WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Top officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) visited Tulsa, Oklahoma, today to reward the city for its outstanding achievements in reducing flood risks.
At the annual conference of the Oklahoma Municipal League at the Tulsa Convention Center, Federal Insurance Administrator Jo Ann Howard, who manages the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for FEMA, and FEMA Region VI Director R. L ("Buddy") Young presented Tulsa Mayor M. Susan Savage with a special plaque recognizing the city's proactive floodplain management program.
They announced that because of the city's efforts, beginning next month Tulsa property owners will enjoy the lowest flood insurance rates in the country.
"On October 1, Tulsa will become the nation's first Class 3 community under the NFIP's Community Rating System," Howard said. "This will give flood insurance policyholders a 35 percent discount on their premiums."
Under the Community Rating System, flood insurance premiums are adjusted to reflect the reduced flood risk resulting from programs that focus on public information, mapping and regulations, flood preparedness and flood damage reduction. The discounts are in five percent increments from Class 9 (five percent) to Class 1 (45 percent).
Last year, Tulsa and two other communities were rated Class 5 and enjoyed 25 percent discounts. Now, as the country's sole Class 3 community, Tulsa will qualify for a 35 percent reduction, which will result in total savings of about $200,000 in premiums among the city's 2,408 flood insurance policies currently in force.
But more important than the premium savings are the savings of lives and reduction of property damage that the citizens of Tulsa will experience as a result of the city's ambitious, creative and bold floodplain management efforts," Howard said.
In the aftermath of the devastating Memorial Day Flood of 1984---14 inches of rain flooded 6,800 homes and businesses and killed 14 people---Tulsa established a stormwater protection program with a stable funding mechanism for the maintenance and management of a stormwater utility. The city set up a watershed-wide floodplain management program and its citizens approved more than $100 million for flood control projects that are now complete.
Among the particular activities that earned Tulsa the Class 3 rating were the acquisition of nearly a thousand flood-prone properties and the preservation of more than a quarter of its floodplain as open space; strong building codes, including the requirement of a two-foot safety factor (freeboard) in floodplain construction; and community outreach to advise residents of flood hazards and offer mitigation solutions and technical assistance.
Today in Washington, FEMA Director James Lee Witt added his praise for Tulsa's flood mitigation achievements. He said the city has also been at the forefront of increasing disaster awareness through FEMA's Project Impact: Building Disaster-Resistant Communities.
"Tulsa epitomizes the type of natural hazard management that we are trying to foster and provides an example to the nation of what a community can do to protect its residents from becoming disaster victims," Witt said.
Other Project Impact communities in Oklahoma are the cities of Miami, Durant and (just announced today) Lawton.