Welcome to the Flood Zone! A nationally distributed resource for those interested in flood zone issues, land surveying, real estate, history, and edu

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Welcome to the Flood Zone!

A nationally distributed resource for those interested in flood zone issues, land surveying, real estate, history, and educational opportunities. If you no longer wish to receive this newsletter, simply click the unsubscribe link in the footer of this message.


In this Issue of Welcome to the Flood Zone:

Message from Jim: Understanding Behavior and Perception of Flood Risk
Announcement: The 2017 Maine Beaches Conference is in July!
Resources: FEMA's Elevation Certificate; US Army Corps of Engineers: Institute for Water Resources; and the EPA's Student Guide to Global Climate Change
Changes to the NFIP: Effective April 1, 2017
Flood Q&A: Flood Insurance - What It Does (and Does Not) Cover
In the News: ASFPM's Stance on the President's Proposed Budget; Lyme Disease in the Northeast; and Protecting the Country's Infrastructure from National Disasters

Jim Headshot

Message from Jim

Flooding is unfortunately viewed by many people as a low probability event, instead of a high consequence event. Common beliefs include, “it will not happen to me”, “it will only occur once in my life”, or “the maps accurately show flood risk when not placed in a Special Flood Hazard Area”, which allow many to stay conveniently detached from a very dangerous and identifiable risk which continues to grow.

As a land surveyor, my initial interest in the flood program was with Elevation Certificates and Letters of Map Amendment, and then understanding the maps. This followed with a desire to educate others as to the difference between the perceived risk of the maps and actual risk based on a real storm. This process developed a greater interest in mitigation for two main reasons: the quality of the underlying map data may not be as accurate or current as many may believe, and it is impossible to control an actual storm with a line on a map. Continuing on this journey, interest turned to better understanding behaviors in the decision process of living, investing, rebuilding, etc. in and around flood risk areas, and not just in the Special Flood Hazard Area.

In last month’s Association of State Floodplain Manager’s newsletter, Michele Mihalovich mentioned a book titled, The Ostrich Paradox by Wharton professors Robert Meyer and Howard Kunreuther. It introduces six systematic biases we use to instinctively perceive risk:

Myopia – a focus on short time horizons when appraising immediate costs versus the potential benefits of an investment.
Amnesia – a tendency to quickly forget lessons of past disasters.
Optimism – a tendency to underestimate losses from future hazards.
Inertia – a tendency to maintain a status quo.
Simplification – the selection of only a portion of the relevant factors when considering risk.
Herding – a tendency to base choices on observed actions of others.

The book closes with developing a Problem-Solution Matrix for flood risk. In other words, it conveys suggestions to aid in overcoming each of the above biases. For example, looking at optimism bias, it is often fueled by our inability to have a good mental grasp of the meaning of small probabilities. The concept of the 100-year flood being a 1% annual chance event (not a flood that occurs every 100 years), does not gain enough attention to the fact that a flood will eventually arrive. Educating homeowners about the 26% chance that a flooding event will occur during the life of a 30-year loan is much more practical and easier to understand. Though a 1 in 4 chance is very similar to a 26% chance, the optimism bias pulls many to a place of comfort when a ratio is used.

With inertia bias, personal behavior as it pertains to flood is based on comparing short term cost with long term benefits which may not even occur. The probability of flood damage occurring in a specific location, in a given year, and with the extent of damage being highly uncertain, is very ambiguous and makes proper planning very daunting. Inertia bias creates a tendency to avoid mitigation decisions altogether.

Though new maps and data are extremely important for many reasons for the flood program to be more welcomed, understanding behavior and biases of the many involved should also become a large part of any future mitigation strategy.



The 2017 Maine Beaches Conference is scheduled for July 14th in Wells, Maine!

Participant registration begins next month, so we wanted to give you a "heads up" about this fun and informative event!
Jim will host an interactive exhibit, and speak in a plenary session with several other presenters on the theme of "Coastal Issues People are Talking About". Being the third time we have presented at this conference, we are taking a different angle on Flood Insurance Rate Maps. We plan on presenting ways to improve communication of flood risk among stakeholders.

Click here to learn more about the event.

In our experience as land surveyors and floodplain consultants, we are often asked questions such as, "why didn't my Realtor tell me about this?", "My mortgage company told me I need to purchase flood insurance, why now?", "I got a letter from FEMA saying my flood risk has changed, but I don't understand what it means." This tells us that property owners are not receiving adequate information to make informed decisions. Education of consultants continues to be an important component of helping the National Flood Insurance Program run more smoothly, and creating a more positive experience for its users by making efforts to eliminate surprises and offer appropriate options to resolve flood mapping and insurance issues. The information is out there: websites, tool kits, training opportunities - it's time to become more engaged!



New Version of FEMA Elevation Certificate Available

In follow up to last month's issue about Elevation Certificates, FEMA has released another version (same expiration date). This version includes changes to address formatting issues with the form itself.

Click here to download a PDF of the FEMA bulletin which outlines the revisions made to the form.


US Army Corps of Engineers - Institute for Water Resources

The USACE has a great feature on its website, which allows users to explore resources for different stakeholder groups, with the understanding that each has a shared responsibility when it comes to floodplain management efforts.

Click here to check out the USACE's Floodplain Management Program.

Note: If you are unable to open the partner pages through the Shared Responsibility graphic, the information can also be accessed through the links on the side bar under "Partners in Shared Responsibility".


A Student's Guide to Global Climate Change

Our children are the future, let's teach them well. It is never too early to teach them how their actions contribute to the world around them.

Click here to check out the Environmental Protection Agency's "Student's Guide to Global Climate Change" and share it with your kids!


Summary of National Flood Insurance Program Changes

Effective April 1, 2017

Back in September of 2016, FEMA released a bulletin outlining the changes that would occur on April 1st of this year. These changes include premium increases and surcharges, an updated Newly Mapped Multiplier Table, and clarifications for pre-FIRM Substantially Improved Buildings. Click here to view a PDF of the summary of changes.

To read more about the changes in detail, click here to access the full bulletin.

what is covered

Flood Q & A

What is Covered (and Not Covered) Under an NFIP Policy

The NFIP offers coverage under three types of forms: the Dwelling Form, the General Property Form, and the Residential Condominium Building Association Policy Form.

Click here to download a PDF of FEMA's Fact Sheet on what is covered under the Dwelling Form, which is most commonly used to insure a residential building and single family dwelling units in a condominium building.


In the News

ASFPM Opposes President's FY'18 Federal Budget

Association of State Floodplain Managers, March 17, 2017
President Trump has released the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year and the Association of State Floodplain Managers has published their views on the subject.

"The proposed budget cuts FEMA’s flood mapping program by $190 million, and the entire pre-disaster mitigation program. In addition, the administration proposes a 16 percent cut to USACE, 31 percent from EPA and technical assistance to farmers for conservation programs from USDA watershed programs that assist in not only clean water, but help reduce flood losses. It zeroes out more than $250 million in targeted NOAA grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, climate change programs, research and education. This would include the Coastal Zone Management Program and the widely popular Sea Grant Program."
Click here to read more!

Forbidding Forecast for Lyme Disease in the Northeast

By Michaeleen Doucleff and Jane Greenhalgh, NPR, March 6, 2017

For all consultants walking properties this spring and summer, beware of the rise in Lyme Disease! Studies have shown that where there are high densities of mice during the summer, there will be more Lyme Disease infected ticks the following summer. "The explanation is simple: Mice are highly efficient transmitters of Lyme. They infect up to 95 percent of ticks that feed on them. Mice are responsible for infecting the majority of ticks carrying Lyme in the Northeast. And ticks love mice." Read more!


Streets of Baltimore, MD after heavy rains in 2014.

As Natural Disasters Rise, Congress Can Do More to Protect U.S. Infrastructure

By Laura Lightbody, The Pew Charitable Trusts, March 1, 2017

"Research has shown that using nature-based solutions to mitigate the threats posed by severe weather can be both economical and long-lasting. For example, one study found that coastal wetlands provide an estimated $23 billion each year in storm protection benefits. Another study found that coastal habitats such as salt marshes and mangroves can be more cost-effective than engineered structures in lessening storm surge and can provide a buffer to properties during storms. Using the Earth’s natural defenses against storms makes sense, given that the U.S. can’t afford to stop all flooding by building more levees, dams, and seawalls." Read more!


April Flood Funny

spring slush
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