UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant have been helping coastal communities increase public safety and save money on flood insurance through training and outreach related the FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS).

CRS is the first federal program designed to reduce insurance premiums for residents in communities that exceed minimum floodplain management standards. On September 2, Kelly Spratt and Madeleine Russell helped launch a coast-wide CRS User’s Group, a partnership of cities and counties in coastal Georgia who are assisting each other to better participate in and benefit from this program.

Communities can reduce their premiums through CRS by developing public information campaigns, instituting new maps and regulation, reducing flood damage and creating warning and response systems. Each community enters the program as a Class 10. With each improvement in class, property owners’ flood insurance rates are reduced by five percent.

Partnering with UGA Marine Extension, Georgia Sea Grant, and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the City of Tybee Island will save property owners nearly $1 million this year, due to their advancement from a Class 7 to a Class 5 community. Across the state, the CRS program saved Georgia property owners more than $7 million in 2014.

In the past month, Spratt and Russell also met with government officials in Bryan, Camden and McIntosh counties to develop outreach strategies for building flood resiliency. Russell additionally traveled to Blountstown, Fla., in partnership with Florida Sea Grant, to support coastal Florida and Alabama communities who are looking to enter the CRS program.

Our staff will continue to provide support throughout the fall by hosting training opportunities, such as the FEMA Elevation Certificate Workshop for surveyors, engineers, floodplain administrators and municipal and county officials that was held September 17 in Brunswick.

Coastal communities throughout the Southeast are seeking UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant expertise as a result of rising flood insurance costs. Due to damages sustained by Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, the National Flood Insurance Program has incurred billions of dollars of debt, and recent legislation has been enacted to stabilize the program.

This reform involves developing new FEMA floodplain maps to more accurately depict areas that are vulnerable to flooding, as well as adjusting rates to more accurately reflect a property’s true flood risk. As a result, many property owners are experiencing increased premiums or being required to purchase flood insurance for the first time.