38th Conference on Broadcast Meteorology


From Flood Loss to FloodSmart: How FEMA's Mitigation Tools Work to Reduce the Impact of Flood Disasters

Sandra K. Knight, FEMA, Crystal City, VA

What is Mitigation? Mitigation is the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters. It focuses on breaking the cycle of disaster damage, reconstruction, and repeated damage. A study by the Multi-Hazard Mitigation Council shows that each dollar spent on mitigation saves society an average of four dollars. The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Mitigation Directorate manages several mitigation tools: the National Flood Insurance Program, flood risk maps, HAZUS, and Floodsmart.gov.

Congress established the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) with the passage of the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968. The NFIP is a Federal program enabling property owners in participating communities to purchase insurance as a protection against flood losses in exchange for State and community floodplain management regulations that reduce future flood damages. Participation in the NFIP is based on an agreement between communities and the Federal Government. If a community adopts and enforces a floodplain management ordinance to reduce future flood risk to new construction in floodplains, the Federal Government will make flood insurance available within the community as a financial protection against flood losses. This insurance is designed to provide an insurance alternative to disaster assistance to reduce the escalating costs of repairing damage to buildings and their contents caused by floods.

To assess risks in any given community, FEMA uses HAZUS, a risk assessment methodology for analyzing potential losses from three specific models: floods, hurricane winds, and earthquakes. HAZUS uses current scientific and engineering knowledge coupled with the latest geographic information systems (GIS) technology to produce estimates of hazard-related damage before, or after, a disaster occurs. Some potential loss estimates analyzed include physical damage to residential and commercial buildings, schools, critical facilities, and infrastructure; economic loss, including lost jobs, business interruptions, repair and reconstruction costs; and social impacts, including estimates of shelter requirements, displaced households, and population exposed to scenario floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes. HAZUS provides National “out of the box” data for use; however, it can also be customized using local data. Increasingly, HAZUS-MH is being used by states and communities in support of risk assessments, mitigation planning, and rapid needs assessments during hurricane response.

Flood risk is not only based on the history of flooding an any given area but also includes factors such as rainfall, river-flow and tidal-surge data, topography, flood-control measures, and changes due to building and development in an area. Along rivers, streams, and lakes within the U.S., FEMA computes flood elevations using computer models, statistical techniques, or both. The flood risk information gathered is presented on the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and in the Flood Insurance Study (FIS) reports form the technical basis for the administration of the NFIP. Communities can use the FIRMs and FIS reports to help balance the overall management of their local floodplains with urban development.

Between 20 and 25 percent of the NFIP's flood claims come from outside high flood risk areas. Federally backed flood insurance that is available to homeowners, renters, and business owners for the structure itself and contents within. Floodsmart.gov is a website dedicated to guiding property and business owners with free, online tools to determine the cost of a flood to a structure based on each inch of floodwater; estimate the cost of flood insurance; determine the amount of insurance coverage recommended; and find an agent that sells flood insurance.

Mitigation provides value to the American people by creating safer communities and reducing loss of life and property. By collaborating with local communities and States, FEMA's mitigation efforts and tools can continue to break the cycle of flood-disaster damage.

wrf recordingRecorded presentation

Session 7, Disaster Mitigation
Friday, 25 June 2010, 10:20 AM-11:50 AM, Napoleon III

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