Hillsborough County Hazard Mitigation Manager Eugene Henry talks to residents during a recent meeting in connection with the county’s disaster vulnerability by such events as hurricanes, flooding and wildfires.

In light of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) partnering last month to highlight flood safety awareness, Hillsborough County officials have decided to do nothing less.

Spearheading the efforts, Hazard Mitigation Program manager Eugene Henry hopes that residents understand their risk for flooding, especially since it is the most costly and repetitive natural disaster affecting Hillsborough County.

The department reported that there are nearly 40,000 properties protected by flood insurance policies in Hillsborough County providing coverage of $8.2 billion and that more than $20 million in losses in Hillsborough County have been paid by the National Flood Insurance Program since 1978.

“Individuals, families, businesses and entire communities should not underestimate the dangers and should  take precautions to protect their families and homes in the event of flooding,” Henry said. He drew attention to a number of fast facts, which include that flooding occurs not only along the coast, but along the rivers and in other inland areas, often overlooked by many.

First on the list is the need for residence to learn if their property is in a high-risk flood zone, which can be done by simply looking up their property by typing in the address on the county’s online flood map.

A property with a structure in the high-risk flood area, will likely need a flood insurance policy, required by a loan agreement, but Henry cautioned that although not required, flood insurance in a low-to-moderate risk area is still a good idea to have.

“A quarter of all flood insurance claims come from low-to-moderate risk areas,” he said. “Large floods often extend beyond the boundaries of high-risk areas and smaller floods occur outside high-risk areas as well.”

Interestingly, the flood awareness and tips list also included a cause of some flooding that is rather easily avoidable as it urges residents not to place any debris – lawn trash or otherwise – in stormwater inlets, ditches or other waterways.

The advice reads, “Dumping into the drainage system can easily create blockages that result in flooding during a severe rain,” and makes an important point as it says, “The house you flood may be your own!”

Henry said that he hopes residents remember that now is the time to make sure their homes and properties are protected and understand that Hillsborough County has an aggressive floodplain management plan that involves a variety of mitigation activities which are reviewed on an annual basis.

Currently, the county is within the top three percent of municipalities in the nation for floodplain activities, which ensures that its residents within the unincorporated county receive greater than $5 million combined in discounts annually on their flood insurance rates due to these efforts.

For additional flood safety tips and information, visit www.ready.gov. For more information, please contact Henry at 307-4541.

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