SACRAMENTO, Calif. –
Los Angeles District Commander Col. Kirk Gibbs joined water resource agencies, led by the California Department of Water Resources, at a Sept. 9 signing ceremony here during the Floodplain Management Association’s annual conference to formally establish California as the 40th state to form a Silver Jackets program.
“I’m proud to be here with (Deputy Public Works Director at County of Santa Barbara) Tom Fayram on behalf of the Southern California water resource agency directors,” Gibbs said. “I’m delighted to partner with the state and other agencies as we keep an eye toward managing flood risk in California.”
Under a nationwide initiative to bolster flood risk management partnership between federal, state and local agencies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created the Silver Jackets program in May 2006 as part of the National Flood Risk Management Plan. The California Silver Jackets’ vision is to reduce flood risk and improve public safety through increased communication, coordination, collaboration and cooperation.
Emergency response agencies typically wear jackets with an identifying color: FEMA wears blue, the Corps wears red. Silver Jackets identify a team of federal, state and local agencies responsible for hazard mitigation, emergency management, floodplain management, natural resources management or conservation. Federal participation typically includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and often others such as the National Weather Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Participating state agencies usually have missions in hazard mitigation, conservation, and floodplain, natural resources and emergency management. The idea is that one agency may not have all the answers or resources for managing flood risk, but multiple agencies can combine strengths and resources to identify a solution. The key to achieving sustainability and resiliency is helping at-risk communities understand their flood risk.
While led at the state level and empowered by federal partners, the program operates throughout the entire flood risk cycle (preparation/training, response, recovery, and mitigation). With this design, the program leverages resources from multiple agencies with a diverse set of capabilities and authorities. Thus, Silver Jackets acts as one team that can quickly and effectively channel solutions to communities in need.
Although approximately 1-in-5 Californians live within a 500-year floodplain, annual surveys conducted by FEMA since 2010 have consistently shown that only 30-40 percent of respondents are actually aware of the general population’s flood risk.
This is one of the reasons why the California Silver Jackets program is involved in a variety of interagency projects aimed to prepare and train communities ahead of flood events. Projects include assisting communities with nonstructural flood proofing assessments, inundation mapping, floodplain management plans and more.
Currently, 44 states and the District of Columbia have organized Silver Jackets programs with a guiding document outlining each team’s vision and mission statements. Member participation is voluntary and based on available authorities and resources.