Rising Waters

FIRM helps navigate home flooding issues

FIRM in Key West
The Key West meeting has a nearly packed house on Tuesday night at the Harvey Government Center. HAYS BLINCKMANN/Keys Weekly

FIRM (Fair Insurance Rates In Monroe) is always trying to help. Navigating wind and flood insurance with changing policies and government requirements is difficult for any Keys homeowner. Funded in part by grants from the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys, the City of Marathon, and member donations, FIRM has been holding a series of free workshops tackling flood issues. This week the second series of workshops took place in Key West, Key Largo and Marathon, teaching the community the ins and outs of flood zones and the possibility of elevating homes.

Guest speaker Roderick Scott, of L&R Resources, presented and education program — “Hazard Mitigation- Elevation 101.”

“There is a lot of work down here in the next five years,” said Scott. “Everyone has got to have an elevation certificate, there is too much at stake nowadays.” Scott’s company helped raise more than 36,000 homes in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. “Water wins all the time, so you have to have a plan.” Scott seemed hopeful about getting more supplemental federal grant funding to help residents elevate their homes, but urged everyone to write their congressman about it all the same.

Mel Montagne, president of FIRM, is encouraged by the response and hopes residents take advantage of the workshops. But for Montagne, the biggest issue is the looming expiration of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that Keys homeowners with a mortgage MUST have. It was to expire on Sept. 30, but federal lawmakers put a stopgap extension in place then. “The government has been kicking the can on this one and hopefully we will hear this week,” said Montagne. If the program is re-authorized, it’s most likely to have a five-year term

The NFIP is huge. Nationwide, there are 5 million policies, and 3 million of those are in Florida. Monroe County has 30,000 flood insurance policies on the books. If the program expires, not only will it affect homeowners with existing mortgages required to have this flood coverage, but also the real estate industry and those seeking to buy and sell today. The lapse could delay or cancel “approximately 40,000 home sale closings per month nationwide,” according to The National Association of Realtors.

Congress must now reauthorize the NFIP by no later than Jan. 19, 2018. Results were not available at presstime.

Montagne is urging everyone to email or call to preregister for the workshops so there is enough documentation available. Go to www.firmkeys.org for more information or call 305-294-3476.


Hays Blinckmann is an oil painter, author of the novel “In The Salt,” lover of all things German including husband, children and Bundesliga. She spends her free time developing a font for sarcasm, testing foreign wines and failing miserably at home cooking.