PHILADELPHIA – On March 27, 2018, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region III and the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (WVDHSEM) hosted the first-ever West Virginia Flood Insurance Partners Roundtable in White Sulphur Springs, WV. The Roundtable provided a forum for state partners, floodplain managers, emergency managers, realtors, lenders, and insurance agents to engage in open discussion about floodplain management, increasing the number of flood insurance policies, and protecting the residents of West Virginia from the impacts of future flooding.
Roundtable activities began in the morning with a three hour, continuing education session for insurance agents on the basics of the National Flood Insurance Program, and featured an on-line demonstration of the WV Flood Tool presented by Kevin Sneed, the state’s National Flood Insurance Program Coordinator.
In the afternoon, WVDHSEM’s Director of Mitigation and Recovery, Al Lisko, emphasized the importance of local floodplain managers. Comparing the role of floodplain managers to the often unsung efforts of family doctors he said “You are trying to maintain the health of your community and maintain it over time… The more we can do now to help people and to help the next generation, the better.”
The open discussion focused on the value of flood insurance in helping communities recover from disasters. Rich Sobota, Flood Insurance Specialist with FEMA Region III, offered a comparison in recovery from the June 2016 flooding in West Virginia. After the event, residents with flood insurance received an average of $48,000 per claim while residents relying on disaster assistance only received an average of $7,500. To the partners at the table, this was a clear motive for increasing insurance coverage in the region.
Brainstorming ways to engage residents about being prepared for the next flood generated the most conversation – with ideas for personal conversations, social media and representation at local events topping the list. Local officials also emphasized the importance of mitigation grant funding, particularly for improved reconstruction. The recently released National Institute of Building Sciences’ 2017 Interim Report finds that federally funded mitigation grants, on average, can save the nation $6 in future disaster costs for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation. Partners agreed that everyone needs to work to educate communities on stronger mitigation practices, but also ensure the grant programs and processes are clearly understood. Overall, the discussions that occurred will continue to help build effective relationships and strong partnerships for continued progress to ensure West Virginia is more resilient against future flooding.
FEMA Region III plans to work with other state partners to host Flood Insurance Partner Roundtable events throughout the Region in the coming year to broaden the conversation to reduce the risk of future flooding, increase the number of residents covered by flood insurance, and to establish productive partnerships with all stakeholders.
FEMA’s mission is helping people before, during, and after disasters. FEMA Region III’s jurisdiction includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. Stay informed of FEMA’s activities online: videos and podcasts are available at fema.gov/medialibrary and youtube.com/fema. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/femaregion3.