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Home arrow Archives   The American Surveyor     

The Dawn of A New Day...Biggert-Waters-12—Part 2 Print E-mail
Written by Terri L Turner, AICP, CFM   
Friday, 27 September 2013

A 1.427Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

In the Dawn of A New Day...Biggert Waters-12 last month, we explored virtually "everything you ever wanted to know" about BW-12, "but were afraid to ask" including new rate increases on the horizon for many flood insurance policy holders of older buildings, how the NFIP is using the BW-12 legislation in digging out of a financial hole, and how homeowners and businesses owners can prepare now for the new rates.

This month, we are going to dig a little deeper into the topic and explore options for dealing with BW-12:

Community Investments in Reducing Flood Insurance Premiums
There are investments a local community can make to reduce the impact of rate changes. Community-wide mitigation can be explored and the community can also join (or improve its classification in) the Community Rating System (CRS).

The Community Rating System (CRS) provides flood insurance premium discounts for measures the community takes that go beyond minimum standards (of the NFIP) for actions that will reduce future flooding and future flood insurance claims. These discounts, which can be as high as 45 percent, are available to all policyholders in the SFHA and those with a standard-rated Zone X policy.

Hazard Mitigation grant programs can be utilized to fund mitigation projects that reduce flood risk or in purchasing repetitive flooded structures, as well.

Improvements to stormwater infrastructure systems can be invested in and building codes can be strengthened.

"Technical assistance programs such as CAP and others (even from outside of FEMA like the Corps of Engineers Silver Jackets, Floodplain Management Services and Planning Assistance to States programs) will become more important as property owners and communities seek solutions and technical advice on measures to explore, evaluate and implement options to reduce flood risk and insurance costs." (www.floods.org)

Communities can also explore the flood-damage-reduction aspects of No Adverse Impact (NAI) Floodplain Management. NAI offers local governments a way to prevent the escalation of flooding, flood damage and other negative impacts from irresponsible community development. Although some State and local governments may have abandoned their responsibilities for protecting public health, safety, and human welfare in the face of flood hazards, many simply have assumed that the Federal programs represent an acceptable standard-of-care. They perhaps do not realize that these very approaches can induce additional flooding and damage within their communities. To those communities doing only the "minimums", it is important to point out that NAI principles give communities a way to promote "responsible" floodplain development measures through community-based decision making. With the NAI approach, communities are able to put both Federal and State programs to better use, thus, enhancing their local initiatives. NAI floodplain management empowers the community and its citizens to build better-informed and "wise development" stakeholders at the local level. Simply put, it is a step toward community accountability because it prevents the increase of flood damage to other properties. NAI floodplain management also helps communities identify the potential impacts of development and implement actions to mitigate those adverse impacts before they occur. http://floods.org/index.asp?menuID=349&fir)

Funding through Stormwater Utilities and local sales tax projects / local initiatives can be utilized either to implement mitigation projects or in purchasing at-risk structures. For example, Augusta, GA is currently in the midst of purchasing 35 high-flood-risk structures through funding from its Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). The cost of flood insurance for these below-BFE, preFIRM homes would have been astronomical, and potentially back-breaking for the elderly and low-income residents living there, had the community not stepped in with their Augusta Richmond County Flood Reduction Program and purchased these homes; thus moving these residents out of harm's way and creating perpetual open space that also negates the need for a regional detention pond in each of the two areas targeted with the Program.

A Misinformed Public
A 2007 National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) survey reveals a lack of awareness among consumers when it comes to their homeowners insurance. "A large percentage of U.S. homeowners mistakenly believe that standard homeowners insurance protects them from a wide array of perils." according to NAIC. "In fact, typical property and liability policies don't cover home damage from floods, earthquakes, water line breaks, termites, mold, and several other perils, large and small." (http://naic.org/Releases/2007_docs/homeowners_not_covered.htm)

Not much has changed in the subsequent 6 years.

Most homeowners are clueless about what their homeowners does and doesn't cover, totally in the dark about the need for flood insurance to protect against flood (rising water) hazards, and have turned a blind eye to the impending flood insurance rate increases barreling like a run-away train in their direction and due to arrive later this summer.

The 2007 NAIC survey found that "33 percent of U.S. heads of household, who own a home and have homeowners insurance, incorrectly believe flood damages would be covered by a standard homeowners or property and liability policy, despite extensive media coverage on Hurricane Katrina victims whose claims were denied because they lacked flood insurance." Many of those same home and business owners probably haven't gotten the message post-Sandy, either.

Jay McDonald with Fox Business writes: "Despite extensive media coverage of the widespread, multistate flooding caused by Superstorm Sandy last fall and Hurricane Irene in the summer of 2011, 1 in 5 homeowners is still surprised to learn that home insurance does not cover flooding, according to a Bankrate nationwide survey as part of the April Financial Security Index."

"The survey found that 18% of consumers didn't know that a standard homeowner's policy specifically excludes flood-related damage, while 81% were aware of the need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy from the federal National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP, to guard against flood loss." (http://foxbusiness.com/personalfinance/2013/04/25/survey-1-in-5-cluelessabout-flood-insurance/)

So, there you go. While the numbers are better than they were in 2007, a large number of Americans are still running around clueless on how to protect themselves from flood losses. Yet, confusion about insurance coverage, especially flood insurance coverage, can result in devastating consequences post flood event.

Historical surveys have proven that the further away from the flood event you poll the populous, the less aware the American public is about the measures they need to take to protect themselves. That's just human nature, plain and simple ("out of sight, out of mind").

Today's Surveyor in Relation to Biggert-Waters
Government officials, realtors, mortgage lenders, insurance agents, and land surveyors are the first line of defense in keeping the public informed about flood insurance and flood related issues. It may be a job the typical land surveyor "didn't sign up for" when he/she studied and trained for their surveyor's license, but many surveyors are finding that it is a part of the job, just the same.

To combat the soaring costs of radio, TV advertising, direct mailers, print media, and public relations media, many surveyors have turned to the internet--their own company websites and blogs, Google searches, YouTube, LinkedIn and Facebook--surveying has become as much about communication and building relationships with clients, as it has about metes and bounds, construction staking, GPS, and as-built mapping. Today, surveying is more than researching historical records, having the latest in technological equipment, possessing a good working knowledge of federal, state and local laws, and being proficient in mathematics--it's about people and their relationship to their surroundings. The local surveyor is the logical person to bridge the gap often found between "the property" and "the public".

Therefore, today's successful surveyor must go beyond the expected. They must serve as the ambassador, if you will tolerate the use of that word, between their client and all of the laws, ordinances and regulations involving their client's property.

Those surveyors that embrace the "changing climate" of flood related issues will be those that soar past their competitors in this highly volatile market place and also those that excel far into the future. Where each local surveyor falls on that continuum is up to them...

A special thanks goes out to John Miller, with Princeton Hydro, who graciously provided the post-Sandy pictures for the article.

Terri L Turner, AICP, CFM, is the Development Administrator/Floodplain Manager/Hazard Mitigation Specialist for the City of Augusta (GA) Planning and Development Department. Prior to coming to the "Planning World", Terri spent 16 years working for civil engineering and surveying firms and knows the importance of surveying to any development project. Terri is currently also the Region 4 Director and the No Adverse Impact (NAI) Committee Co-Chair of the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM). Terri spends much of her free time touring the nation speaking on sound floodplain management, hazard mitigation, climate change adaptation, and sustainability and resiliency initiatives for local governments.

A 1.427Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

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