Levee Safety Action Classification (LSAC)

Levee Safety Action Classification

A key lesson learned from Hurricane Katrina is the importance of risk communication so that local officials, stakeholders, and the public have the best information available in order to make informed risk-based decisions. The Levee Safety Action Classification (LSAC) is one of the many tools we use to better inform our stakeholders and residents of the residual risk in their communities.

The LSAC is neither a levee rating or grade, it is a classification system designed to take into account the probability of the levees being loaded (Hazard), existing condition of the levee, the current and future maintenance of the levee (Performance), and the Consequences if a levee were to fail or be overwhelmed.

A levee that reduces risk for a dense population will receive a different classification from an equally constructed levee with a smaller population because the consequences associated with failure is greater.

Levee Safety Program

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2006, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created its Levee Safety Program to assess the integrity and viability of levees and to make sure that levee systems do not present unacceptable risks to the public, property, and the environment. The basic objectives of the Levee Safety Program are to:

  • Develop balanced and informed assessments of levees within the program.
  • Evaluate, prioritize and justify levee safety decisions.
  • Make recommendations to improve public safety associated with levee systems. 

The National Levee Database is a component of the Levee Safety Program which inventories all levees in the program and aims to continually improve inspection procedures. The Levee Safety Action Classification (LSAC) falls under the Database. (Additional information about the National Levee Database can be found on the back of this brochure.)

  • National Levee Database: Provides a comprehensive view of levee systems across the country.
  • Levee Safety Action Classifications: A risk communication tool to identify and prioritize levee systems based on the risk associated with the system.



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 How can I improve my LSAC?
LSAC should not be thought of as “good” or “bad”. LSAC indicates the level of risk associated with your levee system compared to other levee systems in the USACE inventory.  Our focus should be on reducing your flood risk as much as possible, not on the LSAC.  As flood risk decreases, LSAC will reflect that decreased risk.  However, in some cases LSAC may not change significantly due to large population or significant development within the leveed area. In these instances LSAC communicates the need to stay diligent and continue to invest in your levee system.
 Does a LSAC of Very Low or Low indicate that no action is needed?
No, An LSAC of Very Low or Low may indicate that there is extremely low consequence of failure, but there could still be performance or maintenance issues associated with the levee system. In addition, residence of sparsely populated areas should be made aware of their flood risk just as individuals in highly populated areas should be.  Being informed empowers everyone to make good risk management decisions concerning evacuation planning, land use, and support of their local levee sponsor.
 How does LSAC and/or levee screenings impact a community’s participation in the FEMA National Flood

NFIP is an insurance program and is concerned with the flood risk experienced by individuals.  Provided your levee system is accredited as providing flood risk reduction against the 1% chance exceedance event, your personal flood risk is deemed adequately low by FEMA for insurance purposes.  FEMA is aware that events greater than the 1% event can occur, and that flood risk remains after a levee system is accredited.  Accreditation in the NFIP is not impacted by the possibility of these higher events or by the remaining flood risk. 

The LSAC does not impact NFIP.  LSAC is a risk classification that is concerned with total flood risk associated with a levee system.  Total flood risk can be thought of as the sum of all the flood risk experienced by all the individuals in the leveed area.  The LSAC does not communicate specifically about the 1% event or individual flood risk and therefore cannot inform FEMA’s NFIP accreditation decisions.

Although an LSAC is not useful in making accreditation decisions, some information obtained through the levee inspection and levee risk screening processes may inform accreditation decisions.  In 2014, FEMA and USACE signed a Memorandum of Understanding in which the agencies agreed to “Improve transparency and efficiency in collecting, reporting, analyzing, and sharing levee information.  One of the outcomes of this agreement was the development of linkages between specific ratings from Inspection and Screenings and individual FEMA accreditation requirements.  

Levee Risk Screenings can, on rare occasions, provide information concerning specific design criteria requirements.  When these linkages are made, they will be communicated to the community and levee Sponsor for use in documenting compliance with specific NFIP accreditation requirements. 

 Does an LSAC of Very High, High, or Moderate always indicate that the levee is likely to

No. In many cases an LSAC that communicates high risk may be assigned to a well maintained levee system with no obvious performance issues when there is a large population, significant development, or critical infrastructure within the leveed area. In these cases the LSAC communicates the need to focus on flood risk management activities within the leveed area and to remain diligent in maintaining and investing in the levee system.

In other cases, high risk LSACs are partially due to performance concerns. Performance concerns should be communicated on a levee system specific basis. Performance during the 2011 event and subsequent or planned repair/remediation actions should be used to give the performance issues context. It should be noted that the prioritization of remediation efforts is being informed by risk and the assigned LSAC.