County’s rural residents in line for flood insurance break
photo by: Joe Preiner
Property owners living in the floodplain of rural Douglas County are in line for a 15 percent discount on flood insurance premiums.
This is because the county has received a one-point reduction in its Community Rating System from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Sean Reid, director of Douglas County Zoning and Codes. The rating applies to the unincorporated areas of the county only.
The rating system is similar to the Insurance Services Office’s ratings of community fire departments, which influence insurance rates by reducing premiums for those living in areas served by departments with better equipment and training.
After a FEMA review of county compliance in the second half of 2017, FEMA officials notified the county that its CRS rating was improved from an 8 to a 7.
“Those living in the floodplain will get a 15 percent rate reduction on flood insurance,” Reid said. “Those living outside of the floodplain with flood insurance will get a 5 percent discount.”
FEMA underwrites flood insurance for buildings in the floodplain, and premium discounts should be automatic for those policies, Reid said. Those with flood insurance outside of the flood plain should check with their agents to ensure the discount has been applied, he said.
To get a CRS rating, a community has to be part of the FEMA program, enact regulations for building in floodplains and enforce those regulations, Reid said. With the Kansas and Wakarusa rivers flowing through the length of the county, it only made sense for the county to join the CRS program.
Also required is an active outreach and educational program to mitigate flood damage, Reid said. Those efforts vary in complexity from elevating outside heating and air-conditioning units to moving buildings to higher areas on properties.
Andy Megrail, FEMA Region 7 director of the Community Rating System, said that personal safety and safeguarding property were the main considerations.
“It’s to protect people and property, really,” he said. “Lower insurance rates are a nice benefit, but that’s the true goal.”
The Douglas County rating upgrade is a recognition that the county’s flood mitigation efforts go above and beyond the basic standards for national flood insurance, Megrail said.
“It’s a good jump. Most of the communities in our region are rated at 8 or 9,” he said. The region in which Douglas County is located, Region 7, includes Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska.
FEMA reviews a community’s CRS level every five years, although a community can request a review at any time, Megrail said. The review requires a lot of documentation, but for established programs, that paperwork is routinely produced as jurisdictions review and enforce regulations and reach out to their communities.
Reid said the county received its new rating after its scheduled review. He credited zoning and codes administrative officer Kanitha Davis-Englebert and department coordinator Tonya Voigt for providing the documentation that earned the county the CRS upgrade.