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Pralle Discusses Federal Flood Insurance, Flood Maps in Grist Article

August 22, 2022


Sarah Pralle

Sarah Pralle

The number of National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies has decreased by nearly 9 percent in the last year. This comes after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) overhauled the program's insurance pricing system. The policy drops come at a time when it's more important than ever for people living in flood zones to purchase insurance.

Sarah Pralle, associate professor of political science, says that while the preliminary numbers of dropped policies are concerning, they’re part of a wider problem that extends back before the NFIP’s restructuring. Americans living in flood-prone areas tend not to buy insurance, making premiums higher for those who do, because the insurance pool is smaller.

But the bigger problem, she believes, is rooted in FEMA’s flood maps, which depict current levels of disaster risk using data from the past, instead of projections for the future. 

“You might buy a house just outside the edge of a flood zone, thinking you’re safe, but you’re going to have that mortgage for 30 years,” she says. “And probably within 30 years your house is going to be in a flood zone.”

The solution, Pralle believes, is to adjust FEMA’s flood maps to encompass a larger number of people, thereby widening the insurance pool and bringing down premiums for everyone. 

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