FEMA Map Updates

FEMA's Risk MAP (Risk Mapping, Assessment and Planning) program has superseded the Map Modernization (MapMod) program for the development of the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). There have been a number of improvements to the program, including:

  • More participation with communities and local officials during the map update process
  • Decision points through the process to help define the best path forward
  • Watershed studies instead of county-based studies
  • Focus on different levels of risk, opposed to being in or out of the floodplain

This new approach will resume much of the work of MapMod to address gaps in data and update high priority areas with current, validated flood maps. Risk MAP is designed to align with all FEMA's programs - from discovering local needs, mapping with better base data, and working with community representatives in assessing risk and vulnerability - with planning and mitigation considerations woven throughout. MapMod was about creating a product. Risk MAP represents a process.

Principles of Risk MAP

  • Mapping - Identification of the Flood Hazards and Risk.
  • Assessment - Gather local, state and federal information to assess the potential flood risk.
  • Planning - Use the data obtained through Risk MAP to update Hazard Mitigation Plans which will lead to better mitigation actions.

Risk MAP involves a number of non-regulator products which can be made available to a community such as a Flood Insurance Risk Map (FIRM), Flood Risk Report (FRR) or Flood Risk Database (FRD). These flood risk products are not intended to be used as the basis for official actions, but to supplement the FIRM p and Flood Insurance Study (FIS). These enhanced products dig deeper than a FIRM and FIS to identify where flooding can take place in a community, and can help to prioritize mitigation actions.

Homeowner's Guide to FEMA Map Updates

New flood maps don't create more risk for your property, but do affect your property in a number of ways. The most common issue for affected homeowners is the associated requirements for flood insurance. The map update process triggers review by lenders, who are federally mandated to ensure each of their loans in flood zones are covered by a flood insurance policy. Additionally, lands located in a floodplain as well as pre-existing, "nonconforming" structures, are limited in how they can be developed or redeveloped.

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How can I view flood maps for my area?

If you are told you are in or near a FEMA mapped floodplain, it is important to first verify where your home is in relation to the floodplain. Your local zoning official should have floodplain maps for your area as well.

What can I do if I believe I have been inadvertently included in the SFHA?

Appeals for these types of situations are common and your local government office should be able to assist you. Depending on what you see, you may be eligible a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA). Traditionally, a LOMA involves hiring a surveyor to verify the lowest ground touching the structure, deck or stairs is above the 100-year flood elevation. Under the right circumstances, two other types of streamlined methods can be pursued in lieu of a field survey:

  • Letter of Map Amendment - Out as Shown (LOMA-OAS) would be used when a flood map overlaid on top of an aerial photo plainly shows that a structure is completely out of the floodplain.
  • A Letter of Map Amendments using updated elevation data would be used when LiDAR-derived contour elevations can verify that a structure is above the 100-year flood elevation. Where conflicts between the floodplain boundaries and actual field conditions exist, elevations are always the governing factor.

For those that would qualify for either of the two streamlined methods described above, the city can assist in obtaining a map that can be used in lieu of a field survey. How to Appeal, Change or Correct an Official Floodplain Map provides details regarding LOMAs.

What if I have just recently been mapped into a SFHA?

For those that originally built in compliance, but are later mapped into a floodplain, there are options to purchase a policy at a lower premium if a policy is in place before the new maps become effective.

What do I need to know about flood insurance requirements?

If you have a mortgage or secured loan from a federally regulated or insured lender (this includes most loans) and the principle structure on this parcel is within the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA, the 1%, or 100-year floodplain), then by Federal law your lender must require you to carry flood insurance.

Most lenders will review floodplain maps for each of their loans when a loan is initiated, transferred, or when updated maps become effective. They will send a letter to all properties in the SFHA (or close to it) to notify them that they must purchase flood insurance within 45 days. If a policy is not purchased within this time period, the lender will "force place" a policy, which is normally much more expensive.

How does being in a floodplain affect what I am able to do with my property?

Any new construction or additions must be built in conformance with your local floodplain regulations. This would include elevating the structure on fill or through floodproofing. If a structure was legally constructed before the date of the first FEMA map that shows that structure in the high flood risk zone, it is considered a nonconforming structure. The owner can continue to use that building, and it is not a violation. The building is "grandfathered" and does not have to be altered to meet the new local ordinance requirements unless certain changes are made to the building.

The property owner is not required to bring the existing building into compliance with the current ordinance unless the building is "substantially damanged" or "substantially improved" (as defined in your community's local ordinance). Routine maintenance and repair can be done (e.g., painting, roofing, siding, doors, windows), but extensive additions might be considered substantial improvement and require bringing the entire structure into conformance - typically through elevation or relocation.

Where do I go to purchase a policy?

Flood Insurance is available through your insurance agent or one of the agents listed by searching the "Agent Finder" section of FEMA's Flood Insurance website.