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The following comments are based on my experiences with the CRS program over the last nine years, including six years as a regional CRS Coordinator for
The CRS program is an effective incentive for communities to adapt to current and increasing flood risk. Communities on
More specific comments are grouped below.
- CRS communities often feel that the documentation and reporting requirements are too onerous. Primarily, the level of "correctness" required of Elevation Certificates draws a significant amount of time on the part of community officials. The annual Elevation Certificate corrections for items that are not related to compliance are the largest source of frustration for communities regarding CRS documentation. (The compliance portions are not at issue.)
- As other comments below reflect, not all flood resilience activities fit neatly into existing the CRS system or are so onerous to report communities do not bother. While there is value to the consistency provided by the existing approach, it is possible that some activities should be reviewed without prescribed documentation - just a discussion about the activity and its resilience value, the process to create it, what's involved in implementing it, and to what extent it's enforced or used.
* "All or Nothing" Approach: This applies specifically activity 610. A flood threat recognition system and emergency warning dissemination mechanism can be critical in protecting life safety regardless of a response plan. As communities often look to the CRS as a source for flood resilience ideas and sometimes pursue activities in part because they will get CRS credit for them, the "all or nothing" approach may discourage communities from pursuing these potentially lifesaving in-event warnings. Furthermore, the fact that the CRS program does not offer credit for these items on their own gives the impression that they only have value when combined with a response plan. While a response plan would improve their use, the public can use warnings to protect themselves and their property independent of the community's response plan. They should be credited separately from the response plan.
* Climate Change and Future Conditions:
- Activities that address these are already incorporated into the CRS program in various ways but could be repackaged as adaptation to these specific risks. For example, a stormwater management program that requires stormwater from a lower-probability storm is already addressing urban flooding (addressing activities 410 and 450). This could be incorporated more directly in the overall marketing of the program and the program's priorities.
- The CRS could also consider providing more credit for planning for these future conditions. It is an enormous lift for a community to enact regulations based on future conditions, and it would be helpful to see some more focused credit for climate hazard planning that doesn't quite fit the process of Hazard Mitigation Planning. Much of this planning goes through a similarly intensive public-input process but as things currently stand would not earn credit.
- The CRS could incorporate a new priority topic focused on climate-related flood hazards (e.g. sea level rise, flash flooding) into Activity 330 (not just available through a
* Direct Impacts to Policyholders:
- It may be helpful for the CRS program to create some modifiable mailers (such as a postcard) with basic information that could be adjusted by a community. It could include information about what the CRS is and how mitigation can improve safety and lower flood risk. A mailer created at the federal level with a graphics team would alleviate the need for a community to create their own and would also likely result in more successful marketing. If this is important enough to the CRS program, a template could be sent with the letter letting the community know they've gotten into the program or passed their Cycle Visit as a reminder to get the word out.
- An important factor in encouraging individual risk reduction is to ensure CRS incentives are lined up with RR2.0 (or, ideally, the reverse). For example, flood vents appear to have a nearly negligible effect on insurance rates under RR2.0. Given that vents are a minimum NFIP requirement for applicable structures, this seems like the wrong message. There is not yet enough information available from RR2.0 to see how this will play out on a large scale, but it's confusing and ineffective if your insurance policy says you don't get any money off for having vents (for example), but if you and all of your neighbors take actions to mitigate, you'll get a collective discount through the CRS.
* Documentation: One way to address onerous documentation may be to change how the class and point system works. Instead of requiring 500 points to reach the next class level, perhaps there could be a sliding scale based on total points. If a community has 700 points, they receive a 7% discount instead of a 5% discount. If they have 1430 points, they receive a 14% discount. To minimize the potential for chaotic management, a 500 point minimum could be required to enter the program.
* Risk Rating 2.0: RR2.0 has the potential to cause significant changes in savings in both the short term (for the worse) and long term (for the better). It would be extremely helpful if the CRS program could provide communities with data on anticipated changes and how long those changes are likely to last. Specifically, communities with a large pre-FIRM building stock are likely to see a significant decrease in savings for the time it takes these properties to complete their glide paths to full risk rates. Some of these communities may be pressured to drop out of the CRS because the savings no longer make the workload a logical tradeoff. If these communities could understand when all policyholders will see full savings/risk rates, this would help justify continued CRS participation. Perhaps a longevity incentive could encourage communities to stay in the program while they wait out these changes.
* Repetitive Loss Data: It is nearly impossible for communities to access repetitive loss data at this time. I personally have spent a substantial amount of time communicating with
Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the Community Rating System.
Floodplain Specialist & CRS Coordinator
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The notice can be viewed at: https://www.regulations.gov/document/FEMA-2021-0021-0001
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