Knoxville's Flood Management Garners Best Flood Insurance Ranking in Tennessee

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
[email protected]
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Knoxville's Flood Management Garners Best Flood Insurance Ranking in Tennessee

Posted: 10/25/2019
Knoxville’s effective engineering practices to reduce flood risk have garnered a 20 percent discount in insurance rates for its residents.

A new Class 6 ranking is also the best in Tennessee, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“This is about making a difference where we live,” said David McGinley, Knoxville Stormwater Engineering Manager.

The National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System issued the new ranking effective earlier this month. CRS is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management.

Knoxville has participated in the CRS since 1985 and is among about 1,500 jurisdictions in the nation that participate. Only 130 of those participating in the program rank better than Knoxville. 

“As part of the CRS program, Knoxville is rated on a schedule of activities. Flood insurance rates go down as your rating goes up,” McGinley said.

Criteria ranked on a point system shows 2,205 credit points earned in 11 activity areas that FEMA used to verify Knoxville’s improved ranking.

The following represents key areas the CRS program uses to evaluate Knoxville, concluding the City met the Class 6 ranking:

• Map Information Service: City staff furnishes the public with basic flood zone information from its latest Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). Staff also furnishes additional FIRM information, flood depth data and floodplain functions.

• Open Space Preservation: City staff has preserved approximately 74 percent of high-risk floodplain areas as open space.

• Higher Regulatory Standards: The City enforces regulations that require the floor elevation of homes to be built one foot above the 500-year flood elevation for new construction and redevelopment. City staff enforces relevant building codes.

• Flood Data Maintenance: City staff maintains digital maps in day-to-day floodplain management and a system of benchmarks. The mapping is publicly available on the Knoxville, Knox County, Knoxville Utilities Board Geographic Information System. KGIS represents a common set of computer-based maps for the entire geographic area of Knox County.

• Floodplain Management Planning: The City of Knoxville has adopted use of the Knox County, Knoxville and Town of Farragut Multi-Jurisdiction Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (July 31, 2018). This plan examines opportunities to reduce risk and helps coordinate responses to a broad range of emergencies.

Federally-backed mortgages for property in a floodplain require homeowners to buy flood insurance.

“Insurance rates are then based on how protective we are as a city,” said Knoxville Engineering Director Jim Hagerman. “We also review all plans for new construction and redevelopment. It’s a way to catch errors up front, making sure all codes are met for homes. 

“Our staff is dedicated to talking with residents and developers about their flood requirements for the purchase of a house or development of a project. Just by building a little higher, the homeowner is spending significantly less for flood insurance, and we’ve done this without new regulations.”

This also means that with the new Class 6 ranking, Knoxville citizens are now saving 20 percent on flood insurance. 

The City is rated every five years by the CRS, with Knoxville previously being ranked a Class 8, which gives a 10 percent discount in insurance costs for homeowners. 

Hagerman is looking 50 years ahead with the City, noting that the region is seeing more intense rains over a period of time. 

Because of years of proactive floodplain management, Knoxville is a more resilient city, and when heavy rains and flooding occur, the community recovers faster and there is less damage.

“We’ve tried through the years to do all this work without more requirements on the developers. So it really matters to the whole community,” Hagerman said.