Community Rating System
Recent reforms of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) are impacting planning, businesses, and the economies of coastal localities. One program offers an innovative and attractive solution to locality staff, elected officials, and residents, while simultaneously encouraging adaptation and resilience planning in communities. The NFIP’s Community Rating System (CRS) is a voluntary incentive based program that rewards localities that take extra steps to reduce flooding with lower flood insurance premiums for property owners. Wetlands Watch is leading the movement to champion the CRS as a policy and planning tool to help Virginia’s coastal localities become adaptive to increased flooding and sea level rise. The CRS is at the intersection of nearly every planning and policy decision related to sea level rise resilience, mitigation, and adaptation. Identifying and effectively communicating the overlapping strategies and multiple benefits of participation in the program is critical to growing adaptive communities in the Commonwealth. We are entrenched in this important work.
Known as the CRS, the Community Rating System is a FEMA program that incentivizes a strong floodplain management program by offering discounts on flood insurance rates for all policyholders within that community. Communities can gain points by adopting various floodplain management activities. Total points correspond to different ratings (also known as classes), which in turn correspond to discount percentages on flood insurance. Localities enter the program at a class 9, which earns a 5% premium discount, and aim to increase their class rating and corresponding discount, the highest being a class 1 and 45% discount. With every class rating improvement, discounts for policyholders in the Special Flood Hazard Area (high risk flood zones) increase in increments of 5%.
Wetlands Watch released a Virginia-specific report in March 2015 to assist local governments in participating in or improving their class rating in the CRS. The report focuses on how to get credit for activities that localities already implement and how to get credit for sea level rise adaptation activities.
As of March 2017, twenty-five (25) localities in Virginia participate in the CRS – this means less than 10% of the eligible 292 communities are enrolled in the program. (Click here for a map and list of these communities in a zip file.) Several communities are in the process of working to improve their ratings. This will help those communities by providing better floodplain management and making floodplains safer, as well as providing discounts on flood insurance to every policyholder in those communities. The best rating held by Virginia communities is a 5, which earns policyholders in these communities a 25% discount on their flood insurance rates. Discounts are slightly lower for policyholders located outside of the Special Flood Hazard Area, but their rates tend to already be low. More communities are likely to join the CRS and increase their class ratings if policyholders continue to see dramatic flood insurance rates increases.
Communities can earn points in the CRS by participating in four categories of activities: public information, mapping and regulations, flood damage reduction, and warning and response. Activities such as keeping elevation certificates on file, having structures elevated out of the floodplain, more stringent building requirements such as adding freeboard, and pursuing public outreach can all earn points for a community.
CRS Premium Discounts (Source)
To find out more about the CRS in your community, talk to your community floodplain manager. You can also get more information from FEMA through these links: