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

Engineering, Web Development, Salesforce Bi-directional Sync

Product Type

Web App

Technologies Used

Ruby, JavaScript, Rails, React

Project Highlights

Straight-forward, easy to follow online survey forms for NYC residents to provide home architecture information and obtain estimated flood coverage costs replacing complex FEMA forms

Calculated estimated flood insurance rate provided within minutes of filling out the survey, rather than days

Salesforce integration to convert online questionnaire responses into comprehensive Salesforce profiles enabling automated outreach to onboard people to city programs

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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 and city programs to protect their homes and finances from the hazards of flooding.


Calculating flood insurance is a complicated process based on myriad factors, from a property’s flood zone, to its height above sea level, to a building’s characteristics. Correctly deciphering the required information can be intimidating to users, preventing them from obtaining an accurate insurance rate, and from identifying eligibility for public programs. CNYCN wanted to simplify the process so that maximum New Yorkers would sign up for flood insurance and flood mitigation programs to reduce the loss from future natural disasters.


Using a combination of user-interaction design, user-journey flows, and static and interactive content, 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?"

When a NYC resident completed the online questionnaire, we populated the user’s profile in CNYCN’s Salesforce instance with the information gathered via the online form allowing CNYCN to dynamically bucket 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 syncing of data from the web app to Salesforce automated a large part of Center for NYC Neighborhoods outreach enabling them to continue their mission to promote thriving middle- and working-class families in spite of climate change.