OC Hears Update On Flood Insurance Rate Maps

OCEAN CITY – An update to Ocean City’s Hazard Mitigation Plan was presented this month to ensure the continuation of a flood insurance premium discount as well as an update to Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs).
Ocean City Director of Planning and Zoning Matthew Margotta explained the Community Rating System (CRS) Program administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requires an annual report be presented to the Mayor and City Council on the status of the Hazard Mitigation Plan. This allows the town to remain active in the program and retain a 15-percent flood insurance premium discount.
Each fall, the town submits documentation to FEMA that verifies Ocean City is following established guidelines set forth under the CRS Program.
Margotta summarized a series of events Ocean City has taken in the last couple of years regarding the Hazard Mitigation Plan starting with on July 16, 2012 the council adopted an All Hazard Mitigation Plan prepared as a requirement of the CRS Program under FEMA.
Following the adoption of the plan, in 2012 Ocean City approved financial assistance to purchase a mobile, solar-powered variable message sign in the amount of $23,000. The sign will be part of the town’s public notification efforts during severe weather events.
Also, on Dec. 3-4, 2012, there was hurricane training on how to function in the Emergency Operations Center during a storm.
This year kicked off with a Mayor’s Open House on Jan. 1 when materials about storm safety and flood awareness were offered to the public.
On Feb. 4-7, a hurricane education seminar was held at the Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Md., where town officials and staff attended exercises to learn how to conduct services following a storm.
On May 18 and Sept. 1, an annual Preparedness Day was conducted with Worcester County to educate citizens of storm safety. A Hurricane Awareness Night at City Hall was also conducted on May 22 where presentations about hurricane safety measures, building safety and purchasing flood insurance were presented.
The town’s website has a link to “Flood Information” that allows viewers to read about many issues associated with flooding, hurricanes, and building safety, as well as viewing elevation certificates.
A “Flood Hazard Protection” article is also distributed to property owners twice each year through the town’s newsletter. The article covers topics like flood zones, the town’s warning system, evacuation and purchasing flood insurance.
Margotta concluded, Ocean City’s major effort continues to be addressing elevation of heating, ventilation and air conditioning units above the base flood elevation. New units must be placed above the flood elevation.
Next, Margotta informed the Mayor and Council of the process of updating the FIRMs that is currently taking place.
City Engineer Terry McGean and staff joined Worcester County at a FEMA Community Coordination and Outreach meeting on Sept. 25 to begin the process of enacting up-to-date FIRMs for Worcester County.
Following that meeting, there is a 30-day comment period for staff to make editorial and technical corrections. After Oct. 25, a 90-day appeal period will be open to the public.
According to the State of Maryland, a FIRM illustrates the extent of flood hazards in a community by depicting flood risk zones and the Special Flood Hazard Area, and is used with a Flood Insurance Study report to determine the floodplain development regulations that apply in each flood risk zone and who must buy flood insurance. FIRMs also depict other information including Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) or flood depths, floodways and common physical features such as roads.
Some communities within Maryland are now being shown a single set of countywide FIRMs. The most significant change is that the new maps have been prepared with updated base mapping and topography that will improve the accuracy of floodplain determinations.
With this update, a Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map (DFIRM) was produced that will be compatible with Geographic Information Systems. The improvements in spatial accuracy provided by the new base map, and the availability of electronic floodplain information should greatly enhance the ability to use the maps for planning, permitting and insurance applications. The digital files will be available online when these maps become effective.
Following the appeal period, FEMA will issue a Letter of Final Determination and then provide the community with six months to adopt up-to-date floodplain management ordinances. If the floodplain ordinances in effect are satisfactory, they can be submitted in their current form. If not the ordinances will have to be updated. After the six-month compliance period, the new FIS and FIRM will become effective.
The new map will not affect continuing insurance policies for a structure built in compliance with local floodplain management regulations and the flood map in effect at the time of construction. However, should the structure be substantially improved or substantially damaged where damages or improvements reach 50 percent or more of the pre-damage market value the entire structure will have to be brought into compliance with the floodplain requirements and the BFE in effect at the time any repairs take place.