What is a Flood Map and Why Would I Need to Know?

FEMANo locale in the country can be considered 100% safe from damaging outdoor flooding. But do you know the exact risk for your home as officially determined by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)? There are good reasons why you should know and one very certain way to find out.

What’s Your Risk?

FEMA publishes flood maps, officially known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM), for over 20,000 communities and counties in the U.S. Available online at the FEMA Flood Map Service Center (MSC), these maps depict information important to the homeowner including:

  • The relative annual flood risk at your address.
  • Boundaries of identified floodplains, location of ponds, streams and other contributing factors.
  • Changes in flood risk that may have occurred since publication of the last map.

Regularly revised as local conditions evolve, flood maps are color-coded to depict the level of risk ranging from areas that are determined to have very low risk—less that 0.2% chance of flooding in any year— up to the highest-risk zones calculated to have a 1% annual risk of flooding.

Why Does It Matter?

Homeowner’s insurance policies typically do not cover damage from outdoor flooding. Therefore, home flood insurance coverage in the United States is administered by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If your house is located in a moderate- to high-risk zone as shown on the local FIRM map, federal flood insurance is required under the terms of a federally-backed mortgage. If your home is in one of the lower risk zones on the flood map, federal flood insurance is not required but is strongly recommended.

How Much Will It Cost?

  • Homes located in areas identified as low or moderate risk on flood maps are eligible for the NFIP Preferred Risk Policy (PRP) rates. Depending of the dollar amount of coverage, yearly rates vary from $150 up to about $450.
  • In homes located in high-risk zones, coverage depends upon the home’s size, construction and the policy deductible, but averages around $700 per year. Insurance for houses located in low elevation areas at special risk of flooding may cost more.

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