Learn more about the workshops held by First Street Foundation's Research Lab.

The Research Lab workshops serve as an opportunity for Research Lab members to present their current research and gain feedback from other members of the Lab. First Street Foundation also uses this time to update members on updates to the data.

February 2022 Workshop 

This workshop was led by Ed Kearns, Chief Data Officer at First Street Foundation. Dr. Kearns presented data updates on Flood Factor Version 2.0 (with AK, HI, PR, and model updates), Future Perils (fire and heat).

Research Lab members Thomas Marlow (NYU), Scott Frickel (Brown University), and James Elliott (Rice University) presented their research titled, "Future Flooding Increases Unequal Exposure Risks to Relic Industrial Pollution." Their research seeks to answer the following questions:

  • Which neighborhoods are most at risk from both urban flooding and contamination by contemporary and former manufacturing sites? 
  • Who lives in these neighborhoods and how have they changed over time to create current configurations of social vulnerability and exposure to industrial site flood risk? 
  • Which policy interventions have been influential in shaping the intersection of industrial site flood risk and social vulnerability?


A link to this workshop can be found here. The First Street Foundation slides presented by Dr. Kearns are at this link. The Research Lab presenters' slides can be found here.

November 2021 Workshop

Mike Amodeo, Head of Data Science at First Street Foundation, presented on the following flood model data updates:

  1. Community Risk Scores
  2. Commercial AAL Product
  3. Flood Factor Version 2.0 (with AK, HI, PR, and model updates)

Research Lab member Joakim Weill of UC Davis presented his research titled, "How does information and price influence the demand for flood insurance?"

  • Research overview: Despite growing flood risk, the demand for flood insurance in the United States has remained extremely low, with less than a third of properties at high risk of flooding covered by flood insurance. On the other hand, previous work has shown that insurance take-up sharply increases following flooding events, suggesting that information about flood risk has the potential to promote insurance purchase. In this project, we estimate the impacts of FEMA’s FIRMs updates and flood events on the demand for flood insurance and highlight how these impacts vary by neighborhood. By comparing FEMA’s FIRMs to the First Street data, we further estimate how many properties would have been insured during recent flood events had the First Street Data been adopted as the reference. Finally, we quantify the distributional impacts of flood risk assessment and insurance pricing reforms.
  • You can find more information on his research focus here


A link to the workshop video, the presentation slides, and Joakim Weill's research can be found here:


June 2021 Workshop

In this workshop, First Street Foundation gives an update on the flood model schedule.

Research Lab members Adam Pollack, Ian Sue Wing, Kathleen Schaeffer, Nicholas Pinter, and Cristoph Nolte (Boston University) present their research titled "Can property level flood losses be reliably predicted." 

  • Research overview: Studies that estimate the economic impacts of flooding often rely on functions that characterize the relationship between inundation and damage for types of buildings. The United States Army Corps of Engineer depth damage functions are widely used in the US for estimating damages. They are considered state of the art and justify billions of dollars of spending on flood risk management but are rarely validated in empirical settings. Advances in flood hazard modeling, identification of historical flood conditions and data access for assets at risk have reduced the uncertainty surrounding key economic damage model components. Better economic loss models improve the capacity to mitigate flood risk and protect people, property, and infrastructure. This requires commensurate improvements in the model component that links hazard to damages which this study aims to achieve through the development of damage functions based on historic flood events and robust testing of damage functions and observed losses. After validation and uncertainty analyses, the research team plans to make the US flood events database and empirical damage functions available to researchers for their own studies. 


A link to the workshop video and the research presented by Adam Pollack, Ian Sue Wing, Kathleen Schaeffer, Nicholas Pinter, and Cristoph Nolte can be found here:


February 2021 Workshop

In this workshop, First Street Foundation updates members on their AAL data and methodology. A link to the February 2021 workshop video can be found here.

Research Lab members Jacob Bradt (Harvard), Carolyn Kousky (Wharton), Oliver Wing (University of Bristol) present their research titled "Voluntary Purchases and Selection in the Market for Flood Insurance." 

    • Research Overview: Flood-related events are the most damaging natural hazard in the United States, yet many households at risk do not have flood insurance. Using detailed policy- and claims-level data from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), we conduct a holistic analysis of the market for publicly provided flood insurance in the U.S., focusing on not only high-risk areas subject to an incomplete mandate requiring the purchase of insurance, but also lower risk areas where no such mandate exists. We are able to better understand determinants of demand for insurance in a setting with voluntary purchase and low take-up and therefore provide a more complete analysis of the market for flood insurance in the U.S. than previous work. In addition to exploring correlates of demand for flood insurance, this paper provides quasi-experimental estimates of households’ willingness-to-pay for flood insurance and finds strong evidence to suggest the NFIP failing to utilize full information on flood risk leads to adverse selection in the program.



November 2020 Workshop

In this workshop, First Street Foundation's Mike Amodeo gives updates on First Street's flood model and schedule. A link to the workshop video can be found here.

Research Lab members Yanjun Liao and Philip Mulder (Wharton) present their research titled "What’s at Stake? Understanding the Role of Home Equity in Flood Insurance Demand." 

  • Research Overview: Millions of properties are exposed to increasing threats from natural disasters. Yet, many at-risk homes are uninsured against the costliest disaster: flooding. We show that low home equity is an important driver of low flood insurance take-up. To isolate the causal effect of home equity on flood insurance demand, we exploit price changes over the housing boom and bust. Insurance take-up follows house price dynamics closely, with a home price elasticity around 0.3. Multiple mechanism tests suggest that mortgage default acts as implicit disaster insurance. As a result, households do not fully internalize their disaster risk.
  • Read the full published research here.

Research Lab member Scott Curtis (ECU) presents his research titled "Flood threats in rural environments: A case study in eastern North Carolina." 

  • Research Overview: ECU researchers are using First Street’s flood risk data products in conjunction with their NOAA COCA/SARP project “Preparing for, Responding to and Mitigating Compound Coastal Water Hazards for Resilient Rural Communities” to reduce flood risk uncertainty in eastern North Carolina. The research team will first validate First Street’s historic flood data for Hurricane Matthew with their collection of rain, river, and tide gauges and high-water marks, to better understand the evolution of flooding during this hurricane and pinpoint locations that experienced compound flooding.  For these locations and properties they will compare First Street’s probability products with their individual and compounded flood risk metrics.  Next, they will query First Street’s adaptation database to assess whether post-Matthew measures were appropriate to the flooding experienced (tidal, fluvial or pluvial).  They will then repeat the methodology for Hurricane Florence, with the additional questions: Were the locations of compound flooding the same?  Did adaptation measures after Matthew help reduce harm and economic loss from Florence? Finally, the team will compare flood perceptions and mitigation strategies reported during their February 26, 2020 focus group of 41 emergency managers, planners, and elected officials with spatial and temporal statistics of the adaptation projects contained in the First Street data.  They will focus on the counties of Pitt, Beaufort, and Hyde which were covered under FEMA’s Disaster Declarations for both Matthew and Florence; well represented in the focus group; and are susceptible to pluvial, fluvial, and tidal flooding.

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