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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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We have divided the FAQs into the following sections:

Coastal Flood Study FAQs

Why is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) providing new flood hazard maps to my community and other coastal communities in my state?

  • The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) flood hazard maps are also known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps, or FIRMs.
  • The FIRMs are important tools in protecting lives and property in the coastal communities along the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi and along the Atlantic Ocean in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
  • The FIRMs provide flood hazard information that may be used to determine the risk of flooding throughout the coastal area.
  • The coastal flood hazard information on the previously effective FIRMs has become out of date.
  • Therefore, FEMA has undertaken a large, multi-year coastal engineering analysis and mapping effort as part of the ongoing nationwide collaborative effort to update flood hazard and risk data nationwide.
  • The new engineering and digital mapping techniques used provide more detailed, reliable, and current data on the coastal communities’ flood hazards and risks.
  • The result: a better picture of the areas most likely to be affected by flooding and a better foundation from which to make key decisions.
Who is producing the new flood hazard maps?
  • The new flood hazard maps are the result of a joint effort of FEMA and the following agencies and entities
    • Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs
    • Florida Division of Emergency Management
    • Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Floodplain Management Office
    • Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality
    • Mississippi Emergency Management Agency
    • North Carolina Division of Emergency Management
    • North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program
    • Northwest Florida Water Management District
    • South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
    • Suwanee River Water Management District
  • These entities also contracted or worked in cooperation with local associations and with technical experts from private-sector contractors and research institutions.
  • To learn more about the engineering analyses, please visit the Coastal Engineering Analysis Overview page on this website.
  • County and community officials from the affected areas also participated in the coastal analysis and mapping process
When does the new flood hazard map for my community become effective?

 

  • The updated FIRM and accompanying FIS report for the Mississippi coastal counties became effective on the dates shown below. These FIRMs and FIS reports may have been updated since that time. For current effective FIRM and FIS report date, please see the "Community Information" table for these counties accessible through the Coastal Study Contacts page.
    • Jackson County, Mississippi and Incorporated Areas: March 16, 2009
    • Harrison County, Mississippi and Incorporated Areas: June 16, 2009
    • Hancock County, Mississippi and Incorporated Areas: October 16, 2009
  • For effective dates and other information for the updated FIRMs and FIS reports for the affected communities in other Southeastern States, please visit the information pages for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

How will the new flood hazard map for my community affect me?

  • Individual properties and neighborhoods across nearly six dozen counties in the Southeastern U.S. - 2 counties in Alabama, 37 counties in Florida, 9 counties in Georgia, 3 counties in Mississippi, 10 counties in South Carolina, and 19 counties in North Carolina - will be affected differently by these map changes.
  • Some properties will not be affected – the flood risk to those properties remains the same.
  • Other properties will be shown in high-risk Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHAs) where new or modified Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) will be shown. The BFE is the elevation of a flood having a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year.
  • Some properties will be shown in low- or moderate-risk areas where previously they were shown in SFHAs. SFHAs are areas that would be inundated by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood.
How does the coastal engineering analysis performed to establish BFEs for the new FIRM differ from the analysis used to develop the current effective BFEs shown on the previous FIRM for my community?
  • The flood hazard and risk information presented on the new FIRMs, including the BFEs, is based on more in-depth, larger-scale studies than the studies previously performed for the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
  • The new BFEs are more precise due to the use of advanced engineering models and more up-to-date and improved data.
  • In Mississippi, the new BFEs replaced the Advisory Base Flood Elevations shown on the Katrina Recovery Maps issued in November 2005.

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Flood Insurance FAQs

What will happen if the new FIRM for my community shows my house or business in a high-risk SFHA rather than a low- or moderate-risk area as shown on the previous FIRM?

  • If the new FIRM - once it is effective and adopted by your community - shows your house is now at a higher risk for flooding (i.e., in a high-risk SFHA), you will be required to purchase a flood insurance policy if you carry a mortgage from a federally regulated lender.
  • If you do not have a mortgage, FEMA still recommends that you purchase flood insurance because:
    • Over the life of a 30-year loan, the chance of having a flood that damages your house is nearly three times greater than having a fire.
    • Most homeowners insurance policies do not provide coverage for damage due to flooding.
  • If your house is shown in a high-risk SFHA on the new FIRM, lower-cost flood insurance options may be available through the NFIP “grandfathering” rule.
  • An insurance toolkit explaining the grandfathering rule is accessible through the FEMA Library to help you and your agent determine if you qualify.
  • Information for homeowners and renters on lower-cost options also is provided in a Preferred Risk Policy (PRP) brochure; a PRP brochure for business owners also is available.
What will happen if the new FIRM for my community shows my house in a   low- or moderate-risk area rather than a high-risk SFHA as shown on the previous FIRM?
  • When the zone designation for your house or other insurable structure changes from a high-risk SFHA (Zone A, Zones A1-30, Zone AE, Zone AO, Zone AH, Zone A99, Zone AR, Zone V, Zone V1-30, or Zone VE) to a moderate-risk Zone X (shaded) or to a low-risk Zone X (unshaded), the federally mandated requirement to purchase flood insurance no longer applies.
  • The risk to your property or other insurable structure has only been reduced, not removed. Therefore, FEMA still recommends the purchase of flood insurance.
  • Your lender retains the prerogative to require that you purchase or maintain flood insurance coverage even if your house or business is no longer shown in an SFHA on the FIRM; however, the flood insurance premium may be lowered.
  • Once the new FIRM becomes effective and is adopted by your community, you may be eligible to convert your existing Standard Flood Insurance Policy to a lower-cost Preferred Risk Policy (PRP).
  • Through your insurance agent, it is simple to submit a PRP application and insured-signed conversion form to avoid any gaps in your flood insurance coverage. PRP brochures for homeowners/renters and for business owners may be downloaded from the FEMA Library.
How might the new FIRM affect me financially?
  • If your house is shown in a high-risk SFHA when the new FIRM is officially adopted and becomes effective, and you have a mortgage with a federally regulated lender, you will be required to purchase flood insurance if you do not already have a policy.
  • If your house is shown in a low- or moderate-risk area, you are not required by the Federal Government to purchase or maintain insurance, but FEMA strongly encourages you to do so. Also, your lender does retain the prerogative to require flood insurance for houses located outside the mapped SFHA.
  • Please remember that the cost of properly protecting your house and contents from flood damage is far less than the cost to repair or replace them after a flood has occurred.
  • Through the NFIP, coverage can often be obtained at significant savings.
  • Talk to your insurance agent to determine the level of protection you need and the money-saving options available.
What is "grandfathering" and how can it help me?
  • FEMA established the NFIP “grandfathering” rules to recognize policyholders who have built their house or other insurable structure in compliance with the NFIP flood hazard map in effect at the time of construction or who maintain continuous flood insurance coverage.
  • These rules allow such policyholders to benefit in the premium rating for their building.
  • Property owners may also use the new FIRM if it will provide them a more favorable premium rating.
  • A fact sheet and other resources explaining the grandfathering rule are accessible through the FEMA Library to help your insurance agent and you determine if you qualify.
What should I know about renewing my existing flood insurance policy?
  • To determine the premium, your existing flood insurance policy should have been rated based on the NFIP flood hazard map that was in effect on the date you purchased your policy.
  • When you renew your policy, your policy may still be rated based on the same NFIP flood hazard map in effect when the policy was initially rated as long as the flood insurance coverage is continuous and the building has not been altered in a manner that would remove this benefit.
  • For example, if the house or other insurable structure on your property was shown in a B, C, or X zone, you could purchase the policy before the new, updated FIRM is adopted and keep the lower rate associated with the B, C, or X zone even after the new FIRM becomes effective.
  • You may even qualify for the lower-cost preferred risk option, which provides both building and contents coverage at significant savings. To help maintain this grandfathering benefit for the next owner, you may transfer the policy to them at the time of sale.
  • For additional information on how to reduce your flood insurance premium, please visit the How Can I Pay Less for Flood Insurance? page on the FEMA website.

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General Flood Hazard Mapping FAQs

How is a flood hazard map used?

  • FIRMs and other NFIP flood hazard maps are used to determine the flood hazard and risk to your home or business.
  • Low-risk areas and moderate-risk areas are identified on older FIRMs with the letters B and C, respectively; on newer maps, the letter X is used to identify these zones.
  • Inland high-risk zones (i.e., SFHAs) are identified on flood hazard maps with the letter A, with different designations (i.e., A, A1-A-30, AE, AO, AH, A99, AR) used based on the age of the map, the type of flood hazard, and the type of study performed.
  • Coastal high-risk zones (SFHAs that are often referred to as "Coastal High Hazard Areas", or "CHHAs") that have additional risk from storm surge are identified on the FIRMs with the letter V, with different designations (i.e., V, V1-30, VE) used based on the age of the map and the type of study performed.
  • Both the inland and coastal high-risk zones represent areas that have a                  1-percent chance of flooding each year.
What are the benefits of the new flood hazard map?
  • Users will benefit from he new FIRM, FIS report, and associated data and products in a number of ways.
  • Community planners and local officials will have a better understanding of the flood hazards and risks that affect your community and can consequently improve local planning activities.
  • Builders and developers will have access to more detailed information for making decisions on where to build and how construction can affect local flood hazards and associated risks.
  • Insurance agents, insurance companies, real estate agents and lending institutions will have easy online access to updates and upcoming changes, allowing them to serve their customers and community more effectively.
  • Homeowners, business owners, and renters will be able to make better financial decisions about protecting their properties.
What do I do if I believe the map showing my home or business in a high-risk area is an error? What do I do if I believe the BFE on the map is too high?
  • The flood hazard area delineations and flood insurance risk zone designations on the new FIRM are based on the best data available to Federal, State, and local engineers and officials at the time when areas within the community are studied.
  • Every effort was made to ensure that the FIRM reflects the most accurate and reliable flood hazard information for all properties.
  • However, in spite of the rigorous process and procedures that FEMA and its partners followed in developing the map, you may still feel that you have better information about the flood hazard and risk to your house or business.
  • If you have better information such as a completed Elevation Certificate, topographic map/data, or detailed hydraulic or hydrologic data, then you may be able to have the flood hazard and risk information shown on the new FIRM and accompanying FIS report changed.
  • You may also contact one of the following for help with your request:
    • Floodplain administrator, or "FPA," in your community;
    • State NFIP Coordinator for your State; or
    • A Map Specialist in the FEMA Map Information Exchange (FMIX).
  • FEMA has compiled contact information for community FPAs in the Southeastern States in "Community Information" tables, which are accessible through the Coastal Study Contacts page on this Web Portal; information on FPAs also may be available through community websites. Links to the community websites also are provided on the "Community Information" tables.
  • Contact information for the State NFIP Coordinators also is provided  the Coastal Study Contacts page.
  • The Map Specialists in the FMIX can be reached by telephone, toll free, at               1-877-FEMA MAP (1-877-336-2627), or via e-mail at FEMAMapSpecialist@riskmapcds.com.

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Floodplain Management FAQs

What is floodplain management?

  • Floodplain management is the operation of a program of corrective and preventative measures for reducing flood damage.
  • These measures take a variety of forms and generally include, but are not limited to, zoning, subdivision, or building requirements; special-purpose floodplain ordinances; emergency preparedness plans; and flood-control works.
What is the role of the community in floodplain management?
  • When the community chooses to join the NFIP, it must adopt and enforce minimum floodplain management standards for participation.
  • FEMA works closely with State and local officials to identify flood hazard areas and flood risks.
  • The floodplain management requirements of the NFIP are designed to prevent new development from increasing the flood risk and to protect new and existing buildings from anticipated flood events.
  • When a community chooses to join the NFIP, it must require permits for all development in the SFHA and ensure that construction materials and methods used will minimize future flood damage.
  • Permit files must contain documentation to substantiate how buildings were actually constructed. In return, the Federal Government makes flood insurance available for almost every building and its contents within the community.
  • Communities must ensure that their adopted floodplain management ordinance and enforcement procedures meet NFIP requirements.
  • Community officials must update their regulations when FEMA provides additional data or when Federal or State standards are revised.
Do the floodplain management measures required by the NFIP affect existing buildings?
  • The minimum Federal requirements affect existing buildings only when an existing building is substantially damaged or improved.
  • Situations may exist where a building has been constructed in accordance with a local floodplain management ordinance and the owner subsequently alters it in violation of the local building code, without a permit.
  • Such unapproved modifications to an existing building may not meet the minimum Federal requirements.
Do the floodplain management requirements apply to construction taking place outside the SFHAs shown on the FIRM for the community?
  • The local floodplain management regulations required by the NFIP apply only in the SFHAs shown on the FIRM for a participating community.
  • Communities may regulate development in areas outside the mapped SFHAs in the interest of public safety.
Does elevating a structure on posts or pilings remove a building from the SFHA?
  • Elevating a structure on posts or pilings does not remove the SFHA designation from that structure.
  • If the ground around the supporting posts or pilings is within the SFHA, the structure is still at risk.
  • Flood insurance will be required as a condition of receipt of Federal or federally related financing for the structure.
  • The hydrostatic effects of flooding can lead to the failure of the posts or pilings foundation, even in cases where the flood velocity is minimal.
  • The effects of ground saturation can lead to decreased load-bearing capacity of the soil supporting the posts or pilings, which can lead to partial or full collapse of the structure.
How may I learn more about floodplain management?
  • FEMA, State agencies, and regional entities such as the Water Management Districts in Florida have prepared an array of guidance documents and other informational materials on floodplain management.
  • You may access some floodplain management materials directly from the Coastal Study Resources page on this Web Portal.
  • You may access additional FEMA floodplain management guidance documents and other resources by visiting the Floodplain Management Publications page on the FEMA Website.

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Mitigation Planning FAQs

What is Mitigation Planning?

Mitigation planning is the process through which communities and citizens assess risks and identify actions to reduce their vulnerability through hazard mitigation.

What is a Mitigation Plan? Why should a community have a Mitigation Plan?

  • A Mitigation Plan is a community-driven, living document that community officials use to reduce their community’s vulnerability to hazards.
  • Communities must have a plan to apply for or receive Mitigation Assistance.
  • This assistance can augment local mitigation activities that are already being done.
  • Ultimately, these mitigation actions reduce vulnerability, and communities are able to recover faster from floods and other disasters.
How can I find out if my community has an up-to-date Mitigation Plan? How may I learn more about mitigation planning?
  • FEMA has prepared an array of guidance documents and other informational materials.
  • You may access some mitigation planning materials directly from the Coastal Study Resources page on this Web Portal. The materials are listed under “Protecting Property from Flood Damage.”
  • You may access mitigation planning materials by visiting the Hazard Mitigation Planning Resources page on the FEMA Website.

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