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Planning Board, FEMA estimate: 200,000 Puerto Rico homes in flood zones

By on January 24, 2018

SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Planning Board said that, according to estimates made in collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), some 200,000 properties are located within zones identified in flood insurance rate maps.

Of these, it is estimated that approximately 30,000 may have sustained substantial damage, as defined by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), as a result of hurricanes Irma and María’s landfall.

Planning Board Chairwoman María del Carmen Gordillo, right, explained that the evaluation of the substantial damage caused by hurricanes Irma and María will begin in the coming days by FEMA personnel, municipalities the Planning Board and the Permits & Endorsements Management Office. (Juan J. Rodríguez / CB)

Planning Board Chairwoman María del Carmen Gordillo pointed out the importance of knowing the percentage of structural damage, as it reveals whether homeowners should repair the structure in compliance with flood valley regulationss (Planning Regulation 13).

Structures are classified as having sustained substantial damage if located in areas known as Special Flood Hazard Area, whereby restoring the structure to its before damaged condition would equal or exceed 50 percent of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred.

For example, if the value of a structure before the damage was $200,000 (not including the value of the land), and the repairs are estimated at $120,000, that structure has substantial damage.

It is calculated after a visual inspection of the property by a state, federal or municipal government official.

The observations are incorporated into a program developed for this purpose, as well as the estimated costs of repairs and property value, this allows calculating the percentage of damage to the structure.

Once the percentage of damage is calculated, the information is provided to the owner of the property via a letter.

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The official explained that the evaluation of damages caused by hurricanes Irma and María will begin in the coming days by FEMA personnel, municipalities, the Planning Board and the Permits & Endorsements Management Office (OGPe by its Spanish acronym).

In addition, she indicated that for the 74 municipalities participating in the NFIP Program, the Planning Board will issued the final determination on whether the property has substantial damage.

The determination at municipalities in the NFIP that participate as separate communities will be provided by their city halls. These are Bayamón, Carolina, Guaynabo and Ponce.

Once it has been determined that a structure is within a floodprone area and substantially damaged, any repair or reconstruction must be carried out in compliance with the Regulation on Special Flood Risk Areas (Regulation 13) to reducethe risk of future flood damage.

Among the recommendations established by the regulation are:

  • Modifying the ground floor as garage space and building upper floor as living area
  • Flood-proofing commercial structures
  • Maintaining all electrical equipment and rebuilding all electrical systems above the flood level
  • Demolition and relocation of the structure outside flood-prone area
  • Reconstructing homes on columns instead of slab over ground
  • Floor level above the base flood level

Owners who have an NFIP flood insurance policy and their property was classified as substantially damaged may have access to additional funds, up to $30,000, to mitigate future flood damage. This additional amount is known as increased cost of compliance (ICC).

“It is important that the citizenry comply with the regulations,” Gordillo stressed, adding that what is sought is “to reduce the loss of life and property by considering the danger to which they are exposed.”

Likewise, “it contributes to reducing the exposure of rescue workers during dangerous events and the investment of funds from the state and federal government to cover material losses,” Gordillo said.

For more information, contact the Planning Board at 787-723-6200 ext. 16701, avipr@jp.pr.gov or your insurance agent. Information is also available at www.fema.gov and www.floodsmart.gov.

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