(Source: FEMA) -- Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States. Recently there have been more frequent severe weather events, like Hurricane Sandy that ravaged the East Coast. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) manages the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) which provides flood insurance policies that give millions of Americans a defense against flooding. But flood insurance policies are only one component of the program and just part of the protection that the NFIP provides to individuals and the American public.
Anyone living in an NFIP participating community can purchase an NFIP flood insurance policy. It is up to the community to decide to enter the NFIP program for the benefit of its citizens. When joining the program, the community agrees to assess flood risks and to establish floodplain management ordinances. As a result, residents can buy federally-backed flood insurance policies. You can find out if your community participates in the NFIP by reviewing the Community Status Book, available at fema.gov/cis/nation.
“By participating in the NFIP, communities take great strides to make everyone in the community more resilient to flooding” said FEMA Region III Administrator MaryAnn Tierney. “Not only does it make the community stronger, but it opens up a lot of resources to everyone in the community; it’s a huge step to preparing for flooding.”
One of the cornerstones of the NFIP is the flood mapping program. FEMA works with states and local communities to conduct studies on flood risks and develop maps that show the level of risk for that area, called Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). These FIRMs have useful information that can help communities plan development. The area that has the highest risk of flooding is the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), commonly called the floodplain. The SFHA has a one percent chance of being flooded in any given year. Because of the greater risk, premiums for flood insurance policies for properties in the SFHA are greater than for those for properties outside of it.
Equally important to knowing the risks of flooding is having a plan to address those risks. This is the role of floodplain management. Local communities must comply with minimum national standards established by FEMA, but are free to develop stricter codes and ordinances if they want to. Key elements of floodplain management include building codes for construction in the floodplain and limitations on development in high risk areas. Floodplain management is an ongoing process, with communities continually reassessing their needs as new data becomes available and the flood risk for areas change.
The NFIP brings all levels of government together with insurers and private citizens to protect against the threat of flooding. Federally sponsored flood maps and locally developed floodplain regulations give property owners the picture of their risk and ensure building practices are in place to minimize that risk. As a property owner, purchasing a flood insurance policy is a measure you can take to further protect yourself. To find out more about your individual risk contact your local floodplain administrator. For more information on flood insurance policies or to find an agent, visit floodsmart.gov or call 1-800-427-2419.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards. FEMA Region III’s jurisdiction includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Stay informed of FEMA’s activities online: videos and podcasts are available at fema.gov/medialibrary and youtube.com/fema. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/femaregion3.