Hard work paying off for flood policyholders

info@islandpacket.comAugust 2, 2012 

Sometimes, local government services can fly under the radar with little notice.

But some hard work by Beaufort County officials will be hard to miss on flood insurance bills for property owners in the unincorporated areas of the county.

The county has earned a Class 6 rating from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which means as much as a 20 percent discount on flood insurance for those in designated "special flood hazard areas," where flood insurance is mandatory.

The county previously had a Class 7 rating on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 the best. That brought a 15 percent discount.

About 22,500 active flood insurance policies have been written for unincorporated Beaufort County. Annual premiums on these policies total more than $12 million, and savings from these discounts are expected to reach $1.9 million a year.

The savings come as a result of the county's efforts to reduce potential flood damage, with improved flood control systems and regulations. Mapping and educating the public are also part of the rating process.

Bottom line: Reduce the risk; reduce the cost.

Improving a community's rating is no small task. Hakim Bayyoud, with county Building Inspection & Code Enforcement, worked on the project for about 18 months.

And he's not content to stop with a Class 6 rating. He vows to reach Class 4 -- Charleston County's rating -- which brings a 30 percent discount.

We say, go for it.

Charleston County reached that level in 2010, and is the only community east of the Mississippi River with a Class 4 or higher rating.

Roseville, Calif., is rated Class 1; Tulsa, Okla., and King County, Wash., Class 2; and Pierce County, Wash., Class 4.

Beaufort County's improved rating also is an opportunity to acknowledge Hilton Head Island's efforts. In 2010, Hilton Head achieved a Class 5 rating, which brings a 25 percent discount to policyholders.

On Hilton Head, more than 30,000 flood insurance policies cover about $7 billion in residential and commercial property, according to the 2010 press release announcing the Class 5 rating. Insurance premiums then were estimated at $15.8 million.

In South Carolina, only Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach have achieved a Class 5 rating.

The city of Beaufort and the town of Port Royal are rated Class 8 and Class 9 respectively, according to FEMA's May 1 list of participating communities. The town of Bluffton is not listed as participating.

The cost to insure against flood is no small thing in the Lowcountry. We thank the public officials who have worked to bring down that cost.

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