Floods and hurricanes are becoming more intense in Texas, with about 400 floods occurring annually.1 Ninety percent of the state’s natural disasters are floods, costing an average of $254 million a year.2 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, 23 federal disasters and emergencies were declared for floods, hurricanes, and severe storms in Texas, which exceeded $5.3 billion in total assistance from the U.S. government.3
Federal flood insurance helps communities prepare
Sixty-seven communities in Texas 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.4 The highest-rated communities in the state are the cities of Dallas, Friendswood, Grand Prairie, Houston, Kemah, and Plano, which each earned 25 percent discounts for eligible properties.5
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.
- Texas Department of Public Safety, State of Texas Mitigation Plan: 2013 Update, http://txdps.state.tx.us/dem/Mitigation/txHazMitPlan.pdf; and U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability, “State of Texas Energy Sector Risk Profile,” http://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/06/f22/TX_Energy Sector%20Risk%20Profile.pdf.
- Texas Department of Public Safety, State of Texas Mitigation Plan: 2013 Update.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Disaster Declarations,” accessed May 26, 2016, https://www.fema.gov/disasters. Sum of individual assistance and public assistance for Texas flood-related major disaster and emergency declarations from 2000 to 2015.
- National Flood Insurance Program, “Community Rating System (CRS),” accessed May 26, 2016, https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/crs/ community_rating_system.jsp.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Community Rating System,” last modified June 1, 2014, http://www.fema.gov/media-librarydata/1398878892102-5cbcaa727a635327277d834491210fec/CRS_Communites_May_1_2014.pdf.