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Olsson assists Arizona homeowners affected by new FEMA floodplain map

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Linda Van Hoosen, Communications

Hundreds of residents in Maricopa, Arizona, could see their flood insurance rates fall now that Olsson is completing Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Elevation Certificates (EC) for them. The Pinal County Flood Control District contracted Olsson to complete ECs for 850 homes after FEMA included the structures in its new 2014 Flood Insurance Rate Maps within the city.

The 850 homes Olsson is surveying were not previously included in the floodplain. The new maps fall under the National Flood Insurance Program, which requires each home affected to have an EC completed. An EC verifies the elevation of a structure relative to the base flood elevation. The EC requires elevation data near the front and rear corners of the house, the floor elevation, and elevation data for air conditioning units.

Dave Jensen, a senior engineer on the Phoenix Water Resources team, said Olsson has an on-call contract with Pinal County to provide drainage design and floodplain management services. Dave said if a homeowner possesses an EC, they can use it to try to get the best possible rate for flood insurance, and Pinal County will get credit for this effort with the Community Rating System.

Olsson conducted a home-by-home public outreach effort to let owners know about the new certification requirement. The surveying process was quick. Surveyors spent about 15 to 30 minutes on each property getting the necessary evaluation information. In the end, the value of having an EC goes a long way for homeowners.

“Homeowners who are paying for flood insurance right now have been supportive because they recognize that if the elevation certificate shows that their home is above the water-surface elevation of the floodplain, it can save them money in their rates,” Dave said.

The cost of getting an EC independently is expensive. A homeowner can pay anywhere from $800 to $1,500 for the certificate. Because hundreds of homes require this process in Pinal County, Dave said Olsson is completing the certificates for less than $300 per home, but at no cost to the homeowner.

So far, Olsson has completed certificates for about 200 homes. The entire process is expected to be complete by February 2015.

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