Pennsylvania

Flood risk and mitigation

Overview

Floods and hurricanes are a serious threat to Pennsylvania, causing loss of life and considerable physical and economic damage to communities. From 2003 to 2018, 14 federal disasters were declared for floods, hurricanes, and severe storms in the state, costing taxpayers almost $1.2 billion in federal assistance.1

Federal flood insurance helps communities prepare

In Pennsylvania, 23 localities participate in the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System. This voluntary program offers communities lower insurance premiums if they have flood plain management practices that exceed the program’s minimum requirements. These practices include buying out flood-prone homes, improving storm drainage, elevating buildings, and floodproofing structures. The city of Wilkes-Barre has taken advantage of this program and earned the highest Community Rating System score in the state. This has garnered a 20 percent discount on flood insurance premiums for policyholders living in a designated flood zone.2 

Importance of policy

Communities must prepare for weather-related catastrophes such as floods. And federal officials should consider policy reforms that would improve flood protection and preparation, minimize disruptions to the economy, and reduce costs to federal and state taxpayers. These actions include:

  • Increasing federal investment in flood mitigation programs that help communities prepare for and reduce the damage from floods.
  • Improving resilience requirements for infrastructure built and rebuilt in flood-prone areas.
  • Protecting ecosystems such as wetlands, salt marshes, and dunes that can act as barriers to storms 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 better prepare for floods.

Endnotes

  1. Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, “2018 Commonwealth of Pennsylvania State Hazard Mitigation Plan Update,” (Oct. 10, 2018), 239, https://pahmp.com; Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Disasters: Total Number of Declared Disasters by State/Tribal Government and by Year,” accessed Nov. 8, 2018, https://www.fema.gov/disasters.
  2. Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Community Rating System” (2017), https://www.fema.gov/media-librarydata/1523648898907-09056f549d51efc72fe60bf4999e904a/20_crs_508_apr2018.pdf; Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, “2018 Commonwealth of Pennsylvania State Hazard Mitigation Plan Update,” 239.