RALEIGH, N.C. -- In the wake of the tremendous devastation caused by three successive hurricanes, state and federal officials urge all North Carolina communities to join the 405 locales already participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
"The NFIP is there to protect people against future loss, no matter where they live," said federal coordinating officer Glenn C. Woodard of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "But they can't do that unless their local government agrees to join the national program."
Non-participating communities may join the program 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 designated special flood hazard areas mapped by the federal government. The measures also are intended to prevent additional and repeated damage in areas prone to flooding.
Woodard explained that a common mistake is to assume that if an area is not designated as a special flood hazard area, it will never be flooded. Experience shows that from one-quarter to one-third of flood damage occurs in 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.
Eric Tolbert, director of the North Carolina Emergency Management Division said, "Communities that do not belong to NFIP really create a hardship for their residents and property owners because after disaster residents and property owners may not qualify for federally guaranteed loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA).
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 for which they might otherwise qualify and may be forced to use their own funds to rebuild.
"There is no reason for communities to fail to join this important program," noted Tolbert. "And without it, they and all their residents remain extremely vulnerable to the financial consequences of floods."