Dave Maurstad

With hundreds of Iowa homes damaged or destroyed by flooding just this month, the director of the National Flood Insurance program is launching a campaign to get more people to buy flood insurance and to focus on addressing hazards ahead of time.

Dave Maurstad says the effort is working to close the insurance gap. “We estimate that 40% of the properties in the high-risk area have flood insurance coverage and we need to do much better than that,” Maurstad says. “We’ve set a goal within the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration to double the number of properties covered by flood insurance by 2022.”

Difficult, back-to-back hurricane seasons and events such as inland flooding, wildfires and mudslides helped shape the new strategy. Maurstad says the highest priority of the strategic plan is to develop what he calls a “culture of preparedness.” “When we look at how the nation responds to natural disasters, insurance is a key part of it,” Maurstad says. “Event after event shows not enough people have the right kind at the right limits of insurance that could really help them and their communities recover so much faster.”

There are now about five-million flood insurance policy-holders in the nation, generating about five-billion dollars in revenue. For homeowners in low- to medium-risk areas, preferred-risk flood insurance policies can cost around $500 a year. For those in high-risk flood zones, the cost can rise to around $2,000. Maurstad says homeowners need to become better informed about the areas where they live and make changes before the next storm hits.

“Part of it is how we can make sure people know what their risk is, so they can take the right steps to mitigate their properties,” Maurstad says. “They can either elevate them, storm-proof them or do something to help minimize the damage, and in some cases, identify areas that maybe we shouldn’t be developing in.”

Maurstad says one goal of FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program is to quadruple the amount of investment in mitigation by 2022. He says that would allow the nation to bounce back faster from natural disasters.