You may have seen early news reports about a new flood risk assessment tool from the First Street Foundation, which will be released to the general public on June 29. The news has caught fire in the mainstream media and the ASFPM office has already been contacted by The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and CBS News asking us to comment.
We are writing to provide you with background information and some talking points because we understand First Street will be doing outreach to state and local media so you may be contacted by your local elected officials, homeowners, or a member of the media seeking a local perspective.
According to the website, “Flood Factor is a free, online tool that makes it easy to learn if a property has flooded from major events in the past, is currently at risk, and how that risk changes over time. Flood Factor simplifies flooding so anyone can find their risk, understand the science, and make informed decisions to prepare for the future.”
Knowledge is power and ASFPM certainly supports any scientifically sound initiative that helps consumers make more informed decisions when it comes to flood risk. However, a tool like Flood Factor cannot replace the FEMA floodplain maps, which result in $2.45 billion/year in losses avoided from the implementation of NFIP standards alone (and these are inherently tied to the boundaries and data on the FEMA flood maps). As an association, we are concerned that consumers may rely on this new tool exclusively, causing them to make important financial decisions based on generalized data. In fact, the First Street Foundation states that “Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood maps are the gold standard for understanding flood risk in the U.S.”
Since this tool won’t be released until next week, we haven’t used it extensively but we have learned some information on how it was developed, so we know how it can be used or not used. When talking with the press you may also need to emphasize that point as well. You may also want to begin looking into how it depicts flood risk in your community or state. You can sign up here to get notified when the tool is available.
We have included some talking points you may wish to share with your homeowners, policy makers and the media on how to use the data. Download talking points on the First Street Foundation Flood Risk Model.
At this point we are still discovering potential points of concern, conflict and advantages of this data. For example, if you are a state or local floodplain manager, you may wish to coordinate with determination companies, lenders, insurance, and realtors in your area to emphasize that they will see clients who will attempt to leverage these products should they provide a more favorable flood insurance situation. If you have questions or additional feedback, please contact ASFPM staff Meg Galloway (Meg@floods.org) or Alan Lulloff (Alan@floods.org). This will help us fine-tune future messaging on the tool and ensure that we have a good understanding of our members reaction to this new tool.