2018 Champion City

Charleston, SC : 2018 Champion City

Tailored Alerts on Tidal Flooding

  • 134,385

  • John Tecklenburg

  • Mayor-Council Government

    Type of Government
  • 4 years

    Length of Term
  • Climate

    Issue Area

The Problem

Sunny-day tidal flooding in Charleston is predicted to occur up to 180 days a year by 2040 and 75 percent of residents live in a designated flood zone, making it essential that the city learn to adapt to and coexist with water.

The Idea

The City of Charleston will develop a first-ever emergency alert system to prepare residents, businesses, and first responders with specifically tailored information about increasingly routine coastal floods.

What John Tecklenburg, Mayor of Charleston, SC is saying:

The concept of a flood-notification system fits squarely within our ongoing flooding and drainage improvement efforts—and could be an invaluable tool for communicating risk with our citizens moving forward.


Our Prototyping Journey

    Let's Go

  • How we are testing our idea

    Charleston is testing the information and interface that residents will use by creating a clickable “app” that simulates their alert system, engaging residents along the way through user group events and surveys.

  • Ideas into action

  • What we’re discovering through testing

    The Charleston team has learned the value of immersing residents in the appropriate frame of mind in order to gain richer insights. Since testing is taking place during the City’s dry season, the team has found it difficult to engage residents to test the flood alert system. To counter this, they have been asking residents to recount their most recent flood situations to ground them in the problem and get them in the right mindset for the rest of the interview.

    The team needed to gather real-life insights on how residents might use the tool in flood conditions. They created a 10-day simulation test where residents received an email once a day with a mocked-up graphical interface communicating flood risks, weather warnings and high tides. Some citizens actually used the simulation to make changes in their daily routine - an Uber driver was able to re-plan her routes to avoid flooded areas.

  • Reflections

  • What we've learned

    In tests, Charleston found that residents highly valued educational information as an accompaniment to real-time flood updates. The FloodCon app design evolved to include weather-based education, which can further supports people to build adaptation into their daily routines by raising awareness of key weather moments such as effect of a new moon on a king tide. An additional benefit to this will be cost savings for the city.

    Anything we can do to stop people going where they should not go - saves person power and lost business time.

    Mark Wilbert, Chief Resilience Officer