By Tyler Esh, Eau Claire County Emergency Management Coordinator
As emergency responders, our job is to prepare for the unknown – it’s about helping people stay safe and protected through times of fire, flood, severe
weather and anything that puts lives and property in harm’s way.
[For a related article on flood risks and the pending revision of the National Flood Insurance program, click here]
In the last six years Wisconsin has seen five 100-year floods and one 1,000-year flood! We have over 149,000 people in Wisconsin living with a 1% annual flood risk. With rains becoming increasingly more severe, vigilance is key to ensure that communities have the resources and policies to respond to this growing problem.
Emergency Management is in the business of resiliency. All across Wisconsin we pride ourselves in doing all that it takes to make sure our residents are protected from flood events, warned ahead of time, and receive help with clean-up and rebuilding if a natural disaster does hit.
However, effective emergency management takes a full community effort, from local government planning and land use to non-profit volunteers creating natural habitat and living shorelines that can buffer residential areas from flooding rivers to everything in-between. Homeowners also play a part by knowing their flood risk so they can make informed decisions about whether to purchase a property if it’s had flooding. They also need to know how to flood-proof and prepare for future flooding.
Wisconsin flood disclosure law
In Wisconsin, if you are purchasing a home, state law dictates that you must be warned of past flooding, flood damage and location in a floodplain. These kinds of disclosures are important because they allow people make informed decisions as they buy a home – often the biggest purchase of their lifetime. But not all states have flood disclosure laws for homebuyers, so in many areas of our country people may be unknowingly moving into a home that could be unsafe.
A proposal for a nationwide flood disclosure law for homebuyers is a good one. It would look similar to current lead paint disclosure laws, which require that information to be made available 10 days before closing so potential buyers can back out if they don’t want to risk living in a home with lead paint.
The Wisconsin flood information disclosure law has been working here and it would serve people well across the country. Keep in mind, when flood waters rise it not only puts our neighbors and their homes at risk, but first responders and emergency personnel in our community must also risk their lives to keep people safe. For these reasons, the mitigation of flooding risks is a must.
As Congress works on supplemental appropriations to pay for Harvey and Irma recovery from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it must also work on a five-year reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program, which will expires on Oct, 1 if not reauthorized. Members of Congress should step forward and provide leadership to make sure that disclosure requirements are included in the flood insurance bill.
It seems only right to make sure people have all the information they need to stay safe when flood waters rise.