What Hurricane Florence Tells Us About Flood Insurance

Hurricane Florence highlights glaring issues with the The National Flood Insurance Policy.

On September 14th, Hurricane Florence hit the coastal Carolinas. Although the storm took place twelve days ago, its effects are still hurting the communities it initially threatened. Thousands of Carolinians remain displaced, unable to return to their homes because of the longstanding evacuation notices. Many citizens still need to be rescued as the waters continue to rise. 350 rescues were conducted in North Carolina just this weekend. Over 400 roads remain closed, making these rescues and evacuations even more difficult. The current death toll has reached a staggering 43 people, and will likely rise if conditions stay the same.

In the aftermath of a natural disaster is important to reflect on the successes and failures, strengths and areas for improvement. Whether it be inadequate planning before a storm or poor recovery tactics utilized in the aftermath, there is always something we can learn and improve upon. The process of “hot washing”, after action reporting, and continuous learning is a key tenant of emergency management and make more data driven.

In the case of Hurricane Florence, it seems that we would do well to evaluate what the data says about our flood insurance system. As estimated by The Washington Post, most Americans are incredibly underprepared storm waters. Only 10% of Americans have flood insurance. When the other 90% experience flood damage, they must cover the costs of repair and recovery themselves or seek FEMA assistance FEMA, which is not always an option and tops out at around $10,000 of damages.

"Just one inch of floodwater in a home can cause $25,000 worth of damage… People think their homeowner policy may cover them from flooding, and it doesn’t.” -- David Maurstad, FEMA’s Deputy Associate Administrator of Insurance and Mitigation.

The National Flood Insurance Policy (NFIP) is the government’s primary program dedicated to post-disaster rebuilding. However, due to things like outdated maps, the NFIP (now running at a loss) isn’t currently structured in a way that can suitably handle the realities of today’s storms.

It doesn’t help that the NFIP is essentially subsidizing risky behavior through their policies. Private property owners with policies can easily rebuild in flood-prone areas because the government pays for it through the NFIP. Combine this with the fact that the government doesn’t always enforce the mandatory flood insurance policies in flood hazard areas, and we have a real problem.

In my opinion, the NFIP will best serve the people of this country by redirecting some of the funds that currently go towards rebuilding properties that shouldn’t have been built in the first place. Instead, use that money to insure the homes of individuals in low-income and at-risk communities.

Oliver SperansComment