This is part of our story series, EKY Flood Relief: Neighbors Helping Neighbors.
As mayor of Wayland and lifelong “Waylander,” Jerry Fultz has seen floods come and go since he was a young boy. He experienced the historic floods of 1957 and 1963, and has recovered from nearly 20 more during his tenure– but the flooding of Right Beaver Creek in July 2022 was exceptional.
“We learned we weren’t prepared, but even if we had been prepared, we wouldn’t have been for that one,” Mayor Fultz said as he shared with us some of the insights and lessons learned through his 12 years as mayor in such a flood prone community.
“One of the things we’ve done a poor job of is educating the public enough about flood insurance.”
FEMA requires homeowners to buy flood insurance if they previously received help from the emergency management agency. If homeowners fail to acquire insurance after being given aid by FEMA once, claims from future floods will be denied.
“In regards to Wayland’s Community Center, we didn’t have flood insurance. We did until 5 years ago and the cost was $5,000 a year for structure, not contents. Structure and contents, we couldn’t have paid it to begin with. The way I saw it we were a foot off the base flood elevation with a block structure. It saved us $5,000 a year to stop purchasing flood insurance, but in the long run it cost us $350,000, so looking back, it was a bad decision, but at the time it made sense. I thought we could spend those monies on other things we need, and we did, but at a greater cost when a flood we never thought would come came.”
Without insurance, the $350,000 necessary to repair Wayland’s Community Center came from donations from neighbors, friends, family, faith-based groups, nonprofits, and grants.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides affordable insurance to property owners and encourages communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations, such as the flood insurance ordinance FEMA has required from Wayland. The NFIP is managed by FEMA and has created a database of more than 50 insurance companies. Flood insurance is available to anyone living in one of the nearly 23,000 participating NFIP communities.
How To Purchase Flood Insurance
- You can purchase flood insurance directly through your insurance provider.
- If you don’t have insurance or your provider doesn’t cover flood insurance, a list of NFIP insurers can be found here.
- When there is an official Presidential Disaster Declaration, NFIP flood insurance policyholders are encouraged to apply for FEMA disaster assistance in addition to their flood insurance claim.
Who Is Required to Have Insurance?
- Homes and businesses in high-risk flood areas with government-backed mortgages.
- Homes and businesses in high-risk flood areas that have received federal disaster assistance – including grants from the FEMA or low-interest disaster loans from the SBA.
- Homeowners must maintain flood insurance in order to be considered for any future federal disaster aid.
How To File a Flood Insurance Claim
- When your property floods, report the loss to your flood insurer as soon as possible. These reports can be filed remotely as you wait for conditions to become safe to return.
- Take reference photos and/or videos of your flood damaged property and personal items, and include flood water lines on the inside and outside of the affected building/s. Document the make, model and serial number for appliances and electronics to share with your adjuster.
- Keep samples of flood-damaged items, including carpet or flooring, curtains, appliances, personal items, etc. to show your adjuster. It’s said that the better the paper trail, the easier the flood claims process will be.
“Our hope and our future is not insuring against the floods but lessening the chances of future floods. We’ve applied for a couple of mitigation grants that will lessen the chance of flooding that have been approved. That’s warning systems like sirens and generators, that’s flop gates and pumps, that’s replacing our culvert with an open span bridge,” Mayor Fultz encouraged.
The Mountain Sports Hall of Fame, the historic gym in Wayland, sits well above the floodplain and became a disaster hub to the community after the flood and Wayland has grants in process that would better equip the facility to host these needs.
“Now the major piece I can’t address is dredging the creek and cleaning the streams, but those would have to be carried out at the state level. There are several places where we can hold water back and we can control the flooding. Maybe even looking ahead, I can see where there needs to be some areas best served by dams, holding water back in a controlled manner. Those are measures that we need to be thinking forward and not thinking backward. What we’ve done in the past is cleanup and just get ready for the next one.”
Thinking about ideas like dredging the creeks, potential dams, sirens and generators, swift water rescue for local volunteer organizations, and stream restoration are ideas that will require concentrated efforts from the community level all the way through the state and even federal investment. Mayor Fultz reminds us that being proactive is our best measure in ensuring our health and homes can survive what flooding may look like in the future.
“We have a demonstrated need; we need the resources. If areas of the county, incorporated or not incorporated, don’t have the resources then we must look at what we can do as a whole, through combined efforts at a city, county, and state level to allocate resources to those areas in a time of need.”
His statements reiterate the theme we’ve seen throughout the entire recovery process: we work best together.
Helpful Tip 1: NFIP has extensive resources on the insurance process to help inform you of the process at https://www.floodsmart.gov/
Helpful Tip 2: If your community was impacted by flooding, here are open mitigation programs offered by FEMA and USDA: https://www.fema.gov/fact-sheet/summary-fema-hazard-mitigation-assistance-hma-programs and https://www.rd.usda.gov/resources/rural-development-disaster-assistance
About this story series:
Mountain Association is partnering with What’s Next EKY?! and Vision Granted to host a series of stories showcasing the incredible flood relief efforts across the region in response to the flood on July 28, 2022. With a goal to share hope and spark new ideas about ways you can help in your own community, these stories will showcase the creativity and hard work of local people, provide helpful flood recovery tips, and feature stories of neighbors helping neighbors. If you have a story or helpful tip to share, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Please learn more about this series here.