Hundreds of Flood Survivors Demand that FEMA Do More to Protect Them from Climate Change-Driven Natural Catastrophes

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asked for public input on changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) last fall. Over 300 people hit by flooding are responding by signing a petition drafted by Anthropocene Alliance — a nonprofit group “fighting for climate and environmental justice”.

Anthropocene Alliance doesn’t mince words in the petition, which is addressed to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. In the introduction, the group states clearly, “We are flood survivors, and we are angry.”

“We’ve witnessed death and destruction from Hurricanes Harvey, Florence, Laura, Sally, Sandy, Matthew, Irma, Delta, and Zeta, as well as from overland flooding in the Midwest,” the petition states.  “We’ve lived without electricity, running water, and secure shelter. We’ve heard our children cry from the absence of friends, school, and safety. And we’ve confronted homelessness, illness, and mind-numbing red tape from insurance companies and government agencies.”

The petition makes very specific demands of FEMA, including:

  • Stop allowing developers, disreputable planners, engineers and politicians to use the NFIP to encourage building in flood zones that puts the new properties and surrounding properties at risk of flooding.
  • Stop paying for the repair of property that floods repeatedly and, instead, “prioritize mitigation measures such as elevation, home buyouts, and community relocation.”
  • Start planning now to relocate whole towns and cities threatened by sea level rise flooding.
  • Improve the accuracy of FEMA flood maps that take climate change and sea level rise into account.
  • Require states to to pass uniform seller’s disclosure laws that clearly state a property’s flood risk in order for properties in the states to be eligible for coverage under the NFIP.
  • Set NFIP premiums that adequately reflect flood risk, and ensure it’s “affordable and accessible to low-income households until such time that the communities can be moved out of harm’s way.”
  • Make buyouts more desirable by covering the true cost residents of areas that flood will have to pay to move to areas free of flooding.
  • Protect or restore natural barriers to flooding, such floodplains, wetlands, forests, watersheds, salt marshes and beaches.

In the closing paragraph of the petition signed by Harriet Festing, Anthropocene Alliance’s executive director, the group encourages FEMA to open a dialogue with them.

“The flood survivors below all believe that for our children to have a safe and healthy planet, we need to quickly end fossil fuel use and transition to an economy focused on the satisfaction of real, human needs,” the petition states. “At the same time, provision must be made to protect individuals and communities from present and future harms due to more intense storms, rising sea levels, subsidence, bad development, and flooding.”

With so much at stake, buyers, sellers, owners and real estate agents in coastal areas need to band together with groups like Anthropocene Alliance to pressure the federal, state and local governments to do what’s right for all property owners in coastal areas susceptible to sea level rise flooding. Voting for candidates who not only recognize the challenges posed by climate change and sea level rise flooding but who are prepared to do something about them is also essential.

Public Activism Can Help Mitigate Sea Level Rise Flooding Problems

Owners of real estate in areas now experiencing sea level rise flooding can fight back by teaming up and going public with their plight. That’s the experience of an Ocean City, NJ, woman whose neighborhood flooded on a regular basis.

Suzanne Hornick shared her story with Samantha Harrington, a reporter for the Yale Climate Connections website. Hornick said the flooding in her neighborhood has worsened over the decades her family has owned property in Ocean City. Fed up, she fought back by creating a Facebook page that documented the flooding and by joining with her neighbors to form the Ocean City, NJ, Flooding Committee. The committee demanded that the city deal with the problem. They even distributed “Fix our flooding now” signs that residents displayed on their lawns.

By aggressively demanding relief, Hornick and her group developed a contentious relationship with local city officials. Then they had a breakthrough when she consulted with Tom Herrington, a coastal scientist and director of the Urban Coast Institute at Monmouth University. Herrington, who grew up in Ocean City, advised Hornick and the group about how to gather tidal and flood data that could be used to convince the city to take concrete steps to solve the flooding problem wherever possible, which it did. As a result of all their efforts, Hornick says she hasn’t had flooding on her street in a year.

Hornick, the group, and the city can’t rest on their laurels, however. They still have to take additional steps to address the continuously rising seas.

With sea level rise flooding on the rise in communities along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coastlines, real estate owners can’t afford to take a passive approach when it comes to protecting what for most is their greatest investment: Their homes. Gathering data, taking photos, building a website and forming flood-focused interest groups, is a great way to appeal to officials and the public for relief.

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