How to Mitigate Flood Risk in Charleston SC
Extensive media coverage of events like Katrina, Rita, Irene, and Sandy has hopefully taught the American public that Mother Nature does not read flood maps and that flooding can and will occur outside of the specified “line on the flood map”. Additionally, testimonials from these same flood events have hopefully dispelled the notion that if a home or structure does flood that flood insurance and community support agencies will “make them whole again”. Flooding is, and continues to be the nation’s #1 natural disaster with homeowners having a 1-in-4 chance (or greater depending on the area) of flooding within the span of a 30-year mortgage. Just a few inches of water inside a structure can cost tens of thousands of dollars in damage–damage a standard homeowners policy does not cover. Yet, thousands of Americans have lost their home, all of their possessions, and their lifetime investment in the blink of an eye, as a disastrous flood event occurs at their doorstep.
According to Dennis Mileti, Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado at Boulder where he served as the Director of the Natural Hazards Center and as Chair of the Dept of Sociology, “People are more likely to take actions if you show that those actions can cut their losses if something happens”. With that in mind, home owners and business owners should talk to their insurance agent about how changes might affect their property and their flood insurance policy. There is a lot that these property owners can do to be prepared:
• First, (and that’s where the surveyors come into play) an Elevation Certificate needs to be secured for the structure to assess the true flood risk of the property and to determine the correct flood insurance policy rate for the structure.
• Second, meeting building code requirements and following current best practices will reduce potential risk to future flood loss. Best practices involve building above code and can include elevation of utilities such as hot water heaters, air conditioning units and furnaces. A great video on some of these best practices can be found at youtu.be/V2Tw8nVRH1c.
• Third, flood mitigation techniques should be explored. These methods can include: Raising the structure above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE)–this will reduce flood insurance premiums and potentially save 85 percent or more in the cost of a flood insurance policy and, subsequently, save thousands of dollars over the life of a home or business. In many cases, the cost of elevating the structure will be saved in a few years through reduced flood insurance premiums (see the FEMA illustration above).
Adding flood openings to the walls of the structure below the Finished Floor Elevation (FFE) It should be noted that flood openings are required not only by the NFIP, but also by the national, state and local building codes, in any enclosed area, below the base flood elevation subject to flooding.
Flood openings/flood vents allow for flood waters to automatically flow into and out of enclosed areas and lessen the risk of structural damage caused by the pressure of floodwaters on exterior walls during a flood event. If flood openings/flood vents are not present, the building’s structural integrity is at risk and the National Flood Insurance Program mandates that the risk of collapse or failure must be insured against.
SmartVent foundation flood vents are a great mitigation (new construction and retrofit) product that can lower flood risk. In retrofit situations, when a structure is not in compliance with flood opening requirements, and SmartVents are installed, the makers of SmartVent estimate an average 83% savings in flood insurance premiums for property owners. SmartVent also takes great pride in being the only FEMAAccepted and ICC-ES Certified Flood Vent nation-wide on the market today.
Tom Little, Vice President of SmartVent states that the “return on the investment for the install is experienced in less than 2 years, so it becomes a “no brainer” for the property owner to use our product.”
As an added bonus for surveyors, the elimination of liability from miscalculating potentially non-compliant flood openings is eliminated with SmartVents. Each SmartVent has a label on it identifying the ICC-ES report number, the model number and the area of certified coverage–usually 200 square feet for each SmartVent flood opening.
Other mitigation techniques can include:
• Using breakaway walls below the Finished Floor Elevation (FFE) in V Zones (zones with velocities associated with flood waters)
• For commercial structures, floodproofing below the Base Flood Elevation (BFE)
A property owner can either pay now in higher standards for new construction, mitigation techniques or retrofit applications or pay later with increased flood insurance premiums.