FEMA Releases New Risk Rating 2.0 Information Moving Forward Update of Antiquated Flood Policies

Statements by Dr. Kristina Dahl and Shana Udvardy at the Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Apr 1, 2021

WASHINGTON—Today, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released additional information on Risk Rating 2.0, a new flood-insurance rating system that is expected to be implemented in phases this year and into next year. The culmination of five years of work, Risk Rating 2.0 moves away from the antiquated binary approach of placing homes either in or out of the “100-year” floodplain and instead uses new modeling and updated data to assess the scale of risk for each individual property based on a range of variables. The new system focuses on accurately reflecting current flood risks and does not include projections of how climate change will worsen those risks in the future.

Below is a statement from Shana Udvardy, a climate resilience analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“The system we’ve used to calculate flood risk, and in turn insurance policy premiums, no longer holds water. Outdated maps have left homeowners ill-prepared for possible disasters. Risk Rating 2.0 could go a long way in helping homeowners better understand their risk, ensuring they can make informed decisions to protect themselves and their property.

“Risk Rating 2.0 will need to be accompanied by an affordability program that Congress must pass to ensure that anyone who needs or wants flood insurance can afford it. Without such policies, the department risks exacerbating the racial and socioeconomic disparities that already exist within flood-prone areas.”

Below is a statement from Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at UCS.

“The science is clear that climate change is causing sea levels to rise, making hurricanes more destructive and increasing extreme rainfall. We also know that for far too long, neighborhoods and homes that have historically fallen outside of FEMA’s designated flood zones have, in reality, already been flooding, which is why updating the ways we evaluate flood risk is so essential.

“Prior to Risk Rating 2.0 being rolled out it’s imperative that FEMA engage in an open dialogue with the people and communities often hit first and worst by climate change impacts and extreme weather disasters, including low-income communities and communities of color, many of which are also reeling from the ongoing COVID-19 and economic crises.”

More detailed information about Risk Rating 2.0 policy changes can be found here.

UCS will continue to review the merits, details and opportunities for improvement in the Risk Rating 2.0 system. It will also be looking to Congress, which is facing a deadline this fall to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program, to progress additional policies that will help keep people and their properties safe in the face of a changing climate.

For more information on the homes and communities at risk of chronic flooding now and into the future check out the 2018 UCS report “Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods, and the Implications for Coastal Real Estate.”