CNT and the Army Corps Collaborate on High-Tech Flooding Alert System

What if you could predict where flooding would happen next in your community or get a text alert when basements in your neighborhood are flooding? Often, when flooding occurs, there’s little warning beyond weather forecasts about the presence of flash flooding. 

The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and the Army Corps of Engineers are working together on a new initiative called RainReadySM Alert, a predictive flood monitoring and alert system based on aggregated data from sump pumps, soil moisture monitors, creek rain gauges, and other sensors in homes and the public rights-of-way. The data will be mapped onto a web-based platform and integrated with data on precipitation, weather and other factors to show real-time risks and generate alerts for homeowners and subscribers. Our collaboration with the Army Corps is being funded through a national award from the2015 Interagency Nonstructural Flood Risk Management Program.  It is the second time that the Chicago District office has received the award to collaborate with CNT.

Our aim is to develop a platform that will provide homeowners and businesses with:

  • Mobile text alerts that alert them when a flooding event is imminent
  • Event time predictability to let them know when a flood will likely occur in their neighborhood
  • The ability to send notifications to municipalities and public works about flooding
  • Real-time visualization of current flooding conditions via an online and app-based map
  • Online guidance to help them reduce future flood risks

It’s not just for homeowners, though. RainReady Alert can also be a useful tool for local governments and public agencies to help improve emergency responses and better target flood mitigation efforts.            

In Illinois, urban flooding has resulted in over $2 billion in damage since 2007. On the heels of a CNT study of flooding in Cook County, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources found that 92 percent of the county's flooding occurs outside the floodplains, dispelling the myth that flooding is primarily the result of rivers and streams overflowing their banks. 

Recognizing the need for programs to help cities address flooding problems, CNT established a partnership with the Chicago District’s Army Corps of Engineers in 2014 to help communities get RainReady. RainReady Alert is a component of CNT’s RainReady program, which offers a comprehensive and integrated approach to flood resiliency that combines strategies for upgrading individual properties with those in the public rights-of-way. RainReady is gradually expanding in Cook County and beyond, and has been generously funded by the City of Chicago, the Surdna Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, Grand Victoria Foundation, the Prince Charitable Trusts, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and The Boeing Company.

CNT’s RainReady staff will coordinate the yearlong project. Researchers at Intel have been providing pro-bono advice and field research, while Schneider Electric has offered project management support. The RainReady Alert team plans to also draw on the expertise of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation DistrictChicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Federal Emergency Management AgencyNational Weather Service, and United States Geological Survey.

Ever more destructive storms are pummeling U.S. cities at an alarming rate, causing massive amounts of property damage to homes and businesses, eroding land and streams, and threatening the quality of our drinking water. While we can’t control the weather, RainReady Alert will help people prepare and lessen the damage of the coming storms.  

Share this page