Stop FEMA Now held a 300-person meeting last night in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Nobody from FEMA showed up, and it probably was a smart move if those government officials wanted to live to see another day. I can see how revolutions begin – just get a bunch of very upset people together and provide some vocal leadership. It was that type of meeting.
The Stop FEMA Now website provides some information about the group:
StopFemaNow is a group of concerned citizens, who have not only been effected by Super Storm Sandy, but who have been impacted on varying levels by the implications of the new FEMA flood maps. The decision to adopt these maps is premature and requires additional consideration. We want to, quite simply, Stop Fema Now!
Our goal is to create community awareness as the adoption of these maps will heavily impact many communities across this country. These maps will tear many from their homes, force many to make harsh decisions about their futures with no real place to turn and ultimately change our lives. The financial implications alone are frightening!
We are faced with many unanswered questions and very little direction. StopFemaNow intends to provide a fact based argument as to how and why we can rebuild stronger and more resilient with a more “realistic” approach. Together we will prevail!
The topics discussed and questions from the crowd underlined frustration with FEMA officials and Byzantine regulations which seem to change at the whim of those interpreting them. One woman complained bitterly that the flood elevation surveys did not include space between the ground and the bottom floor of her house. I did some quick research and found in an article, Crawlspaces and Basements, which explained that even surveyors are perplexed about FEMA rules regarding coverage for and measuring crawl spaces and basements. These rules cost people thousands in flood insurance premiums. Others had the same experience.
When the federal government gets involved with a financial program, there are usually strings attached. The biggest string in the federal flood program is that when a home is “substantially damaged,” by a flood, people have to tear down their homes or somehow elevate them to comply with new elevation requirements.
For the first time ever, people have asked me to prove their homes are not as damaged as their insurance companies have found. One policyholder filed suit, claiming the NFIP paid too much. I am not making this up.
These problems are not limited to New Jersey and New York. Over the last decade, the same issues and heartache have occurred in North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Losing a home to a natural catastrophe is devastating. Losing a home because of a regulation is maddening, and tempers flared last night.
It all is sad and reminded me of a line from this Billy Joel song —"our fathers fought the Second World War; spent their weekends on the Jersey shore."