By Richard Paris
New England is well aware of the wreckage that can come with a major storm. In recent years, Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and Hurricane Hanna were just a few of the storms that left scars up and down the Northeast. Those storms claimed lives, flooded our coastline, and caused major damage to our communities.
We are also reminded of our painful experiences as communities across the South and the Caribbean begin to recover from the unprecedented flooding and destruction brought on by recent hurricanes. But while New Englanders are aware of the need to prepare for these powerful storms, we might not be able to say the same for some lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Though Congress recently passed a short-term extension of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a long-term solution for the program is still needed.
Natural disasters like hurricanes and tropical storms frequently lead to catastrophic flooding. These storms are not short-lived affairs; the real damage is often not apparent until after the flood waters recede. That’s when the rebuilding begins. And for countless families each year, that rebuilding would not be possible without flood insurance.
Flood insurance is critically important for Massachusetts residents and all New Englanders to manage the flooding risk associated with hurricanes and provide the financial protection to recover from the devastation. Nearly five million home and business owners nationwide depend on the NFIP.
When Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast in 2012, New England’s South Coast flooded and communities relied on the NFIP to rebuild and recover from the damage.
The NFIP will expire on December 8, if Congress doesn’t vote to extend it. From 2008-2012, we saw 18 short term extensions and four actual lapses of the program. This pattern of extensions and lapses resulted in uncertainty for homeowners, instability in the market, and the delay in new home purchases. If the NFIP is allowed to lapse, even temporarily, communities could be even more vulnerable to the potential threat of major storms.
As lawmakers consider revisions to the program, they must keep in mind that consumers need greater stability and reliability when it comes to flood insurance coverage. Passing legislation that avoids a program lapse and includes reforms that expand consumers’ flood insurance options would strengthen the NFIP.
This year’s devastating hurricanes underscore the importance of the NFIP. The NFIP is often the difference between rebuilding our communities and total devastation. Congress needs to act now to ensure NFIP is in place for those who need it, when they need it the most.
Richard Paris is the president of Local 718 Boston Firefighters Union, and the vice president of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts