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An Overview of the Community Rating System (CRS) Program 

January 28, 2024
Meghan Finlayson

Recently, we had the privilege of taking the Florida Floodplain Managers Association's 'CRS Hacks' course, an insightful training hosted by FFMA education director, Sally Cook, and CRS Program Flood Specialist, Denise Boehning. We are excited to share what we learned during this session to help communities who are just getting started in the program.

What is the CRS?

The Community Rating System (CRS) Program is a voluntary program that affords communities discounts on their NFIP flood insurance policies as an incentive for mitigation action. It operates with three primary goals in mind: reduce flood damage, strengthen insurance, and foster comprehensive floodplain management. Any community that is a part of the NFIP is eligible to participate.

Important resources to get started

The foundational resources are the CRS Coordinator's Manual and its 2021 Addendum. You may also find our CRS Guide helpful to understanding the landscape!

CRS Program 101 

To participate and advance in the program, communities must complete the creditable mitigation activities outlined in the manual – and provide documentation.

As activities are completed, communities receive points. The more points a community earns, the higher the class they fall into. The higher the class, the larger the discount they receive on flood insurance. Classes in the CRS program range from class 1 to class 10, with class 1 being the best. The 100 section of the manual provides a helpful table showing how many points are required for each class, the maximum points available, and how the points align with a class.

Creditable Activities

The creditable activities fall within a 300-600 series. 

  • 300 Series: Public information (examples include: advising residents about flood risk, encouraging purchase of flood insurance, and providing information on ways to reduce flood damages)
  • 400 Series: Mapping and regulation (examples include: initiating programs that provide increased protections to new development)
  • 500 Series - Flood damage reduction activities (examples include: elevating and floodproofing structures)
  • 600 Series - Warning and response (examples include: implementing measures to protect property during a flood)

It is important to note that not all communities can implement everything in the manual. Some activities do not apply and some require collaboration with other departments, such as emergency management and engineering. Additionally, if a community adopts a higher standard that is not explicitly stated in the manual, but that aligns with the program's goals, they may be eligible for partial credit and are encouraged to reach out to an ISO specialist.

2021 CRS addendum  

The 2021 CRS addendum includes changes to the annual recertification process and more, including updated details for manufactured homes. It also outlines Class 8 and Class 9 prerequisites and is an important document to review.

With the manual spanning over 640 pages and the addendum adding another 68 pages, effective organization is crucial. Bookmarks for required criteria and documentation can be used to help streamline the process. 

Annual Recertification 

Annual recertification occurs every year. The recertification is conducted by a resource specialist and communities receive a letter 45 days before it is due. The letter outlines exactly what is being evaluated. Communities are always required to submit a permit list, Elevation Certificates (ECs), and other construction certificates to verify ongoing implementation of CRS activities. 

While Elevation Certificates are a crucial part of the process, they can be difficult to manage and errors are common. The submitted Elevation Certificates must be 90% correct, which is often a challenge for communities we work with. If they do not meet the 90% correctness requirement, they have a second chance. If they don’t get there after the second time, they don’t get the points and this can be detrimental for maintaining their standing in the CRS.

At Forerunner, we developed an EC Error Detection Tool to help automatically identify common EC errors, since many of them can be difficult to catch. The tool identifies over 100 potential clerical, compliance, and elevation issues that need to be addressed in ECs before submitting to the CRS. To date, we have checked hundreds of thousands of ECs across the country. To view a resource we compiled to document potential EC errors, see our Issues Guide

5 year verification cycle visits 

Verification cycle visits, conducted every 5 years (or 3 years for Class 3 or better), evaluate the entire program and determine classification. They are much more comprehensive - focusing on all activities and operating procedures (ie: how communities review, who reviews, who collects information). A template can be found at > 300 series.

Other Resources is also a valuable platform and reference point. It includes a CRS data visualizations tool with CRS State profiles, which show participation and classification in communities within each state. This can be helpful to understand how your community compares to others. If another community you know is doing particularly well in an activity you are interested in, it may be worth reaching out to them to chat!

We also have written blogs and hosted webinars on different topics within the CRS that may be of interest:

We hope this information helps you navigate the intricate landscape of the CRS program effectively. To learn more about Forerunner please reach out or request a demo - we’d love to connect!

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