Why FEMA Maps Can’t Determine People’s Need for Flood Insurance

Extreme floods are exposing issues in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) flood maps, according to a recent article by the Washington Post. Americans rely on these maps to warn about potential flood risks, but that’s creating dangerous situations for residents around the country as it leaves them uninformed about the potential property damage and dangers they face in their locations.

The FEMA flood maps are still effective at reducing risk and keeping locals informed in certain areas, like eastern Kentucky, which was hit with a deadly flood in July 2022. However, in cities like Dallas, Texas, St. Louis, Missouri, and Summerville, Georgia, they failed to warn citizens of impending flood hazards. Even more alarming, less than 1% of homeowners in these areas have flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), leaving them unprepared for disasters.

FEMA officials recognized these issues when testifying to Congress, stating that more than 40% of NFIP claims made from 2017 to 2019 were located in areas FEMA had yet to map, or in locations outside of identified flood zones. However, FEMA clarified that individuals shouldn’t use their maps as predictive tools and should base their decision to purchase flood insurance on a variety of factors aside from the maps. The changing climate means that storms can now carry more moisture, creating new flood zones that aren’t likely to change.

FEMA now aims to move away from its “binary” model of mitigating flood risks and take a more comprehensive approach to pricing flood insurance, although they still rely on mapping technology to influence planning and regulations. Here you can learn more about changing flood patterns and the potential for blindspots in FEMA’s flood mapping strategies, then contact us for a quote.

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