What is Risk MAP?

We work in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to run the Risk Mapping, Assessment, and Planning (Risk MAP) program in Washington. This program delivers high-quality data, risk assessment tools, and mitigation expertise to communities, tribal and local governments, and state agencies to reduce the risks from natural hazards such as floods, earthquakes, wildfires, and landslides.

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What is Risk MAP?

Washington faces unique challenges in and around our floodplains. We assist FEMA in implementing the Risk MAP program to reduce flood hazards and mitigate natural hazards in our communities.

Risk MAP uses state-of-the-art spatial analysis and delivers high-resolution mapping products aimed at increasing resiliency to flooding and other natural hazards. Since 2002, we have contributed a dedicated team of mapping, analysis, and mitigation experts to advance the agency’s flood risk reduction programs and policies.

By delivering quality data that increases awareness, Risk MAP helps our communities take action to reduce risk to life and property.

Risk MAP life-cycle

Risk MAP combines flood hazard mapping, risk assessment tools, and mitigation planning into one seamless program designed to build partnerships to protect against flood damage. Risk MAP coordinates the innovative uses of flood hazard and risk assessment data to ensure the greatest possible reduction in flood losses.

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Phases of a Risk MAP

There are three Risk MAP process phases: Discovery, mapping, and resilience.

Discovery phase

During the first phase, we meet with local governments to assess their needs and scope the project. We review risks and learn how we can tailor the program to best help you.


FEMA delivers flood maps to each community in draft, preliminary, and final phases. Local and tribal governments use these Flood Insurance Rate maps to administer the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA also delivers them in a digital format called the Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map.

During each mapping phase, we meet with communities to ensure the final map meets their needs. The maps are in GIS format, compatible with most GIS and online applications, and are the foundation for each Risk MAP product including:

  • Draft Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps which are presented to community officials in a flood risk review meeting before the start of an appeal period. This version enables communities to see map revisions ahead of schedule.
  • Preliminary Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps that are provided to the public to allow the community to see updated flood hazard areas. Preliminary data cannot be used to rate flood insurance policies or enforce the federal mandatory purchase requirement.
  • Effective Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps, the final official map showing Special Flood Hazard Areas and risk zones. Risk zones provide a basis for establishing flood insurance coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program.


The final leg of the Risk MAP process includes an introductory webinar for elected officials and community meetings facilitated by Ecology. These meetings help the community understand hazard risks and their flood map changes. Discussion topics include:

  • What actions do you currently take to reduce risk?
  • What plans do you have in place?
  • What additional actions can you take?

At each meeting, FEMA introduces the Risk MAP program while we share technical assistance and online resources to support local and tribal governments. Other agencies also have a role including the Washington Department of Natural Resources and Washington Military Department's Emergency Management Division. In coastal communities, we engage our Coastal Hazards Resilience Network staff to assist with planning and mitigation.

These meetings also include time for state and federal experts to review mitigation actions already in place, identify other potential mitigation actions, and explore grant options that could advance these actions. 

Washington's Risk MAP vision

The vision for the Risk MAP program is to deliver quality data that increases public awareness and leads to action that reduces risk to life and property. Through more precise flood mapping products, risk assessment tools, and planning and outreach support, Risk MAP strengthens local ability to make better decisions to reduce risk.

Communities can use Risk MAP data and tools to create or improve mitigation actions and disaster recovery plans, make informed decisions about land use and building codes, and communicate flood and other risks to their citizens more effectively.


We are currently focusing on Washington’s coastal flood hazard areas. We’re revising all of our coastal floodplains, including Puget Sound.

Coastal flood hazard mapping

Through Flood Map Modernization, we are working with FEMA to update the methodology for finding and mapping flood hazards along our Pacific Ocean coast. FEMA is using new methods to study the entire populated coastline in detail, including mapping new topography and base flood elevations.

Climate change and flood hazards

FEMA has initiated a national study examining the potential impact of climate change on identifying flood hazards. Study results may drive additional changes to the program.