Tools for Coastal Adaptation & Resiliency

The tools found below can serve multiple purposes from getting the conversation about adaptation and resilience started (e.g., mapping coastal flood exposure) or determining your needs and capacity (e.g., conducting self-assessments) to enhancing data analysis (e.g., identifying areas for open space preservation credits). 

Tools serve to help put questions into context and guide decision-making. If you don't find what you're looking for below, there may be additional guidance under the Planning and Policy section.

Tool Categories

Tab/Accordion Items

Understanding your community's vulnerability to and risk tolerance for various hazards is crucial to taking actions to build resilience. While most communities have a baseline risk assessment as part of their local or regional hazard mitigation plan, the following tools below can be used to append existing data sets and engage the public. 

Stormwater Management
  • NOAA Adapting Stormwater Management for Coastal Floods: easily develop a Stormwater Report online through the four-step process where your community defines a ‘critical flood threshold’ (in feet and inches) that affects infrastructure/environment, a tolerance (number of days per year of flooding) and produces calculations for various sea level rise scenarios as well as their influence on the return periods of high tide, 1% annual flood, etc.
Visualizing Social Vulnerability & Environmental Justice Indicators
  • The Centers for Disease Control has developed the Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) Map to show how various measures such as socioeconomic status, household composition and disability, and minority status and language vary across U.S. census tracts. Note: this is an exploratory and reference tool. For more about social vulnerability and ways to measure it, jump to the Data to Support Coastal Adaptation and Resilience page.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Environmental Justice (EJ) SCREEN: this reference tool helps communities screen and map various demographics (e.g., minority and low-income populations) and environmental hazards (e.g., toxic waste, water or air) to identify areas that may require further investigation or attention. Coastal communities looking to build resilience must also consider the overlapping goals and interests of environmental justice.
Coastal Flooding


To see differences in capabilities and methods used across the coastal flooding tools listed below view the comparison matrix:

  • NOAA's Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper helps communities visualize people, places, and natural resources exposure to coastal flood hazards including, storm surge and sea level rise.
    • NOAA's Sea Level Rise Viewer provides more details for various scenarios in relation to a social vulnerability index, potential marsh migration, and more.
  • The Nature Conservancy's Coastal Resilience Portal shows potential areas for various levels of flooding and sea level rise, Community Rating System Activity 420 (Open Space Preservation) credits, regional and community-level planning, and social vulnerability.
  • Climate Central's Surging Seas Risk Zone Map illustrates what people, infrastructure, and property are at risk for varying water levels and climate scenarios.

Self-Guided Training and Walkthrough:

  • NOAA's Coastal Inundation Toolkit provides a step by step guide for using various tools to assess and address coastal flooding hazards.
Other Hazards:
  • UNC Convergence's Hazardous Extreme Risk Assessment (HERA) Tool provides statistical information about the probability of events such as wildfires, drought, non-tropical cyclones, and more.
  • The Carolinas Precipitation Patterns and Probabilities or Cp3 provides data and quick maps about hydroclimatic extremes (e.g., rainfall, drought, crop yields).
  • Primarily used in developing local or regional hazard mitigation plans, FEMA's Hazus Software analysis results can also inform adaptation planning as it helps to estimate potential losses from earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis and visualizing their effects.

    Assessments and Processes to Guide Work

    Whether your community is just getting started in adaptation planning efforts or is looking to enhance them, the following tools can help facilitate conversation and guide decision-making:

    Name and Developer Description Level of Effort/Capacity Needed Locations Used

    Resilience Evaluation and Needs Assessment (RENA)

    NC Division of Coastal Management 

    RENA is a two-phase process involving a Resilience Evaluation (community asset mapping, issue identification, public engagement) and Needs Assessment (vulnerability hotspot identification, asset prioritization, existing and future project exploration) that serves as a starting point for further resilience work.


    Staff questionnaire, meeting  2-4 hr public workshop, pre- and post-workshop synthesis

    Towns of Edenton, Oriental, Pine Knoll Shores, Duck, and Hatteras Village

    Coastal Resilience Index Self Assessment

    NOAA and Mississippi/Alabama Sea Grant

    The Coastal Resilience Index (CRI) is a self-assessment tool that provides local planners a simple diagnostic of their community’s adaptability in the face of coastal hazards with the generation of a Resilience Index and six sub-scores for critical service areas.


    A day or two of focus groups

    50+ communities in five Gulf of Mexico states

    Getting to Resilience: 5 Checklists for Municipalities

    New Jersey Office of Coastal Management

    This yes/no questionnaire contains five checklists to start a dialogue and assist local decisionmakers in the identification of planning, mitigation, and adaptation opportunities to reduce vulnerability to coastal storms and sea level rise. It highlights local plan integration and consistency with municipal building codes and ordinances. 


    A day or two of focus groups; facilitator recommended

    7 + Communities in NJ

    Vulnerability, Consequences, Adaptations Planning and Scenarios (VCAPS)

    Social and Environmental Research Institute & Carolina Integrated Sciences and Assessments

    VCAPS is a facilitated conversation that produces scenarios, represented by diagrams, linking climate and weather changes to local consequences. The scenarios and diagrams represent the community's suggested opportunities for both public and private adaptation actions. Often facilitated by experts from NC and SC Sea Grant.


    Varies: a day or two of focus groups or more; third-party facilitator recommended

    Town of Nags Head, Town Plymouth, Town of Swansboro, and 13 others

    Plan Integration for Resilience Scorecard Guidebook

    Texas A & M University and U.S. DHS Coastal Resilience Center

    A process to spatially evaluate the level of integration for a network of plans using GIS to reduce hazard vulnerability. It aims to identify discrepancies between plans, better integrate them to build resilience, and provide a tool to address on-the-ground needs and build capacity. 


    community-wide policy evaluation, GIS mapping and analysis. +/- 4 hr. per plan plus 32-36 hrs of staff time.

    Washington, NC; Norfolk, VA; San Luis Obispo, CA; Fort Lauderdale, FL; League City, TX; Boston, MA; Tampa, FL; Asbury, NJ

    Coastal Hazards and Climate Change Asset Vulnerability Assessment Protocol

    Western Carolina University Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines & National Park Service

    This protocol establishes a standard methodology and set of best practices for conducting vulnerability assessments in the built environment.


    Requires obtaining services of WCU to implement.

    Duck, NC; 15+ National Parks, 

    For information about other similar tools, view NOAA's Coastal Community Resilience Indicators and Rating Systems overview. 

    Getting Community Buy-in and Sustaining Support

    The most successful planning processes or initiatives are inclusive, sustained and broadly supported by stakeholder groups. Building a community's own capacity by empowering all who are involved is key to realizing beneficial adaptation and increased overall resilience.

    A Community Tool Box developed by Center for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas offers a comprehensive look at how to foster successful community engagement and planning that can support adaptation and resilience planning efforts.

    For more information, explore:

    Data to make the case:

    • NOAA Coastal Fast Facts: View relevant national statistics and infographics for use in presentations or discussion to help make the case for investing in coastal resilience.

    Effective management of the ocean and estuarine shoreline requires actions at multiple scaled from the individual property owner all the way up to multi-jurisdictional (e.g., across local or state boundaries) regional planning. Learn about the basics of potential shoreline management strategies, explore relevant environmental and regulatory data points, and find out how nature-based strategies can contribute to coastal resilience.


    Interactive Mapping:

    Identifying Nature-based Solutions:

    • Naturally Resilient Communities: filter and explore potential solutions by type of threat faced (e.g., coastal erosion, tidal flooding, etc.) that may apply in the Southeast U.S. 

    There are hundreds of tools out there, each with a different purpose and serving different needs. Finding the right tool to meet your objective can be critical to successful planning and implementation.

    • NOAA's Digital Coast collection of tools provide data visualization, localized reports, and more detailed analysis of coastal resources or issues.
    • The U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit provides information on the basics steps to resilience along with tools, case studies, and subject matter expertise from across the nation.