SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Although more than 95 percent of the Texas communities struck by the severe storms and flooding from Oct. 17 to Oct. 31 participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), state and federal officials are urging the remaining non-participating communities to join the program now. Residents of these non-participating communities are precluded from buying NFIP policies and may not be eligible for federally underwritten mortgages and federally insured loans such as those from the Small Business Administration (SBA).
"Communities that do not belong to NFIP really create a hardship for their residents and property owners," said Federal Coordinating Officer Robert E. Hendrix of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "After a disaster, they may not be able to get grant money to repair their homes and they may not be able to get low-interest disaster loans from SBA to repair their homes or businesses."
Private nonprofit agencies, such as educational and medical services, also are penalized when their communities do not participate in NFIP. They cannot get rebuilding grants they might otherwise qualify for and may be forced to use their own funds to rebuild.
The remaining communities can join at any time, once they agree to implement and enforce floodplain management measures to reduce future flood risks. These measures govern new construction and substantially improved structures in specially designated flood hazard areas mapped by the federal government. The measures also are intended to prevent additional and repeated damage in areas prone to flooding.
"The NFIP is there to protect people against future loss, no matter where they live," Hendrix added. "But they can't do that unless their local government agrees to join the national program."
Many people mistakenly believe that if they live in an area not designated as a special flood hazard area, they will never be flooded. Yet experience shows that from one-quarter to one-third of flood damage claims come from low-risk areas. Nationally, more than 10 million homes are in designated flood hazard areas. Fewer than 25 percent of these homes are protected by flood insurance, despite the low cost and high value.
"There is no reason for communities to refuse this important program," noted Laundy. "And without it, they and all their residents remain extremely vulnerable to the capricious nature of floods."
In addition to the benefits derived from the floodplain management program, several participating communities severely affected by the recent flooding are receiving other help. The Texas Floodplain Management Association has sent special teams of floodplain experts to assist local managers handle regular workload while the local staff deals with flood-related issues.