Photo via WTSP

Just in time for hurricane season, USF grad students create one-stop shop for flood insurance

If you live in a flood zone you might not know.

But with recent rain and the start of hurricane season about a week away, it’s information you need to find out now.

If you don’t have flood insurance, repairing your home after a storm could cost you thousands. That’s why USF grads Taylor Lankford and Ahmed Hamed came up with a plan to help. It’s a website called No Flood Florida.

“Taylor and I are both water resource engineers,” website co-creator Ahmed Hamed said. “We run into a lot of people who know they’re in the flood zone but they don’t really know what it means. We thought there’s got to be a better way to convey that information to people.”

No Flood Florida’s mission is “to give the people of Florida the power to make informed decisions by organizing Florida’s latest flood data and making it readily available to all its home buyers.”

Lankford and Hamed have been working on the database for two years. They’ve created it to be something like vehicle report website Carfax, but for you home’s flood risk: a one-stop shop for people to find out everything when it comes to their risks if they live in a flood zone, and how much it could wind up costing them.

“One of the main benefits for this service is that we are combining a variety of resources that are segregated,” website co-creator Taylor Lankford said. “Without this resource, you may have to contact an insurance agent directly and wait a couple of days, so our goal is to provide that information more efficiently.”

No Flood Florida uses data from FEMA, the county and city and the water management district.

But flood maps from FEMA have come under scrutiny for being outdated, especially following the widespread flooding seen in Houston following Hurricane Harvey.

Hamed acknowledged that while Hurricane Harvey’s impact was unprecedented, the lag in updated data in some areas can create challenges, but it’s why he says their methodology includes information aggregated from several different data points.

“FEMA data is outdated and is approximated in a lot of areas but that’s just because of how long it takes to develop floodplain data,” he said.

“But I believe counties in Florida are doing a really tremendous job in improving their data, for example Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Sarasota counties have put a lot of resources and effort into developing watershed management plans to update that data.”

As a startup company, Lankford and Hamed are offering their services for free. The counties they service include Sarasota, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco. They have plans to one day provide the service to the entire state.

With full-time jobs and news of this service spreading fast, it’s hard to keep up with the demand.

“In the past 24 hours we’ve received about 250 requests,” said Hamed.

A dream come true for these men who have worked tirelessly to have No Flood Florida ready for the upcoming hurricane season.

“When you see a lot of people are interested in a service, you really want to dedicate even more time and resources to make and functioning,” Lankford said.

Next they plan to work with real estate websites like Trulia and Zillow so that their flood risk summary data will be plugged in automatically.

Author: Sarah Rosario and Josh Sidorowicz, WTSP
SHARE