Home More News All Look to Birmingham for Flooding Best Practices

All Look to Birmingham for Flooding Best Practices

Jessica Ordóñez-Lancet
National Wildlife Federation

While many may look to the Dutch as the masters of flood control and innovative design in flood defense, experts in the nation’s capital look to Birmingham, Alabama when it comes to flood preparation, flood insurance, and working together across city and county government to craft solutions aimed at protecting human life, health, and property.


“Birmingham and its residents have been through it when it comes to flooding,” said Simone Lightfoot, associate vice president of environmental justice and climate justice at the National Wildlife Federation. “The teamwork that occurs between the county and the Department of Planning, Engineering & Permits, models the resiliency, cohesiveness, and tenacity required to address flood mitigation, stormwater management, and infrastructure needs.”


As climate change impacts intensify and weather patterns become more severe, many cities across the nation suffer from the same flooding challenges. The last few weeks of severe storms and torrential rain in and around Birmingham, continue a national pattern of flash flood emergencies, excessive runoff from heavy rainfall, and even boat rescues of city residents, which have become more common in urban centers.


How Birmingham addresses the flooding of small creeks and streams, highways, drainage areas, low-lying spots, streets, and underpasses will go on to inform what becomes best practices and improved standards at the local, regional, state, and national level.


“Having our team and Jefferson County work together is important. We are looking at the flood events together, so in the event that we need to pull resources together we can,” said Attorney Tracey Hayes, natural hazards administrator for the City of Birmingham.


Hayes is charged with helping residents and others understand the impacts and solutions related to flooding, flood insurance, and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).


To make affordable flood insurance more available to Birmingham residents, the City of Birmingham became a National Flood Insurance Program Community in 1981. The City has satisfied the minimum NFIP participation requirements and the opportunity for Birmingham residents to obtain flood insurance still remains.


If you purchase a home in a FEMA designated Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) with a mortgage loan from a Federally-regulated lender, by law your lender must make certain that you obtain flood insurance and renew it yearly. In such cases as these, you will not have to wait 30 days before your policy takes effect, it becomes effective immediately. You may want to ask your mortgage company about escrowing your premium (i.e. paying a fixed monthly amount towards your premium costs).




Flood Insurance


Homeowner’s insurance policies DO NOT cover damage from floods. However, because the City of Birmingham participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you can purchase a separate flood insurance policy. This flood insurance is backed by the Federal government and is available to everyone, even properties that have been flooded. Any area that is NOT mapped as a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) may qualify for a lower-cost Preferred Risk Policy.


The City of Birmingham participates in the NFIPs Community Rating System (CRS) and is currently at a Class 5. Therefore, all locations within an SFHA will receive a flood insurance premium reduction of 25% and all locations that are NOT within an SFHA will receive a flood insurance premium reduction of 10%.


Some people have purchased flood insurance because it was required by the bank for a mortgage or home improvement loan. Usually, these policies only cover the building’s structure and not the contents. Due to the flooding that happens in your area, there is usually more damage to the furniture and contents than there is to the structure. Please be sure you have content coverage.


If you are a tenant, it is wise to insure your contents. The policy premium is based on several factors, including the flood risk of the building that you occupy.