Flood Insurance:

Emerging Opportunity to Better Measure Certain Results of the National Flood Insurance Program

GAO-01-736T: Published: May 15, 2001. Publicly Released: May 15, 2001.

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This testimony discusses the preliminary results of GAO's ongoing review of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is run by the Federal Emergency Management Administration's (FEMA) Federal Insurance Administration (FIA) and Mitigation Directorate, a major component of the federal government's efforts to provide flood assistance. This program creates standards to minimize flood losses. GAO found that FEMA has several performance goals to improve program results, including increasing the number of insurance policies in force. Although these goals provide valuable insight into the degree to which the program has reduced flood losses, they do not assess the degree to which the most vulnerable residents--those living in flood-prone areas--participate in the program. Capturing data on the number of uninsured and insured structures in flood-prone areas can provide FEMA with another indication of how well the program is penetrating those areas with the highest flood risks, whether the financial consequences of floods in these areas are increasing or decreasing, and where marketing efforts can better be targeted. However, before participation rates can be used to measure the program's success, better data are needed on the total number of structures in flood-prone areas. FIA tracks the number of insurance policies in these areas, but data on the overall number of structures are incomplete and inaccurate. Some communities are developing better data on the number of structures in flood-prone areas. FEMA is also trying to improve the quality of its data on the number of structures in flood-prone areas and is working to develop new mapping technologies that could facilitate the collection of such data. The cost of this new technology is not fully known, but the expense will be shared among federal, state, and local agencies.

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