Local Voices: FEMA’s Community Rating System and the Village of Lansing


Local Voices

Bob Malkas

Since the Village of Lansing was awarded a Class 5 rating from FEMA at the June 21 board meeting, I am prompted to share some history about Lansing’s experience with the Community Rating System.

In the early 2000s the specter of Village flood events was fresh in the minds of Lansing residents. The Mayor West administration took a proactive stance to respond to concerns that people brought to the Village Board about their flood-centered experiences. A professional consultant was hired, and a Flood Advisory Committee was appointed that was made up of homeowners who understood the potential of future flooding events that could occur in the Village. Following the guidance of French & Associates a report was produced to get Lansing homeowners involved in a comprehensive plan of flood awareness efforts.

Enter the Community Rating System (CRS), which is a component of the National Flood Insurance Program. CRS established that if communities showed interest in flood insurance protection efforts, significant discounts on their premiums could be secured.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) lists the guidelines for a community to follow to get the needed points for an award. FEMA then determines the amount of the discount. A good CRS rating is not a given. A community must show that they are willing to take an active part in the process.

Based on the CRS guidelines, Lansing’s Flood Advisory Committee adopted a strategy for residents to follow. In the first year a Flood Awareness Week was scheduled. That earned points toward the rating!

Lansing partnered with Calumet City and South Holland to better send a message to the residents of all three communities. During Flood Awareness Week each community committed to publicize and perform stream cleanup activities. A business breakfast was arranged for lenders, real estate agents, contractors, hardware stores, and home improvement businesses. A Flood Prevention Open House was conducted to offer residents opportunities to get questions answered by experts. Emergency response exercises were conducted. To impress the CRS people, the committee also introduced a mascot — Sammy Sandbag — to speak for it.

Community Rating System
Sammy Sandbag appeared on the Flood Advisory Committee’s report. (Photo: Bob Malkas)

With the assistance of French & Associates, all these activities were documented in the Flood Advisory Committee’s final report.

Those efforts were rewarded when Lansing first received a Class 5 rating. That recognition would earn homeowners a 25% deduction on their future flood insurance premiums.

The Sammy Sandbag figure caught on and appeared in other published reports.

Some other realities were learned by the committee. For example, flood insurance underwriters did not know about the existence of CRS until the Flood Awareness Week was held.

It should also be understood that a CRS rating is not stagnant. Future verification visits will be required to keep the current rating.

There should be copies of the Flood Advisory’s 2003 report on file at the Clerk’s office. It would be beneficial for homeowners if it could be made available to them after it is brought up to date.

Bob Malkas

Local Voices is our version of “Letters to the Editor.” The opinions posted here are those of the writers, and posting them does not indicate endorsement by The Lansing Journal. We welcome input from fellow residents who have thoughtful things to say about topics that are important to our community. Send your submissions to The Lansing Journal with “Voices” in the subject line.