In a nutshell, the more preventative measures you take the better your insurance company will like you – and the fewer of your hard-earned dollars you’ll have to give them.

At Wednesday’s N. Topsail Beach Board of Aldermen meeting the town was presented with a Community Rating System (CRS) Class 5 plaque.

Previously the town was a Class 7 along with a few hundred others out of the 1,391 nationwide communities involved with CRS, according to a graphic from May 2016 presented at the meeting.

Now, N. Topsail Beach is one of a little more than 100 others in Class 5 and one of only three others in the North Carolina.

The benefit of this is a 25 percent discount in flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.

How it was done

There are minimum federal regulations and minimum requirements from FEMA that must be put in place in the town, said Planning Director Deb Hill.

All local towns and cities required to have flood insurance must meet the minimum requirements, but any of them can go above them, she said.

The town of N. Topsail Beach went above those minimum standards, which resulted in nearly 1,300 people saving an annual town-wide total of $534,301 in flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, according to information on a slide show presented Wednesday with information from the N.C. Emergency Management Risk Management Section.

There are a lot of higher standards towns can adopt, Hill said as she leafed through a two-inch binder.

Some of them are more trouble than they're worth, she said, and she and the town management and staff take all of that into consideration when deciding which ones to enact.

The town has become a StormReady and TsunamiReady community with the National Weather Service; they have flood data available digitally, which allows better risk communication and administration of flood prone areas; and they have an extensive outreach program that includes flood information in their town newsletter and flood brochure, according to the slide show.

The two higher standards N. Topsail Beach committed to were adding an extra two feet of freeboard and requiring V-Zone construction practices, Hill said.

Two feet of freeboard

When someone builds a home in N. Topsail they’re in one of two zones on the map, the VE flood zone and the AE flood zone, Hill explained.

The VE zone properties typically receive more flood damage from storm surges, Hill said, and the properties in the AE flood zones typically see more damage from rising flood waters.

In order to make all the homes in N. Topsail Beach safer, Hill said the town requires homes to be raised an extra two feet above the minimum elevation required by FEMA, have flood vents installed, and have breakaway walls if the lowest level is enclosed.

The flood vents look similar to dog doors and Hill explained that they allow water to pass in and out of the ground level, while the breakaway walls are designed to collapse when faced with flood waters.

Both of these additions relieve pressure on the pilings, which are designed to safely elevate the house above the flood waters.

It serves a purpose

“These higher standards do serve a purpose,” Hill said.

Someone moving in with a set closing date might get angry when Hill can't sign off on their home until flood vents have been installed, but Hill said these higher standards are necessary.

That same person, had she signed off on the inspection without ensuring the home was compliant with regulations, might come to her later to complain about the high price of their flood insurance premiums.

“There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of emotion, that goes into this,” Hill said.

It would be doing them a disservice, she said, and put them at greater risk.

The highest she’s seen flood insurance on homes in the town was more than $60,000 per year.

Jason Dorazio’s flood insurance isn’t anywhere near that costly, but he said following the regulations for N. Topsail Beach gave him a leg up on cheaper insurance.

Cheaper options

Walking around his newly-built home, Dorazio showed the flood vents, high ceilings, and breakaway walls inside his garage.

Through his contract company, Dora J Development, Dorazio said it took him a while to get on board with the new regulations, but once he saw the benefits of it all, “that was the turning point.”

Instead of the required two extra feet of freeboard, Dorazio said he built his home an additional five feet up.

“You get a better view the higher you go,” he said, smiling.

Due to this and the other preventative measures on his home, his yearly flood insurance went from $600 to $280.

He agrees so much with the regulations that he keeps it uniform with Dora J Development. Even in towns that haven’t adopted the regulations, he builds them with the extra precautions anyway.

“We believe it’s a good practice,” Dorazio said.

But how much does it cost to add those extra feet to the pilings?

While Dorazio didn’t have specific numbers, he said “the cost is nominal” and the owners make that extra expense back in savings from flood insurance. People were deterred from building in N. Topsail Beach because of the high flood insurance, Dorazio said, which these regulations help, well, regulate.

He’s also seen what not having some of these regulations can do to a home.

He grew up in a home on the ocean that made it through hurricanes Fran and Bertha, but Dorazio said the water pressure made the pilings lean and the home eventually had to be raised up to replace the pilings.

That pressure is relieved with breakaway walls, he said.

At the end of the day, Hill said, Dorazio has a safe home for his family and the town has done all they can to make safety more affordable.


Reporter Amanda Thames can be reached at 910-219-8467 or