Fathom reveal comprehensive alternative to FEMA flood maps

Research 07.11.2017

British flood mapping experts at Fathom have recently released a peer-reviewed paper, which demonstrates how their flood model provides far more comprehensive coverage at a fraction of the cost of existing government data.

Donald Trump recently slashed funding for government flood maps provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This comes despite the disastrous flooding caused by hurricanes hitting both the east and west coasts of America last month.

FEMA’s maps took 30 years to develop, and cost the US Government up to $7 billion to produce. This untimely cut to budgets has left America in desperate need of an affordable alternative to replace FEMA’s vital service.

Fathom’s study, published in the renowned scientific journal Water Resources Research, proves that the cutting edge modelling techniques developed by Fathom could be the more cohesive and cost effective answer to flood mapping services.

“Our peer reviewed paper concludes that we have successfully developed a model that can replicate FEMA’s data with significantly improved coverage, at a lower cost. Our flood map assesses all land areas, not just high-risk regions and rivers, and was developed at a fraction of the cost.The models used to produce these maps also assess flood risk for all river channels, across the entire country. FEMA’s flood data cover just 60% of the US, and even in areas that are described as covered, not all river channels are assessed.”

  • Professor Paul Bates 

As well as disaster response, Fathom’s flood mapping model aims to improve the state of flood insurance in the US. The National Flood Insurance Programme currently underwrites the US flood insurance policy, which is currently $25 billion in debt.

In the UK, flood insurance is mandatory when buying a home, regardless of its location. In the US, however, insurance policy means that only those living in designated flood zones need buy the insurance. This hikes the price and, since people located in high-risk areas are often those who are the most deprived both economically and socially, the Government has to step in to cover costs, as insurance is otherwise unaffordable.

FEMA’s model covers major rivers and other high-risk zones that are relatively easy to predict, yet many of the impacted areas are away from these FEMA-predicted flood zones, as shown by the wreckage caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas in September 2017. NASA used Fathom’s flood data to produce loss estimates for the event, as their models were able to assess flood risk for all rivers affected by the storm.

Fathom are delighted to have had their work validated by a peer-reviewed paper, which now fuels plans to provide extended support to Americans in high risk areas, offering an affordable solution to both the US government, and insurance market.

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