“We’re excited about keeping that level six,” said City Manager Jim O’Reilly in a recent interview. “It’s a very strong accomplishment. It’s something we do as a city that has a direct financial impact and benefit to residents,” he said at the September 20 council meeting.
“Fantastic. Nice work,” said Mayor Sam Henderson at the meeting.
The AE and VE flood zones are the two lowest in elevation and residents in these high-impact areas are required to have flood insurance, said O’Reilly. The city’s CRS rating means they qualify for a 20 percent discount, said Mike Taylor, the city’s CRS coordinator who is also the principal planner in the Community Development Department. Residents living in higher elevation areas can opt for what is called a preferred risk flood insurance policy and they qualify for a five percent discount.
The city began participating in the voluntary National Flood Insurance Program rating system in 1992 under the leadership of Taylor.
“Most communities that participate are either [a rating of ] seven or eight,” said Taylor. “So, we’re better off.”
FEMA’s CRS rating system ranging from one to nine determines flood insurance premium reductions for residents. Each rating level means an additional five percent flood insurance discount. In Florida, 219 communities participate in the program and of these 132 have a rating from seven to nine, 61 are level six, and 26 are lower according to October 1, 2015 data published in a May 2016 FEMA report. Among all the states in the country, Florida has more than double the number of communities participating. The next highest state is California with 90.
Gulfport had been a level seven but on May 30, 2013, it earned a level six. Communities earn points for participating in a variety of activities that are a part of the CRS program. Every five years, a major field verification visit is conducted by the CRS and in the years between, a recertification letter is sent that requires each community to document what they are doing by October 1.
Here are some of the ways Gulfport earns CRS points, said Taylor:
• The Public Works Department maintains a storm water management plan that includes drainage activities and maintenance on the system.
• The city upholds their land use codes that relate to flood plains.
• Fire department employees participate in flood warning and hurricane exercises in coordination with Pinellas County.
• Annual newsletters, in print form to meet FEMA regulations, are distributed to residents depending on where they live based on flood zone maps.
• Annually, a hurricane preparedness seminar is held in the city just before the season begins on June 1.
• The city’s website contains detailed information regarding floods. Visit mygulfport.us/flood-and-hurricane-protection/
• The Gulfport Public Library, 5501 28th Ave. S., maintains a special reference section that includes a large print-only map that details the flood zone for each property. A duplicate map is also available in the Community Development department at Gulfport City Hall, 2401 53rd St. S.
• High water street signs are located at strategic points in the city to graphically show how deep the storm surge would be in a given category hurricane. One is located on the northeast corner of Beach Boulevard and Shore Boulevard across from the Casino.
Gulfport is due for its next CRS field verification visit in mid 2017.
“We’re being rated on the 2013 CRS manual right now,” Taylor said. “It’s been completely overhauled so we’ll have to make some changes in our CRS program in order to meet all of the requirements of the 2017 manual. We’re going to try very hard to maintain the six rating.”