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A High-Performance Approach to Flood Management and FEMA Reimbursement

Home to 183,000 residents, Bay County is situated on the northwest coast of the Sunshine state. Flooding is a big expenditure for the county, and like many coastal areas, the risk is only getting bigger. Learn how they're implementing more effective asset management practices, realizing efficiencies, and recovering millions in FEMA reimbursements.

Challenge

In addition to routine infrastructure maintenance, Bay County Public Works was often on the move repairing flood damage from severe weather events. But with simplistic record-keeping tools, the team didn’t have clear insight on how they were spending their time or what condition their assets were in.

“We were relying on paper and maps and a lot of memories,” says Public Works Director Keith Bryant.

The problem became especially clear when assessing the damage and repair costs after a natural disaster. Crews would repair a range of damaged assets from asphalt to signs. And the department would spend weeks working to compile that information into accurate reports for FEMA—often feeling they were leaving money on the table.

The department counted on recall from employees who had been with the department for 30+ years, but as those employees retired, so did their knowledge. “When you lose those employees, you lose that information. So, we needed a way to record this data.”

“If you don’t know where that asset is at, what you’ve been doing with it, and how you repaired it after an event, you’re not going to get reimbursed by FEMA,” says Bryant.

Solution

Using Cartegraph’s mobile field app, Bay County set out to document each asset into one centralized, real-time database. The team collected thousands of assets, generating an overall condition index (OCI) for each sign, road, signal, and more. The OCI data points helped the team generate automatic work orders, so they could do repairs more proactively—and say goodbye to stacks of slow-moving paperwork.

Since the asset management data could be easily integrated with Esri ArcGIS, the county could see conditions and locations for each asset mapped out in real time.

"One of the phenomenal things about Cartegraph is its seamless integration with ArcGIS,” says GIS Division Manager Jennifer Morgan. “That was just such a key component to us, because previously with a lot of the systems we were using with paper, there was no sync to GIS. The sync between Cartegraph and Esri is so helpful because the end user is looking at the same data."

Through the software integration, Morgan's team could now recognize spatial patterns related to asset management: flooding issues caused by particular broken pipes, potholes showing up on deteriorated roadways, and more. This helped managers identify issues in minutes that before could take years to notice. And, by giving that data to engineers quickly, public works could be more effective with planning and upkeep.

Results

Since implementing Cartegraph OMS and Esri ArcGIS into its asset management strategy, Bay County has become more efficient and proactive. The department now has the data to prove budgetary needs.

There is also accountability for citizens—the county has records of repairs to show, with cost data and a time line of the work done. And, through better prioritization, the county can move faster on maintaining safe road conditions.

"An advantage to Cartegraph is as we're out there doing work, we know exactly what that work is going to cost us,” says Bryant. “I can walk down the hall and tell my boss, 'This is what it's costing us every day to fix these potholes, versus what this is going to cost us to resurface the roadway.' That's a tremendous tool to have."

"What would have taken weeks to compile in the old system can just take days now," says Roads and Bridges Technician Ginger Veal. "It's made my job a lot easier, and I think that the citizens of the county are enjoying the benefits of it too."

In terms of flooding prevention and repairs, Bay County has been hit with two different disasters since implementing Cartegraph. Fortunately, the county was able to secure millions by tracking its expenditures down to the penny, says Bryant.

“When we have these major flood events, we’re able to go and show FEMA exactly what we did: we had this many people, responded with this equipment, it took us this long, and this is what it cost us. And, we can just hit ‘print’ and give the data to FEMA. It's that easy. That's millions of dollars back to the county, and we couldn't do that without Cartegraph."

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