Prince William County recently received recognition from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for achieving a Class 7 rating in the agency’s Community Rating System. The new rating will give those property owners in the county who have flood insurance a 15-percent discount in their insurance premiums, which amounts to an average savings of $320 annually.
The rating system is part of FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, which rates participating communities based on the quality of their floodplain management programs, said Prince William County Watershed Management Chief Madan Mohan. “This comes down to implementing and enforcing sound floodplain management regulations, preserving open space in floodplain areas, maintaining drainage systems and stormwater management facilities, educating people in flood prone areas, providing flood map information, and implementing flood protection projects and alarm systems.”
Mitigating flooding risks is what leads insurance companies to reduce the premiums, Mohan said. “It eliminates the flood-risk for new developments and reduces such occurrences or ensures better preparedness for existing developments.”
In addition to saving residents money, floodplain management saves the county money, said Mohan. “Less flooding means fewer drainage improvement projects. Open space preservation in floodplains also bring water quality benefits by buffering the streams; and implementing sound regulations helps the county obtain disaster and hazard mitigation grants from FEMA.”
Floodplain management programs also serve to protect the environment and educate property owners. “Flood control directly influences water quality as floods carry more polluted runoff,” Mohan said. “Properties are better protected from flooding and the property owners are made aware of the risks for having structures within the floodplain. The property owners are also educated on flood insurance available from FEMA. Additionally, the development standards are strictly implemented and enforced to avoid any new structure in the floodplain.”
There are 10 levels within the rating system, and there’s a good chance that the county will move into Class 6 within the next couple of years. Moving up a class would save property owners with flood insurance an additional 5 percent on their premiums, or an average of an additional $107 annually, Mohan said.
Out of the 27 localities in Virginia that participate in the Community Rating System program, nine of them, including Prince William County, have a Class 7 rating. Five counties have a Class 6 rating. Some of those jurisdictions are in less populated areas, so it’s easier for them to achieve a Class 6 rating. “Getting Class-6 for a developed jurisdiction like Prince William County will be a high achievement.”
More information about the county’s efforts with floodplain management can be found at pwcgov.org/environmentalservices. Click on “Flooding and Flood Control.”