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Government Agency

Center for NYC Neighborhoods, FloodHelpNY

Def Method transformed complex FEMA forms to simple online surveys to help middle- and working-class families source reliable information about flood insurance.

Services Provided


Product Type
Web App
Engagement Length
6 months
Technologies Used
Ruby, JavaScript, Rails, React
Project Highlights

NYC residents can now determine their estimated flood insurance coverage with minimal effort through easy-to-use online surveys, rather than complex FEMA forms

Details on estimated flood insurance is available within minutes, rather than days

Manual interactions with staff have been replaced with a deep Salesforce integration, which automatically converts online questionnaire responses to a Salesforce profile and automated reporting


Funded by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the Center for NYC Neighborhoods was tasked with engaging and informing New York City low- and middle-income homeowners about ways to protect their home and finances from flooding, an issue expected to worsen with rising sea levels caused by climate change.

The resulting FloodHelpNY platform - created in partnership with Def Method - enables NYC residents to easily and accurately calculate their estimated insurance coverage, as well as identify relevant mitigation efforts to protect their homes and finances from the hazards of flooding.


Trying to figure out flood insurance can be frustrating. While rates are standardized by FEMA and government regulations, brokers are human and make mistakes, and the onus is on customers to verify that their rates are accurate. This is a complicated process based on myriad factors, from your property’s flood zone to its height above sea level to one’s building characteristics. All of this complexity needed to be accounted for to provide reliable rate estimates, coupled with a user-friendly user experience, so that New Yorkers would not be intimidated by the tool and instead derive value from the flood rates and mitigation options provided in a city increasingly impacted by flood damage.


Using a combination of user-interaction design, user-journey flows, and static and interactive content, and languages like Ruby, JavaScript, Rails, React, and integrations with Salesforce and Heroku Connect, we built a rate calculator engine and user portal to solve this problem. We codified the information from the FEMA rate tables and insurance documents by discovering patterns in the data, resulting in accurate flood insurance estimates. Using a questionnaire format, we transformed user answers to simple questions into more accurate rates using complex calculations, gathering answers to a few simple questions like "What is the floor-to-ceiling height of your basement?" Last but certainly not least, through an extensive Salesforce integration, CRM contacts were automatically created or modified when a NYC resident completed the online questionnaire, dynamically bucketing users into different distribution lists for subsequent and personalized contact.


We completed the first ever full implementation of city-wide flood insurance calculations. The transformation of complex forms to simple surveys and automated contacts ensured that Center for NYC Neighborhoods could continue its mission to promote thriving middle- and working-class families in spite of climate change.

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