Flood risk and mitigation
Floods and hurricanes are becoming more intense in South Carolina, and flooding is the state’s second-most common natural hazard.1 As these events become more serious, the physical and economic damage to communities and the threats to human lives and ecosystems also increase. Between 2000 and 2015, seven federal disasters and emergencies were declared for floods, hurricanes, and severe storms in South Carolina, which exceeded $36.5 million in total assistance from the U.S. government.2
Federal flood insurance helps communities prepare
Forty-four communities in South Carolina participate in the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System. The voluntary program provides reduced insurance premiums in communities that proactively implement flood plain management practices—such as acquisition and relocation of flood-prone structures, elevation of structures, and flood proofing—that exceed the program’s minimum requirements.3 The highest-rated community in the state is Charleston County, which earns a 30 percent discount for eligible properties.4
Importance of policy
Communities must prepare for weather-related catastrophes such as floods and hurricanes, and U.S. policymakers should consider reforms that improve protection and preparation, minimize disruptions to the economy, and reduce costs to the federal government and taxpayers by:
- Increasing federal investment in proactive mitigation programs that help communities prepare for and reduce risk of floods.
- Improving resilience and durability requirements for infrastructure that is rebuilt after disasters.
- Protecting ecosystems, such as wetlands, salt marshes, and dunes, which can absorb storm impacts and help shield property.
- Reforming the National Flood Insurance Program to better communicate actual risk, break the cycle of repeated loss and rebuilding in the most flood-prone areas, and provide incentives to compel communities and homeowners to prepare in advance of floods.
- U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, “State of South Carolina Energy Sector Risk Profile” (2015), http://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/06/f22/SC_Energy Sector Risk Profile.pdf.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Disaster Declarations,” accessed May 26, 2016, https://www.fema.gov/disasters. Sum of individual assistance and public assistance for South Carolina flood-related major disaster and emergency declarations from 2000 to 2015.
- National Flood Insurance Program, “Community Rating System (CRS),” https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/crs/community_rating_system.jsp.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Community Rating System” (2016), https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1476294162726-4795edc7fe5cde0c997bc4389d1265bd/ CRS_List_of_Communites_10_01_2016.pdf.