Palm Beach residents who live in flood-hazard areas are now eligible for discounts on their flood insurance premium thanks to the town's efforts to mitigate damages flood waters can cause.
The town participates in the National Flood Insurance Program's community rating system, a voluntary program that gives incentives to communities that exceed its requirements when it comes to what authorities call floodplain management.
Palm Beach has been verified as a Class 7 community in that rating system, which means that residents who reside in certain flood-prone zones -- what is labeled Special Flood Hazard Area, A and V zones -- will receive a 15 percent discount on their flood insurance premium. Residents who reside in what authorities have deemed a non-flood hazard area, will receive a 5 percent discount.
Homeowner's insurance does not cover losses due to flooding in areas that authorities identify as flood-prone -- a fact people living in these areas frequently ignore.
In Palm Beach, flooding is a constant threat particularly to residents in the center and north end of the island. The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers flood insurance for up to $250,000 for a building and $100,000 for belongings. Buildings that aren't homes can be insured up to $500,000.
The town sees alerting residents to the flood insurance discounts available as part of its public service, said Wayne Bergman, assistant director and building official for the Planning and Zoning Department. "We try to keep the flood hazard map updated and accurate," Bergman said. But it is FEMA that sponsors and maintains the flood insurance program.
Approximately 1,867 buildings in Palm Beach stand in flood-hazard areas, Bergman said. For that reason, the town' s building codes require higher ground-level finished floors than the minimums specified by FEMA.
"Palm Beach is a barrier island, and gets a lot of its flooding from the Intracoastal [Waterway]," Bergman said.
The system rates communities from one to nine with the greatest discounts going to the lower ratings, according to FEMA. Among the program's goals: reduce flood damage to insurable property and encourage local governments to better manage their flood plains. Communities get points for public information efforts, mapping and regulation as well as its efforts to warn and respond to flooding.
"Right now, Palm Beach is at seven, which provides a 15 percent of insurance reduction in flood areas. It would be better if we were at a six," Bergman said.
According to a study released in June by the Union for Concerned Scientists, there will be an average of 1.8 feet of sea level rise in Florida by 2045 and 6.4 feet by 2100. The estimates are above 1992 levels. This would put areas in the town in dire risk as tides move farther inland, the study said.
Residents who want to learn more about the flood insurance discount offered by FEMA, can contact the town Building Department at 838-5431 or visit www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program/national-flood-insurance-program-forms.
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