At the Heart of Georgia Altamaha RC (HOGARC) Council Meeting last night, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) presented a presentation(Click HERE for the Presentation) on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the Community Rating System (CRS). These two programs can assist the local community in reducing the cost of flood insurance to its citizens.
National Flood Insurance Program:
The National Flood Insurance Program, managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), enables homeowners, business owners, and renters in participating communities to purchase federally backed flood insurance. This insurance offers an insurance alternative to disaster assistance to meet the escalating costs of repairing flood damage to buildings and their contents.
Participating communities agree to adopt and enforce floodplain management ordinances to reduce future flood damage. There are now more than 20,600 participating communities across the United States and its territories.
Federal flood insurance is available for residents and business owners in both high-risk and moderate-to-low risk areas. The insurance is required for buildings in high-risk areas that have loans from federally regulated or insured lenders. This requirement extends to disaster assistance loans from the Small Business Administration. However, you don’t need to have a mortgage or SBA loan or live in a high-risk area to obtain flood insurance. It is available community-wide, with premiums that vary according to the level of risk. In fact, about 25 percent of all flood claims occur in moderate- to low- risk areas, and premiums start as low as $119 per year.
Your community maintains a repository of Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) that you can view to determine whether your property is located in a high-risk or a moderate- to the low-risk area. These maps are usually available at the planning and zoning department where building permits are obtained. They also may be found online at http://msc.fema.gov. If you still have questions after obtaining your flood hazard zone, you may call a FEMA mapping specialist toll free at 1-877-336-2627.
Anyone living in a participating community should consider flood insurance before the next flood occurs. Flood insurance, like other property and casualty coverage, is written by licensed insurance agents. The agent who writes your homeowners or property insurance should be able to assist you in determining your eligibility and coverage options.
In HOGARC Region of 79 local governments, only 58 are participating in the NFIP. It is encouraged that those that are not in the NFIP to join to help reduce the economic impact to your citizens.
Participation in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is voluntary. To join, the community must:
- Complete an application;
- Adopt a resolution of intent to participate and cooperate with FEMA;
- Adopt and submit a floodplain management ordinance that meets or exceeds the minimum NFIP criteria. The floodplain management ordinance must also adopt any FIRM or FHBM for the community.
A community that does not participate in the NFIP faces the following challenges:
- Flood insurance will not available through NFIP (Private insurance is still available)
- No federal flood-related grants or loans available
- No federal flood-related disaster assistance available
- No federal mortgage insurance or loan guarantees provided
Community Rating System:
The Community Rating System (CRS) is a voluntary, incentive-based community program that recognizes, encourages, and rewards local floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum standards of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). CRS provides a framework and a variety of technical resources to help participating communities implement a comprehensive flood risk management program designed to reduce and avoid flood losses and to strengthen the insurance aspects of the NFIP. In return, flood insurance rates for existing policyholders’ community-wide are discounted to reflect the reduced flood risk resulting from community actions.
The CRS program is administered by FEMA with support from the Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO). It uses a class rating system that is similar to fire insurance ratings to determine flood insurance premium reductions for properties located in and outside of the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). Communities earn credit points based on the local implementation of specific activities recommended in the CRS Coordinator’s Manual, and the number of points earned determines the CRS class. Classes are rated from 9 to 1, with each incremental improvement providing an additional 5% insurance premium discount. A community in the CRS Class 9 qualifies for a premium reduction in the SFHA of 5%; whereas a community in the CRS Class 1 receives the highest possible reduction of 45%.
In total there are nearly 100 distinct activities or elements eligible for credit under CRS, all organized under four categories:
- Public Information Activities. This includes local activities that educate people about flood hazards, flood protection, and flood insurance. Activities are typically directed toward residents, property owners, insurance or real estate agents, or other stakeholders. Examples include elevation certificates, map information service, outreach projects, hazard disclosure, flood protection information, flood protection assistance, and flood insurance promotion.
- Mapping and Regulations. This includes activities that exceed the NFIP’s minimum standards to offer flood protection for new and existing development. Examples include floodplain mapping, open space preservation, higher regulatory standards, flood data maintenance, and stormwater management.
- Flood Damage Reduction Activities. These activities focus primarily on reducing flood damage to existing buildings. Examples include floodplain management planning, acquisition and relocation, drainage system maintenance, and retrofitting existing buildings.
- Warning and Response. These activities focus on emergency warnings and response in order to save lives and minimize property damage. Examples include flood threat recognition systems, critical facilities planning, levee or dam failure warning systems, and response operations planning.
Advantage of CRS:
The primary benefit and motivation for communities to participate in CRS is the reduction in flood insurance premiums for resident policyholders. Other benefits include:
- Enhanced life safety and reduction in damage to property and public infrastructure, avoidance of economic disruption and losses, reduction in human suffering, and protection of the environment provided by the credited activities.
- Access to training, technical assistance, and other resources made available to CRS communities.
- Ability to evaluate local programs and activities against the state and nationally recognized benchmarks.
- Recognition for strong local floodplain management programs.
- The program is not all about creating new activities or policies. Communities can often obtain credit points for activities and policies they are already implementing.
- There is no cost to participate. The only costs the community incurs are to implement creditable floodplain management activities and the staff time needed to document those activities and prepare for and participate in the recertification process and verification visits.
Challenges to CRS:
The most significant challenge for communities is the administration of the program. Each community must designate a local representative to oversee the development, implementation, and documentation of activities for which they are seeking credit. Documenting requirements for credit verification can be time-consuming depending on existing recordkeeping practices. Other challenges include:
- A modification to a community’s CRS classification requires additional submittal materials and is limited to one modification per year.
- Prerequisites for advanced classes can become a roadblock.
- With staff turnover, the program can be difficult to administer.
In HOGARC Region of 79 local governments, zero (0) are participating in the CRS.
Further information can be found at the CRS Resource Center
So….Are you in Flood Zone? …..Yes
If it rains at your house, then you are in a Flood Zone. You are in one of twelve zones which fall in four different risk levels.
- X: Low/Moderate Risk
- A: High Risk
- V: High Risk-Coastal
- D: Undetermined Risk
In Georgia, the Department of Natural Resources has created a website to help you determine the impact of a flood on your address. This site (Georgia DFirm) is very easy to use and contains a great wealth of information for property owners, community officials, and GADNR Program Officials. By typing in an address, one can retrieve a property specific flood risk snapshot which displays flood risk information for the selected property.
If your local government is interested in joining the NFIP or CRS, please contact the Heart of Georgia Altamaha Regional Commission or the Department of Natural Resources to assist you with this process.