Officials work to restore flood insurance discounts

By HASKEL BURNS,

With Lamar County’s rating in the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System recently dropping a point – causing residents’ discounts on flood insurance to lower from 10 percent to 5 percent – county officials are currently working on different measures to restore that rating, along with the savings it brings.

The voluntary program ranks communities on a scale from 1 to 10 – with lower numbers bringing higher discounts – based on community floodplain management activities that exceed minimum requirements. Lamar County Administrator Jody Waits said the county’s ranking in the program, which is offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was lowered from an 8 to a 9 after those requirements changed.

“When the rating system changed, the activities that we were participating in were weighed differently or had different scores, so we ended up as a 9,” Waits said after Monday’s meeting of the Lamar County Board of Supervisors. “So what we’re doing is looking down through the system to look at average scores they’ve handed out around the country.

“We want to see where we stand in there, and where we can make some adjustments to get back to an 8 – or even a 7, which would give a 15 percent discount. But we want to get back to at least a rating of 8 in this program.”

The rating system currently has three main goals: reducing flood damage to insurable property, strengthening and supporting the insurance aspects of the National Flood Insurance Program, and encouraging a comprehensive approach to floodplain management. Flood insurance premium rates are discounted in increments of 5 percent, dependent upon the rating.

The ratings for local communities are based on 18 creditable activities and are organized under four categories: public information; mapping and regulations; flood damage reduction; and flood preparedness. A Class 1 community is classified as one which earns more than 4,500 points on the plan’s scale, while a Class 10 community would earn up to 499 points.

“Until (FEMA) can review us again, we’ll remain at a 9, so we’ll need to go back through our activities,” Waits said. “We can do more public outreach; we can maybe do some flood zone identification and maps.

“Once we do all that, we can probably request another review, or when they come back in another year or two for their review, they’ll see that we’ve made these changes. But first we’re going to see what changes we can affect, and then reach out to them. So there’s no set timeline.”

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