By Greg Ellison
(May 21, 2020) A trio of experts with the Maryland Department of the Environment took a deep dive into risk reduction measures during an OPA Flood Readiness seminar held last Tuesday via Facebook Live.
Opening the event was Dave Guignet, the Maryland coordinator for FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, who said FEMA defines the Ocean Pines coastal flood area from Isle of Wright Bay that feeds Manklin Creek and the St. Martin River.
“FEMA maps are not the limit of flooding that will occur,” he said. “Floods do not read the maps or follow map boundaries.”
To assist homeowners assess flood risks, Guignet suggested visiting the FEMA Map Service Center online at msc.fema.gov/portal.
“You’re going to need a document at some point of what your property looks like … with FEMAs mapping as a baseline layer,” he said.
Property owners can obtain a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), which are legal documents accepted by insurance and financial institutions.
Guignet said regional perspective is available through the Maryland DFIRM Outreach Program’s Flood Risk Application available online at mdfloodmaps.net.
“FEMA’s site is one size fits all for 50 states in the country,” he said.
Natural resource planner for the MDE, Kevin Wagner, who manages FEMA’s Community Assistance Program in Maryland, told the Facebook audience that the principal questions about flood risks related to reducing risks and insurance rates.
Wagner said the mantra of floodplain management and mitigation experts is, “know risk, reduce risk [and] insure risk.”
“In Maryland, we have developed a floodplain management ordinance, which we share out to all of our communities,” he said. “Worcester County has taken the ordinance and adopted nearly all of it.”
Wagner said Worcester revised its floodplain management ordinance in June 2015 to meet or exceed National Flood Insurance Program minimum requirements.
To reduce the risk of flooding-related water damage, Wager offered tips for new construction or home remodeling projects.
“There are things that you can do during construction that can essentially mitigate or reduce the impacts of flooding,” he said.
Wagner said builders should ideally employ flood damage-resistant materials, such as cement, brick, tile, marine-grade plywood or sprayed polyurethane foam insulation.
“Basically, anything that if it were to get wet or saturated it’s not going to … break down and fail or grow mold,” he said.
Other flood mitigation measures Wagner mentioned were installing backflow prevention valves.
“If you’re connected to a sewage system and there is a flood, you need a way to prevent the water from all that pressure pushing the waste back up through the pipes,” he said.
Further flood preparedness steps include elevating HVAC units and utilities, along with anchoring outside fuel tanks and accessory structures to prevent them was being carried away during extreme weather.
“We’ve seen many times these things floating off and causing problems in culverts,” he said.
Wagner also stressed the importance for property owners to obtain an elevation certification.
“Oftentimes this is required during the permitting process, but if not, it’s something that is really important on the flood insurance rating side,” he said.
Maryland requires a licensed surveyor to approve elevation certifications for existing structures, Wager said.
To assure readiness for severe weather events, Wager said residents need to make a plan, build an emergency supply kit and stay informed of developing forecasts.
Wager said preparation information is available online at ready.gov/plan
Closing the presentation was flood insurance specialist Walt McGuckin, FEMA Region III Manager.
“A flood insurance policy will allow you to at least recoup what you lost,” he said. “It’s not going to make you whole.”
McGuckin said while homeowner’s policies might cover some common types of water damage, there are limits.
“Most homeowners insurance polices exclude damage from flooding,” he said.
McGuckin said FEMA’s flood insurance is a top option available for property owners in need of flood coverage
“The NFIP policy … is available virtually anywhere for virtually any type of building and or its contents,” he said. “Non-NFIP options may be available but you need to check with your insurance agent.”
While nearly all homeowners can buy flood insurance, McGuckin said it is required for properties in high risk or, special flood hazard areas, as well as for federally backed or regulated mortgage loans.
Regardless of proximity to flood prone areas, McGuckin said all property owners should investigate related insurance coverage.
“Changing weather patterns and more intense rainfall events frequently result in damage outside of the high risk or special flood hazard area,” he said. “It’s no longer if, it’s when.”
For additional information, visit the following online resources noted during the seminar: FEMA Map Service Center at https://msc.fema.gov/portal; Maryland DFIRM Outreach Program at http://mdfloodmaps.net; and National Flood Insurance Program at www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.