FAQ

Q. What is a flood map?
A. It is a tool used to determine the different flooding risks in a community. The mapdesignates special flood hazard areas that are subject to inundation by the base flood (1%annual chance). Local floodplain administrators, insurance agents, lenders, and propertyowners use the flood zones illustrated on flood maps.

Q. How are the flood maps created?
A. The process includes obtaining new topographic data, base imagery, political boundaries,transportation lines and flood studies. Digital technology allows these individual elements tobe combined into a Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map (DFIRM) that clearly shows theboundaries of the flood zones.

Q. How will my community receive the new flood maps and flood insurance study?
A. The preliminary DFIRM and Flood Insurance Study will be issued to community officials inthe impacted communities as the county maps are completed. They may be viewed in a centrallocation within each community.

Q. Why are the maps being updated?
A. Many of the flood maps in Alabama are several decades old and have become outdated. Anational effort, called map modernization, will produce more accurate flood hazard data inaddition to converting the data to a digital format that can be viewed on a computer. Thedigital format will allow communities to overlay this map with other digital information toaddress numerous development and risk management issues. Also, updating the digital mapswill be much easier than updating the old maps.

Q. Who is paying for the new flood maps?
A. The President's budget included funding to update flood maps across the entire UnitedStates. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) insurance policy holders do not financethe map modernization effort.

Q. How are special flood hazard areas and base flood elevations determined?
A. The special flood hazard areas are determined by analysis of historical hydrologic data,community input, topographic surveys, hydrologic analysis, and hydraulic analysis. The FloodInsurance Study (FIS) specifically describes the methods for determination for each community.

Q. Where can I view a physical hard copy of my community's flood map to determine if myproperty is located in the flooding area?
A. You may view physical copies of the current effective flood map by contacting yourcommunity's floodplain administrator or the mayor of your community. The community mapsare located at the community map repository.

Q. Where can I obtain a copy of the flood map and the flood insurance study for mycommunity?
A. You may view and obtain flood maps on the FEMA Map Service Center web site atwww.store.msc.fema.gov. You may also order paper copies of the current effective flood mapsand flood insurance study by calling the map service center at 1-800-358-9616.

Q. Which zones on the flood maps require the purchase of flood insurance?
A. The National Insurance Reform Act of 1994 mandates the purchase of flood insurance as acondition of federally related financial assistance for development in flood hazard areas (A, AE,AO, AH, numbered A, V, and VE). Lending institutions may require flood insurance for someareas located outside of the special flood hazard area.

Q. When was the last update to the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) for my community?
A. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Community Status Book(www.fema.gov/fema/csb.shtm) provides a quick and easy way to see the latest currenteffective date for your community's flood map.

Q. How do I change or correct a flood map?
A. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has several methods of changing amap depending on the nature of the change requested. A physical map revision is an officialrepublication of the community's flood maps. Several types of letters of map change (LOMC)can also make changes to the communities flood maps. A letter of map revision based on fill(LOMR-F) is used when a structure or parcel is elevated on fill above the base flood elevation. Aletter of map amendment (LOMA) is used when a property owner believes the property isincorrectly included in the special flood hazard area. A letter of map revision (LOMR) is used tochange flood zones, floodways, base flood elevations, and planimetric features.

Q. How long does the map change process take?
A. A simple letter of map amendment (LOMA) for a single structure can generally be issued infour weeks. Map changes involving multiple lots or structures can require up to eight weeks.Letters of map revision (LOMR) which require a change in the base flood elevation or thefloodway take approximately 90 days to process. Complex physical map changes may take overa year to process.

Q. What is the process for developing an updated flood map for my community?
A. The State of Alabama's Office of Water Resources manages the flood-mapping program. Thetime frame for the process of developing an updated community map is approximately three
years. There are several stages to the process including:
Completing mapping needs assessmentConducting a scoping meetingObtaining mapping information (base map, topographic data, flood elevations,floodway data, community corporate limits, road names, waterways)Producing the flood mapsIssuing the preliminary (draft) flood maps and studies to the communityConducting a post-preliminary meetingAddressing appealsProviding the final effective flood maps and study to the community.

Q. What do the different flood hazard designations mean?
A. The letter designations describe different risk determinations based on the availablescientific studies of the area. For example, an AE zone will be inundated by the 100 year flood(1% annual chance) as determined by a detailed study. For AE zones the base flood elevation(BFE) is provided. Generally speaking A zones refer to inland flood zones and V zones refer tocoastal flood zones with wave action. For detailed information on all of the flood zones, reviewthe training modules on the educational resources portion of this website.

Q. What is a flood insurance study (FIS)?
A. The Flood Insurance Study (also known as Flood Elevation Study) means an examination,evaluation, and determination of flood hazards and, if appropriate, corresponding watersurface elevations, or an examination, evaluation and determination of mudslide (i.e., mudflow)and/or flood-related erosion hazards.

Q. Do coastal flood zones differ from other special flood hazard areas?
A. Yes, coastal flood zones factor in increased flooding hazard caused by wave action. Theseflood zones are designated as VE zones with the V standing for "velocity." Insurance premiumamounts are usually higher in the VE zones than in riverine flooding areas.

Q. What is a floodway?
A. Floodway means the channel of a river or other watercourse and the adjacent land areasthat must be reserved in order to discharge the base flood without cumulatively increasing thewater surface elevation more than a designated height.
National Flood Insurance Program

Q. Why is floodplain management important?
A. Floodplain management reduces flood losses and protects the naturally beneficial functionsof floodplains. The concept is centered on smart development and the wise use of floodplains.Unchecked development in these dynamic areas increases flood risks, degrades water quality,and threatens human life.

Q. What is a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)?
A. The Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) is the land in the flood plain within a communitysubject to a 1% or greater chance of flooding in any given year. After detailed ratemaking hasbeen completed in preparation for publication of the flood insurance rate map, Zone A usuallyis refined into Zones A, AO, AH, A1-30, AE, A99, AR, AR/A1-30, AR/AE, AR/AO, AR/AH, AR/A, VO,or V1-30, VE or V.

Q. What is the base flood?
A. It is the flood having a 1% chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year. It issometimes referred to as the 100-year flood. The base flood is used by the National FloodInsurance Program (NFIP) as the basis for community regulations, mapping, and insurancepurposes.

Q. How do I determine if my home is in a special flood hazard area?
A. Your local floodplain administrator maintains Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) thatvisually depict the special flood hazard area (1% or greater annual chance of flooding). Theseareas are designated as zones A, AO, AH, AE, VE.

Q. What happens if a community does not participate in the NFIP?
A. Flood insurance under the NFIP is not available within that community. Furthermore,federal officers or agencies are prohibited from approving any form of financial assistance foracquisition or construction purposes in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). For example, thiswould prohibit loans guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, insured by the FederalHousing Administration, or secured by the Rural Housing Services. Also, if a Presidentiallydeclared disaster occurs as a result of flooding in a non-participating community, no Federalfinancial assistance can be provided for the permanent repair or reconstruction of insurablebuildings in SFHAs.

Q. What is the role of the community in floodplain management?
A. When the community chooses to participate in the NFIP, it must adopt and enforceminimum floodplain management standards for participation. Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) works closely with State and local officials to identify flood hazardareas and flood risks. The floodplain management requirements within the SFHA are designedto prevent new development from increasing the flood threat and to protect new and existingbuildings from anticipated flood events. When a community chooses to participate in the NFIP,it must require permits for all development in the SFHA and ensure that construction materialsand methods used will minimize future flood damage. Permit files must contain documentationto substantiate how buildings were actually constructed. In return, the Federal Governmentmakes flood insurance available for almost every building and its contents within thecommunity. Communities must ensure that their adopted floodplain management ordinanceand enforcement procedures meet program requirements. Local regulations must be updatedwhen additional data is provided by FEMA or when Federal or State standards are revised.

Q. Is flood insurance mandatory for homes in a special flood hazard area?
A. Flood insurance is required for homes that are located in the special flood hazard areas (1%or greater annual chance of flooding) and that are financed by a federally backed loan.

Q. What do the different flood hazard designations mean?
A. The letter designations describe different risk determinations based on the availablescientific studies of the area. For example, an AE zone will be inundated by the 100 year flood(1% annual chance) as determined by a detailed study. For AE zones the base flood elevation(BFE) is provided. Generally speaking A zones refer to inland flood zones and V zones refer tocoastal flood zones with wave action. For detailed information on all of the flood zones, reviewthe training modules in the educational resources portion of this website.

Q. What is a Flood Insurance Study (FIS)?
A. The Flood Insurance Study (also known as Flood Elevation Study) means an examination,evaluation and determination of flood hazards and, if appropriate, corresponding water surfaceelevations, or an examination, evaluation and determination of mudslide (i.e., mudflow and/orflood-related erosion hazards).

Q. How much does flood insurance cost?
A. Many factors determine the premiums. Cost is based on the amount of insurancepurchased, the characteristics of the structure, and the flood zone depicted on the FloodInsurance Rate Map (FIRM). One of the main characteristics of the structure that determinesthe cost is the elevation of the lowest floor relative to the predicted elevation of the base flood(1% annual chance). This elevation is called the base flood elevation (BFE). The BFE can befound on the FIRM and in the Flood Insurance Study (FIS).

Q. Do coastal flood zones differ from other special flood hazard areas?
A. Yes, coastal flood zones factor in the increased flooding hazard caused by the wave action.These flood zones are designated as VE zones with the V standing for "velocity." Insurance
premium amounts are usually higher in the VE zones than in riverine flooding areas.

Q. Can I purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) if myhome is not in a special flood hazard area?
A. Yes, you can purchase flood insurance through the NFIP if you live in a community thatparticipates in the program. If you live outside of the special flood hazard area, your premiumswill most likely be lower. You may qualify for a preferred risk policy (lower cost) if your homehas not received previous flood insurance claims or disaster assistance.

Q. What is a floodway?
A. Floodway means the channel or a river or other watercourse and the adjacent land areasthat must be reserved in order to discharge the base flood without cumulatively increasing thewater surface elevation more than a designated height. Flood insurance is required for homeslocated in the special flood hazard areas (1% or greater annual chance of flooding) and that arefinanced by a federally backed loan. The lender requires this. The lender may require thepurchase of flood insurance for some areas outside of the special flood hazard areas, but this isnot a federal requirement.

Q. What is freeboard?
A. Freeboard means a factor of safety usually expressed in feet above a flood level for purposesof floodplain management. "Freeboard" tends to compensate for the many unknown factorsthat could contribute to flood heights greater than the height calculated for a selected sizeflood and floodway conditions, such as wave action, bridge openings, and the hydrologicaleffect of urbanization of the watershed.

Q. My house is not in a floodplain according to the current map, but the new map will showit as being in a floodplain. Will I have to purchase flood insurance when the new mapofficially takes effect?
A. If you have federally backed financing for the property and you do not already have floodinsurance, your lender may contact you once the new map takes effect and require that youpurchase flood insurance. If you do not purchase the insurance after being informed that floodinsurance is required, the lender can force place the insurance and charge you for the cost of it.If you disagree with the lender’s determination that your property is located in a special floodhazard area, you can request a Letter of Determination Review from the Federal EmergencyManagement Agency (FEMA) within 45 days of being informed by your lender that yourproperty is located in a floodplain. If you see that your structure will be included in the newspecial flood hazard area of the new map, you might consider purchasing flood insurance priorto the effective date of the new map. If you do, you will be grandfathered in and you canmaintain the flood insurance coverage at the current premium level. Remember, you have towait 30 days before the insurance is effective.

Q. I have flood insurance, and my house is in a floodplain according to the current map. Thenew map, however, shows my house outside the special flood hazard area. Will I have tocontinue carrying flood insurance when the new map officially takes effect?
A. If you have federally related financing for the property in question, you will no longer have afederal requirement to purchase flood insurance when the new maps take effect. However,lenders retain the prerogative to require flood insurance for property that is not in a floodplain.If you wish to continue coverage once the new maps take effect, you may be eligible forpreferred risk rates based on your property being outside the special flood hazard area.

Q. My house was built to the flood elevation shown on the current map (or a previous map).On the new map, my house will remain in the floodplain, but the flood elevation willincrease. What will happen to my insurance premium when the new map officially takeseffect?
A. If you can show that your house was built in compliance with the local floodplain ordinanceand the flood map in effect at the time of construction, the basis for rating your policy will notchange and your premium will be the same. If you cannot show that your house was built incompliance at the time of construction, your policy will be re-rated using the new flood map,which may raise your premium. However, if you can show that your home has beencontinuously insured since before the map change, your premium will not be affected. If youdo not have Federal or federally related financing, you are not required by Federal regulationsto have flood insurance, although it is available to you.

Q. My house was built to the flood elevation shown on the current map (or a previous map).On the new map, my house will remain in the floodplain, but the elevation will decrease.What will happen to my insurance premium when the new map officially takes effect?
A. Contact your insurance agent to ensure that the policy is re-rated when the new mapofficially takes effect. The lower flood elevation may result in a lower premium.

Q. My house was built in Zone AE to the flood elevation in effect at the time of construction.On the new map, my house will remain in the floodplain, but the zone designation will bechanged to Zone VE. What will happen to my insurance premium when the new mapofficially takes effect?
A. If you can show that your house was built in compliance with the local floodplain ordinanceand the flood map in effect at the time of construction, the basis for rating your policy does notchange and your premium will be the same when the new map officially takes effect. If youcannot show that your house was built in compliance at the time of construction, your policywill be re-rated when the new map takes effect using the new flood zone designation and floodelevations, which may raise your premium. However, if you can show that your home has beencontinuously insured since before the map change, your premium will not be affected.

Q. My house is shown as being in Zone VE on the current map. On the new map, my housewill remain in the floodplain, but the zone designation will be changed to Zone AE. What willhappen to my insurance premium when the new map officially takes effect?
A. Contact your insurance agent to ensure the policy is re-rated when the new map officiallytakes effect. The change to a Zone AE designation will likely lower your premium.

Q. My house is in a floodplain according to the current map. On the new map, my house willremain in the floodplain, but the flood elevation will be increased. Will my house beconsidered to be in violation of NFIP regulations when the new map officially takes effect?
A. Any house that can be shown to have been built in compliance with the local floodplainordinance and the flood map at the time of construction will continue to be consideredcompliant, even if the new maps will show an increase in flood elevation or a change to a morerestrictive zone designation. However, should your house be substantially damaged (damage is50% or more of the pre-damage market value) and you wish to repair it, you will be required tobring the entire structure into compliance with the zone designation and flood elevations ineffect at the time the repairs take place. If the structure is less than substantially damaged, youdo not need to refer to the flood map when repairing damages. There may be more stringentlocal requirements that take precedence over those stated here. Regardless of whether yourbuilding is substantially damaged, you will likely need a building permit to make repairs andneed to contact your local building official.

Q. My house is in a floodplain. What do I do if I want to build an addition or otherwiseimprove it?
A. If the value of the addition of improvement to the house is less than 50% of the marketvalue of the existing structure, you need only make sure that the improvement meets orexceeds the standards that were used in constructing the existing structure (assuming theexisting structure was built in compliance at the time it was constructed). Additions or otherimprovements valued at 50% or more of the market value of the existing structure areconsidered substantial improvements. In such cases, the entire structure must be brought intocompliance with the elevations on the map in effect at the time the improvement begins.Under certain circumstances, only the addition needs to be elevated to the flood elevationsshown on that map. There may be more stringent local requirements that take precedenceover those stated here. Regardless of whether your building is substantially improved, you willlikely need a building permit to make the improvement and need to contact your local buildingofficial.