owners to view zoning and floodplain maps, prior to completing a real estate sales transaction, to understand the location and possible flood threats relative to the location of the property. For example, the City of Newark’s Zoning Code requires that all prospective property owners to meet with the Planning and Development Department staff, view maps, and sign a “Deed Transfer Affidavit.” This affidavit certifies that the purchaser was informed about zoning of the property being acquired, zoning of adjacent land, and, if applicable, the location of the 100-year floodplain in relationship to the property.