Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood maps used to set insurance rates may be facing an overhaul if FEMA follows the advice from the National Research Council (NRC). A new report from the NRC says significant loss of life, destroyed property and businesses, and repairs to infrastructure could be avoided by replacing current FEMA flood maps with ones that contain high-accuracy and high-resolution land surface elevation data. NRC concludes benefits of more accurate flood maps will outweigh the costs, mainly because insurance premiums and building restrictions would better match the actual flood risks.

After analyzing FEMA's Map Modernization Program of 2003 to 2008, FEMA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asked the NRC to conduct the study. The modernization program resulted in digital flood maps for 92% of the continental U.S. population, most of which lives in areas that had outdated maps or no maps at all. However, after a $1 billion investment, only 21% of the population has maps that meet all of FEMA's data quality standards.

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