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Water district board adopts community-based flood outreach plan

April 16, 2015

Outreach contributes to reductions in flood insurance rates

SAN JOSE—On Tuesday, April 14, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors approved a new community-developed outreach plan aimed at educating the community about flood risks. The new plan defines flood risk reduction messages appropriate for Santa Clara County and lays out a plan to disseminate those messages in communities most at risk of flooding. The plan aims to promote flood risk awareness and encourage those at risk to purchase flood insurance.

The plan will help communities earn points in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Community Rating System (CRS), a component of the National Flood Insurance Program. In addition to other efforts that lower flood risks, communities can earn points by forming a community-based committee to develop localized flood risk reduction messages and an outreach plan, called a Program for Public Information.

Through the CRS, participating communities earn points for all of the flood risk reduction activities and are rated on a scale in 500-point increments. Each 500 points qualifies the community for an additional 5 percent discount in flood insurance rates for their residents and businesses. The points that the water district earns through its flood protection activities are applied to any of the county’s communities that participate in the CRS program. Currently, the water district’s CRS points save Santa Clara County residents about $2.6 million in flood insurance premiums.

For more fifteen years, the water district has earned CRS points through media campaigns, a mailer to residents of flood hazard areas and extensive information on flood protection available on its website. The water district also earns points for flood protection activities such as its stream maintenance program, trash removal and sandbag program. It is expected that the new multi-jurisdictional PPI will earn an additional 80 to 200 points for each community.

Several cities—Cupertino, Gilroy, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, San José, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale—and the County of Santa Clara participated in the development of the plan called Program for Public Information.

The PPI is a relatively new component of the Community Rating System. FEMA has informed the participating agencies that this is one of the first multi-jurisdictional PPIs to be completed and it involves the largest number of participating communities (12) to date, nationwide.

At the water district board meeting, Rajeev Hada, a project engineer representing the city of Palo Alto’s public works department came to support the new plan. “I am here to thank the water district for taking the lead in preparing this PPI document for all the local agencies here in Santa Clara County,” he said. “This is very helpful for us.”

Now that the water district board has approved the plan, the legislative bodies of each of the participating communities must approve it to receive credit from FEMA. The committee, which over the past year prepared the PPI on behalf of Santa Clara County, also included representatives from neighborhood groups, realtors, insurance agents, emergency response agencies and business groups.

Another member of the committee, Naomi Pease of the American Red Cross Santa Clara Valley Chapter, said, “As a response organization, as well as a preparedness organization, we know it is paramount to a community’s survival and recovery that they are prepared and aware of how to be ready for a disaster, including flooding. We also know that people are more likely to become prepared if they have an easy pathway to preparedness, including knowing actual steps and having consistent messaging from multiple sources. This plan will go a long way toward doing that.”

The plan includes six priority messages defined by FEMA, including “Know your flood hazard” and “Insure your property for your flood hazard.” Three additional localized messages were identified in the plan: 1) Develop a family emergency plan and 2) Download disaster apps for smart phone devices and 3) Slow down on wet roads and avoid driving through standing water.

Strategies to disseminate the messages include mailers to residents in flood hazard areas, the water district’s annual flood awareness media campaign, the water district’s school outreach program, community presentations and messages in utility bills.

Charlie Ha, associate engineer for the city of Morgan Hill said, “We’re very much in favor and in support of this program for public information for all the public agencies within this area. It’s a big task to get more than half a dozen agencies to work together. It’s a testament to the water district’s efforts in flood control outreach. We couldn’t have done the without the efforts of the water district’s past progress in public outreach for flood control. This helps us maintain our CRS rating which helps people who are required to have flood insurance. They get a 15 percent discount.”

Maria Angeles, senior civil engineer for city of Gilroy said, “We have our policy holders getting a 10 percent discount which is about $160 per year per policy. With this additional activity that we will get credit for, we would increase that amount to about $240 per policy which is about $35,000 per year for the city of Gilroy.”

Valley Water manages an integrated water resources system that includes the supply of clean, safe water, flood protection and stewardship of streams on behalf of Santa Clara County's 2 million residents. The district effectively manages 10 dams and surface water reservoirs, three water treatment plants, an advanced recycled water purification center, a state-of-the-art water quality laboratory, nearly 285 acres of groundwater recharge ponds and more than 294 miles of streams. We provide wholesale water and groundwater management services to local municipalities and private water retailers who deliver drinking water directly to homes and businesses in Santa Clara County.