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Reducing the Costs of Our Nation’s Most Expensive Disasters

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Reducing the Costs of Our Nation’s Most Expensive Disasters

Floods are our nation’s costliest disasters. Every year, thousands of homeowners spend tens of thousands of dollars on flood-related damages and property losses. What’s more is that more than 50 percent of property owners in areas with significant flood risk may be uninsured or under-insured against flooding, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates.

To help, FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) works to reduce the cost of flooding for property owners by providing affordable insurance. The program also encourages communities to adopt and enforce foodplain management regulations, which help reduce flood damage to both new and existing buildings and infrastructure.

But FEMA needs our help to implement this essential work to keep communities resilient. S&T’s Flood Apex program, developed at the request of FEMA, aims to reduce uninsured losses among its many objectives. That’s why our Flood Apex program and National Conversation recently held a roundtable on this topic with flood experts and practitioners.

Together, we identified challenges and talked about how science and technology can make a difference.

We started with the challenges—such as insurance costs and the insurance buying process, as well as the data, methods and processes for rating insurance. I’ll give you an example of how these challenges could play out for a homeowner. A property elevation certificate, needed for a flood insurance rating, is very expensive and can create a hurdle for some homeowners to obtain insurance. In flood-prone areas, this could put homeowners at great financial risk.

Although these challenges are significant, I was heartened by the fact that our team left with a great to do list of solutions to include improving FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps (key to determining floodplain management regulations and requirements for flood insurance), exploring alternative methods for insurance rating, and simplifying the current insurance rating process.

To make these improvements, we discussed how we could empower insurance companies. One potential solution is to increase insurance companies’ access to data sets that would describe previous flood history of properties, which can help reduce the cost to homeowners.

S&T is also exploring alternative solutions to include the creation of interactive tools to help homeowners better understand risks at a property-specific level, and testing and analyzing insurance retention strategies.

Our goal is to decrease uninsured losses—and in turn help make our nation’s communities more resilient through our Flood Apex Program. Our next steps are to analyze the suggestions, prioritize needs and apply them to our research and development strategy. I am looking forward to continuing the discussion with experts and practitioners through our National Conversation.

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