Silver Jackets team works with stakeholders to reduce natural hazards risks

Published June 2, 2020

by Vanessa Villarreal, USACE Chicago District, Public Affairs Office

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) participates in a program that provides a formal and unified approach to planning and implementing measures to reduce the risks associated with flooding and other natural hazards, and the team that’s leading the charge is called Silver Jackets.

This interagency flood risk management program consists of federal, state, tribal, and local agencies that work together to reduce the risk from flooding, and enhance response and recovery efforts from natural disasters. Each state has its own Silver Jackets team that is state-led and supported by USACE Silver Jackets coordinators.

The USACE Chicago District Silver Jackets coordinators are Imad Samara, project manager; Kristine Meyer, hydraulic engineer; and Kaitlyn McClain, planner.

Samara, team lead, has been participating in the Silver Jackets program since 2009. Meyer, the lead for Illinois, and McClain, the lead for Indiana, joined the program this year.

“As a team lead, I attend the Illinois Silver Jackets team’s quarterly meetings to give updates on all of the Chicago District’s activities,” Samara said. “In addition, I help coordinate yearly proposals for non-structural projects with other state and federal agencies that are part of the Silver Jackets team. I also represent the Chicago District in the annual Silver Jackets workshop.”

Team participation varies by state but typically includes state and federal members with roles related to emergency management, environmental protection, transportation, agriculture, and natural resources management. Other partners include tribes, universities, and non-governmental organizations.

“The goal of USACE participation in the state teams is to provide state and local stakeholders with ‘one door to the Corps,’” Meyer said. “USACE can provide technical and planning assistance through this program.”

Efforts include attending the quarterly or monthly state meetings, coordinating and supporting state officials on flood risk management activities, and responding to requests for assistance from communities. USACE can provide technical assistance with flood risk evaluation, flood warning/preparedness, inventory of flood-prone structures, and risk communication.

The Chicago District Silver Jackets team has completed a number of interagency projects in previous years through the USACE Floodplain Management Services program, most recently the Des Plaines River Flood Inundation Mapping Analysis Study.

“This study integrated first floor elevation data from the 2015 Upper Des Plaines and Tributaries Feasibility Study structure inventory, and the inundation mapping to develop products for use by emergency managers, floodplain administrators, and other federal, state, and local officials,” Samara said.

The products will have utility not only during a flood event, but also in preparing for floods through the identification of high-risk structures and populations that can be targeted for non-structural measures as part of local flood risk management planning. The products could also be used for developing estimates of economic damages resulting from a flood event, supporting flood response, and recovery efforts.

“As a result of our district boundary change, we are putting together a plan to connect with our new stakeholders in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin,” McClain said. “Aside from responding to requests and providing technical assistance, making connections with stakeholders will be our near-term focus.”