The Regional Flood Control District (RFCD) uses a variety of tools to inform property owners about flood hazards. Because of RFCD’s excellent flood plain management activities, the National Flood Insurance Program determined that Pima County continues its high rating as a Class 5 community under FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS). This places Pima County in the top six percent of flood control districts in the United States.
The Class 5 rating means that property owners in unincorporated Pima County receive a 25% discount in the premium costs for flood insurance policies issued or renewed in Special Flood Hazard Areas. Insurance must be purchased from a private insurance company 30 days before a flood event in order for the property owner to make a claim.
The rating system is based on four categories: Public Information Activities, Mapping and Regulatory Activities, Flood Damage Reduction Activities, and Flood Preparedness Activities. The rating is based on how a community exceeds FEMA’s minimum requirements. RFCD scored the maximum amount of points for its map information service which includes online maps, printed maps, and in-person help at the RFCD public service counter. RFCD’s successful public outreach campaign was also recognized. Outreach includes direct mail to property owners, water bill inserts, articles in Tucson Realtor Magazine, meetings with the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association, and numerous seminars for realtors and surveyors when FEMA switched to digital maps in 2010.
In addition, RFCD received high rating for its Drainage System Maintenance, and Director Suzanne Shields provided a recent example. “This month, RFCD removed sediment from the Rillito River between Swan Road and Craycroft Road to mitigate the flood hazard in preparation for the upcoming monsoon season,” she said. “In addition, our inspectors monitor County-maintained rivers, washes and culverts, then alert our maintenance staff where they see problems.”
The County is reviewed every three years and RFCD is working toward a rating of Class 4 next time. A new CRS requirement is what FEMA calls the “Program for Public Information,” or a strategic plan for public outreach including public input and evaluation. “We need to document what we are already doing well,” said Greg Saxe Environmental Planning Manager. He described successful outreach via local television news in preparation for monsoon season, public service announcements, bus stop placards, billboards, school visits, and outreach at public events like Earth Day.
“The National Weather Service gave us their ‘Storm Ready’ distinction,” said Shields. “Our rain gauges are directly linked to the National Weather Service, and when the gauges reach a certain point, NWS sends out an alert through the Emergency Broadcast System.”