Emergency Management Official's View: All Minnesotans should know their flood risk
In the last 20 years, floods have contributed to more than $377 million in federal disaster assistance in Minnesota, with more than $91 million going to St. Louis County alone. Storms like the one seen in Duluth and in the Duluth region in 2012 a...
In the last 20 years, floods have contributed to more than $377 million in federal disaster assistance in Minnesota, with more than $91 million going to St. Louis County alone. Storms like the one seen in Duluth and in the Duluth region in 2012 are becoming more commonplace, and it means we need to be better prepared so they don't severely impact our lives.
While flooding occurs less often than tornadoes and winter storms in Minnesota, it creates more damage to properties than both tornadoes and winter storms combined.
However, unlike tornadoes and winter storms, floods often can be predicted based upon location and how frequently they occur annually. That allows us to prepare for them and to lower the risk that they will damage property or cost lives.
As president of the Association of Minnesota Emergency Managers, I am proud of the tireless work the emergency-management professionals in our state conduct day in and day out to make sure plans are in place and response is ready when a major flood hits.
While planners, emergency managers, firefighters, and first responders all work to predict the next flood and prepare for it, homeowners and renters often are in the dark about their flood risk. This is dangerous because community preparedness for flooding depends on everyone being involved and informed.
In Minnesota, because of our laws, many folks buy homes or rent without ever being told they are at risk for flooding. This lack of knowledge about flood risk puts people in danger. It's a situation that must be remedied.
In order to protect people, it is critical that anyone looking to purchase or lease a new home knows its flood history and risk so they can make an informed decision about whether it's the right move or take appropriate steps to mitigate the risk. States across the country have different requirements for flood disclosure, with varying degrees of information needed, time allotted to review, and opportunities to remedy dangers.
A national and uniform standard of disclosure - whether federally enacted or enacted at the state level, providing future residents comprehensive information on a property's flood risk in a timely manner that is accessible and realistic for sellers - is key to addressing issues. With knowledge of flood risk and history from the outset, a new owner could spread the costs of mitigation throughout the lifetime of a mortgage, reducing upfront and unexpected costs.
Flood-risk and -history disclosures are not only ethical to keep people out of harm's way; they also could help reduce taxpayer burden related to the National Flood Insurance Program and disaster assistance through reduced flood claims and losses. The program is already $25 billion in debt and is financially unsustainable. In the coming months, as Congress reauthorizes the national program, there is an opportunity for flood-risk disclosure to be included and promulgated nationwide.
Minnesota is a state blessed with abundant rivers and pristine lakes. With so many residents living near a shoreline, however, our many waterways create a danger of flooding and the possible loss of life and property. We have to be prepared, which means no one should be moving into a new home without full knowledge of whether they are at risk for flooding or what they can do about it. Flood-risk disclosure is a sensible start.
Rick Larkin of St. Paul is president of the Association of Minnesota Emergency Managers, or AMEM (amemminnesota.org).