As you may have seen in recent news articles here and in other media outlets, preliminary flood insurance rate maps were delivered to communities across the Upper Chattahoochee River Region, specifically communities in Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Forsyth, Fulton and Gwinnett counties.
Because these stories have raised questions as to what this means for residents and property owners in these areas, we want you to know about the purpose of these maps and how they might affect you. The ultimate goal is to protect property owners and communities by showing the extent to which areas are at risk of flooding.
Flood maps are being updated for communities all across the country. Here in Georgia, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources have been working closely with county and municipal governments to update maps in the Upper Chattahoochee River Region.
These updated maps are more precise than older maps because better flood hazard and risk data, and the latest science available, have been applied to make them more accurate. Throughout this process, communities may also submit data to be included in the maps. This local information can help give residents and property owners the most accurate picture of their flood risk.
Flood risks also change over time due to construction, development, environmental changes, floodplain widening or shifting, and other factors. These changes can send water flowing in new directions, creating flood risks that didn’t exist previously—precisely why flood maps must be updated periodically.
The maps are used to help determine flood insurance requirements. By law, federally regulated or insured mortgage lenders require flood insurance on properties that are located in areas at high risk of flooding. But even people living outside of high-risk areas can experience flooding, which is the most common and costly natural disaster in the U.S.
That’s why everyone, regardless of their flood zone, should take steps to financially protect themselves from a disaster which affects far too many communities each year. The primary way to do that is by purchasing flood insurance. It’s available at affordable rates through the National Flood Insurance Program, a voluntary program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
We know that additional expenses can be difficult, but similar to insurance that we purchase to protect ourselves if something were to happen to our cars or our health, flood insurance is designed to protect us from the costly expenses from a flood. Standard homeowner’s, business owner’s, and renter’s insurance doesn’t cover flood damage, so flood insurance is an important consideration for everyone.
The preliminary maps for the Upper Chattahoochee River Region aren’t final yet. We expect the maps to become effective for flood insurance rating purposes sometime in early 2013, after communities adopt them. Before they go into effect, residents and property owners may have options to purchase flood insurance at a reduced rate. It’s important that people talk to an insurance agent to find out what options are available to them.
If you live in an area with a new map, visit www.GeorgiaDFIRM.com and look at your preliminary map online, or contact your local floodplain manager’s office.
The historic September 2009 flooding in north Georgia is a reminder of how devastating disasters can be. We may not know when the next one will strike, but we can protect ourselves by knowing what risks exist in our communities, and to prepare for them.
Visit www.floodsmart.gov for more information about flood insurance, and www.Ready.gov for simple steps you can take to prepare for floods and other emergencies.
Brad Loar is the mitigation division director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Region IV in Atlanta.