POINT OF VIEW Time is now for PBC residents to secure flood insurance

Last week, new flood maps went into effect in Palm Beach County to reflect updates to flood risk due to changes in weather patterns, land development and erosion. More than 100,000 residents and businesses will be affected by the new maps, and it is important for everyone to understand what these changes mean and how people may benefit from cost savings for flood insurance under the new maps.

We need look no further than the recent devastation in Houston, Miami, Jacksonville and Puerto Rico caused by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria — and the near miss for a similarly catastrophic flooding event in Palm Beach County from Irma — to understand how devastating a major flooding event can be, and that flooding can happen in any flood zone, regardless of the identified risk.

Changes in risk designation — especially from high-risk to moderate-to-lower risk — provide an opportunity to secure lower-cost insurance (or Preferred Risk Policy), not to cancel your coverage entirely. This is especially important given the fact that one in four flood insurance claims come from outside of high-risk areas. Lapses in coverage or lack of coverage leave your property vulnerable — and we have seen how unpredictable and costly flooding can be, even with the best predictive mapping tools at our disposal.

Flood maps represent only what we know at a given time and cannot predict the path of a storm. While it’s too soon to have figures from Hurricane Irma, early estimates from FEMA showed that 40 percent of the buildings that suffered flood damage from Hurricane Harvey were identified to be in low-risk areas. While the flood maps that FEMA and county officials provide are a helpful tool to explain your risk, they can’t control the weather — and neither can you. This is why it’s important to protect your home or business with flood insurance. Generally, National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies become effective 30 days after purchase.

Residents can identify their risk with this helpful flood mapping tool from the Palm Beach County website.

Floods are the most common natural disaster in the U.S., and the damage can be devastating to affected families and businesses. Just one inch of water inside a small home can cost more than $25,000 in repairs. For more information go to https://www.fema.gov/palm-beach.

Palm Beach County was spared a major flood event from Irma, but must be prepared for the next storm.


Editor’s note: Roy Wright is the deputy associate administrator for insurance and mitigation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

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