When it comes to potential for natural disaster, and flooding, in particular, Baldwin County, Alabama is a perfect storm: in addition to its lengthy coastline along the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay, it has numerous rivers, wetlands, and marshes; receives an average of 66 inches of rainfall per year; and is located smack-dab in a hurricane zone. It is also an area of rapid growth, attracting new residents who are not necessarily familiar with flood risks, so REALTORS® are on the front lines of promoting emergency readiness and preservation of property value. This past August, a Rural Outreach Grant from the REALTOR® Party supported Baldwin REALTORS®’ ‘Flood Week,’ raising awareness among members, local officials, and the public, alike.
Jennifer Foutch, Government Affairs Director of the nearly 3,000-member association, explains the ambitious nature of week-long event: “Our goal was to reach as much of the community as possible with important information. It came off surprisingly well, considering all the moving parts we had!” Organization was key, she notes, and the user-friendly grant application helped build a strong framework when the association was planning the complex program. “It forced us to address up-front what our goals and outcomes should be, and, of course, the budget.”
Throughout the week, Baldwin REALTORS® engaged its membership and the public with fun facts on social media and giveaways of portable fans and generators. The in-person training and working lunches took place in a large ballroom within the REALTORS®’ facility, with socially distanced tables and some presenters appearing virtually, on a large screen.
A virtual townhall-webinar with NFIP and FEMA gave members the opportunity to hear directly from national experts on flood issues. Nearly fifty REALTOR® members took a three-hour flood training course offered for CE credit. A session on reading FEMA flood maps attracted members of local municipal and county planning departments, who were able to apply the training toward American Institute of Certified Planners credit. One working lunch featured an expert presentation on the benefits of increased design and building standards. Another was a panel presentation on lessons learned from Hurricane Sally, which struck the county in 2020. “This was a great discussion of disaster preparedness, with tips for insurance claims and resilience presented by our local ‘celebrity’ meteorologist, an insurance expert who co-sponsored Flood Week, and Baldwin County’s Emergency Management Director,” notes Foutch. A short video presentation shared personal stories of loss and recovery from Hurricane Sally, highlighting how Baldwin REALTORS® used funds from the REALTOR® Relief Foundation to help the community in the aftermath of the devastating storm.
REALTORS® are uniquely positioned to help property owners prepare for flooding, says Foutch. In addition to the training they received, she adds, the Flood Week program helped to strengthen Baldwin REALTORS®’ relationships with municipal and county governments and demonstrated to the public that the association is pro-active in training its members and giving them access to experts in flood issues. “We are so appreciative that NAR provides these great opportunities that help our members better serve their clients and communities and help us to share valuable training with local government. These resources really do help us all!”
To learn more about how Baldwin REALTORS® is taking the lead in preparing flood-vulnerable communities for natural disasters, contact Government Affairs Director Jennifer Foutch at email@example.com or 251.270.2724.