NFIP Frequently Asked Questions

Contact: Holly Simons 517-284-5495

The following questions and answers are from FEMA's booklet Answers to Questions about the National Flood Insurance Program - November 1997.

Introduction to the NFIP

1. What is the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)?

The NFIP is a Federal program enabling property owners in participating communities to purchase insurance protection against losses from flooding. This insurance is designed to provide an insurance alternative to disaster assistance to meet the escalating costs of repairing damage to buildings and their contents caused by floods.

Participation in the NFIP is based on an agreement between local communities and the Federal Government that states if a community will adopt and enforce a floodplain management ordinance to reduce future flood risks to new construction in Special Flood Hazard Areas, the Federal Government will make flood insurance available within the community as a financial protection against flood losses.

2. What is a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)?

In support of the NFIP, FEMA has undertaken a massive effort of flood hazard identification and mapping to produce Flood Hazard Boundary Maps (FHBMs), Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FlRMs), and Flood Boundary and Floodway Maps (FBFMs). Several areas of flood hazards are commonly identified on these maps. One of these areas is the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), which is defined as an area of land that would be inundated by a flood having a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year (also referred to as the base or 100 year flood). The 1 percent annual chance standard was chosen after considering various alternatives. The standard constitutes a reasonable compromise between the need for building restrictions to minimize potential loss of life and property and the economic benefits to be derived from floodplain development. Development may take place within the SFHA, provided that development complies with local floodplain management ordinances, which must meet the minimum Federal requirements. Flood insurance is required for insurable structures within the SFHA to protect Federal financial investments and assistance used for acquisition and/or construction purposes within communities participating in the NFIP.

3. What is a flood?

"Flood" is defined in the Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP), in part, as:

A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of normally dry land areas from overflow of inland or tidal waters or from the unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source.

4. How does the NFIP benefit property owners? Taxpayers? Communities?

Through the NFIP, property owners in participating communities are able to insure against flood losses. By employing wise floodplain management, a participating community can protect its citizens against much of the devastating financial loss resulting from flood disasters. Careful local management of development in the floodplains results in construction practices that can reduce flood losses and the high costs associated with flood disasters to all levels of government.

5. Is community participation mandatory?

Community participation in the NFIP is voluntary (although some States require NFIP participation as part of their floodplain management program). Each identified floodprone community must assess its flood hazard and determine whether flood insurance and floodplain management would benefit the community's residents and economy. However, a community that chooses not to participate within 1 year after the flood hazard has been identified and an NFIP map has been provided is subject to the ramifications explained in the answer to Question 6.

A community's participation status can significantly affect current and future owners of property located in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). The decision should be made with full awareness of the consequence of each action.

6. What happens if a community does not participate in the NFIP?

Flood insurance under the NFIP is not available within that community. Furthermore, Section 202(a) of Public Law 93-234, as amended, prohibits Federal officers or agencies from approving any form of financial assistance for acquisition or construction purposes in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). For example, this would prohibit loans guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, insured by the Federal Housing Administration, or secured by the Rural Housing Services. Under Section 202(b) of Public Law 93-234, if a Presidentially declared disaster occurs as a result of flooding in a nonparticipating community, no Federal financial assistance can be provided for the permanent repair or reconstruction of insurable buildings in SFHAs. Eligible applicants may receive those forms of disaster assistance that are not related to permanent repair and reconstruction of buildings.

If the community applies and is accepted into the NFIP within 6 months of a Presidential disaster declaration, these limitations on Federal disaster assistance are lifted.

7. Explain the discounts on premiums that can be obtained in communities that qualify for the Community Rating System (CRS) because they have floodplain management programs that go beyond the minimum requirements to participate in the NFIP.

The NFIP's Community Rating System (CRS) recognizes community efforts beyond the NFIP minimum standards by reducing flood insurance premiums for the community's property owners. The discounts may range from 5 to 45 percent. The discounts provide an incentive for new flood mitigation, planning and preparedness activities that can help save lives and protect property in the event of a flood.

8. What procedures must be followed for a community to participate in the Community Rating System?

Participation in the CRS is voluntary. A community in compliance with the rules and regulations of the NFIP may apply. The community's Chief Executive Officer must appoint a CRS coordinator to handle the application work and serve as the liaison between the community and FEMA. The first step in the application process is for the community to obtain a copy of the CRS Coordinator s Manual. which describes the program and gives details on the eligible activities. The CRS coordinator should fill out and submit an application for participation in the CRS. The CRS will verify the information and arrange for flood insurance premium discounts.

9. How can a community acquire the CRS Coordinators Manual and other information describing the program?

The CRS Coordinator s Manual. additional CRS publications, or software may be ordered by writing, calling, or faxing a request to the NFIP/CRS. All publications are free, and the computer software for completing the application is also available at no charge.

Flood Insurance Information for Prospective Buyers

10. Who may purchase a flood insurance policy?

NFIP coverage is available to all owners of insurable property (a building and/or its contents) in a community participating in the NFIP. Owners and renters may insure their personal property against flood loss. Builders of buildings in the course of construction, condominium associations, and owners of residential condominium units in participating communities all may purchase flood insurance. Condominium associations may purchase insurance coverage on a residential building, including all units, and its commonly owned contents under the Residential Condominium Building Association Policy (RCBAP). The unit owner may separately insure personal contents as well as obtain additional building coverage under the Dwelling Form as long as the unit owner's share of the RCBAP and his/her added coverage do not exceed the statutory limits for a single family dwelling. The owner of a nonresidential condominium unit may purchase only contents coverage for that unit.

11. How can property owners or renters find out if they are eligible to purchase flood insurance?

NFIP coverage is available only in participating communities. Almost all of the nation's communities with serious flooding potential have joined the NFIP. To learn if a community is participating in the NFIP, contact a property insurance agent, a broker, or a community official, or call the NFIP toll free number 800-427-4661.

12. How can a property owner determine if the property is in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)?

FEMA publishes maps indicating a community's flood hazard areas and the degree of risk in those areas. Flood insurance maps usually are on file in a local repository in the community, such as the planning and zoning or engineering offices in the town hall or the county building. A property owner may consult these maps to find out if the property is in an SFHA. A FEMA publication entitled "Guide to Flood Maps" will also help individuals identify particular properties.

13. What types of property may be insured against flood loss?

Almost every type of walled and roofed building that is principally above ground and not entirely over water may be insured if it is in a participating community. In most cases, this includes manufactured (i.e., mobile) homes anchored to permanent foundations, but does not include travel trailers or converted buses or vans. Contents of insurable walled and roofed buildings also may be insured under separate coverage.

14. How is flood insurance purchased?

After a community joins the NFIP, a policy may be purchased from any licensed property insurance agent or broker who is in good standing in the State in which the agent is licensed or through any agent representing a Write Your Own (WYO) company, including an employee of the company authorized to issue the coverage.

The steps leading to the purchase of a flood insurance policy are:

  • A property owner or renter perceives a risk of flooding to an insurable building or its contents and elects to purchase flood insurance, or a lender making, renewing, increasing, or extending a loan, or at any time during the term of the loan, informs the builder or potential buyer that the building is in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and flood insurance must be purchased as required by the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 and the National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994. The builder or borrower contacts an insurance agent or broker or a Write Your Own (WYO) company.

  • The insurance agent completes the necessary forms for the builder or buyer. In the case of a building constructed in an SFHA after the issuance of a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), the builder or buyer must obtain an elevation certificate completed by a licensed engineer, architect, surveyor, or appropriate community official.

  • The insurance agent submits the application, necessary elevation certification, and full premium to the NFIP or to a participating WYO company.

15. How are flood insurance premiums calculated?

A number of factors are considered in determining the premium for flood insurance coverage. They include the amount of coverage purchased; location; age of the building; building occupancy; design of the building; and, for buildings in SFHAs, elevation of the building in relation to the base flood elevation. Buildings eligible for special low cost coverage at a predetermined, reduced premium rate are single-family and 1-4 family dwellings located in zones B. C, and X. For these exceptions, certain loss limitations exist depending on the amount of insurance purchased. (See the "Flood Hazard Assessment and Mapping Requirements" section for definitions of flood zones.)

16. Is the purchase of flood insurance mandatory?

The Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 and the National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994 mandate the purchase of flood insurance as a condition of Federal or Federally related financial assistance for acquisition and/or construction of buildings in SFHAs of any community. The purchase of flood insurance on a voluntary basis is frequently prudent even outside of SFHAs.

The Acts prohibit Federal agency lenders, such as the Small Business Administration (SBA) and United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Housing Service, and Government Sponsored Enterprises for Housing (Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae) from making, guaranteeing, or purchasing a loan secured by improved real estate or mobile home(s) in an SFHA, unless flood insurance has been purchased, and is maintained during the term of the loan.

The Acts apply to lenders under the jurisdiction of Federal entities for lending institutions. These Federal entities include the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision, the National Credit Union Administration, and the Farm Credit Administration. The Act also requires Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to implement procedures designed to ensure compliance with the mandatory purchase requirements of the Acts.

The purchase of flood insurance does not apply to conventional loans made by Federally regulated lenders when the community in which the building is located is not participating in the NFIP. Although Federal flood insurance is not available for new construction or substantially improved structures in CBRS areas, conventional loans may be made there by Federally regulated lenders. In these cases, the lending institution is required to notify the borrower that, in the event of a flood related Presidentially declared disaster, Federal disaster assistance will not be available for the permanent repair or restoration of the building. Federally regulated or insured lending institutions are required in all cases to notify the borrower when the building being used to secure a loan is in an SFHA.

17. Why is there a requirement to purchase flood insurance in communities that have not suffered flooding in many years or ever?

A major purpose of the NFIP is to alert communities to the danger of flooding and to assist them in reducing potential property losses from flooding. Therefore, FEMA determines flood risk through the use of all available information for each community. Historical flood data are only one element used in determining flood risk. More critical determinations can be made by evaluating the community's rainfall and river flow data, topography, wind velocity, tidal surge, flood control measures, development (existing and planned), community maps, and other data.

18. Why is my lender requiring the purchase of flood insurance?

For virtually every mortgage transaction involving a structure in the United States, the lender reviews the current NFIP maps for the community in which the property is located to determine its relative location to the published SFHA and completes the Standard Flood Hazard Determination Form (SFHDF). If the lender determines that the structure is indeed located within the SFHA and the community is participating in the NFIP, the borrower is then notified that flood insurance will be required as a condition of receiving the loan. A similar review and notification is completed whenever a loan is sold on the secondary loan market or perhaps when the lender completes a routine review of its mortgage portfolio. This fulfills the lender's obligation under the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 and the National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994 that requires the purchase of flood insurance by property owners who are being assisted by Federal programs or by Federally regulated institutions in the acquisition or improvement of land, or facilities, or structures located or to be located within an SFHA.

19. What if I disagree with my lender's determination that I am in the flood zone?

Property owners may not contest the requirement if the lending institution has established the requirements as a part of its own standard lending practices. However, if a lending institution is requiring the insurance to meet mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements, the property owner and lender may jointly request that FEMA review the lending institution's determination. This request must be submitted within 45 days of the date the lending institution notified the property owner that a building or manufactured home is in the SFHA and flood insurance is required. In response, FEMA will issue a Letter of Determination Review (LODR). The LODR does not result in an amendment or revision to the NFIP map. It is only a finding as to whether the building or manufactured home is in the SFHA shown on the NFIP map. The LODR remains in effect until the NFIP map panel affecting the subject building or manufactured home is revised.

20. What fees and data are required for LODRs?

A fee of $80 must be submitted with all LODR requests. The fee payment may be in the form of a check or money order, in U. S. funds, made payable to the "National Flood Insurance Program." The fee must be accompanied by copies of the following: (1 ) the completed SFHDF; (2) the dated notification letter to the property owner; (3) a letter, signed by the property owner and lending institution, requesting FEMA's review; (4) an annotated copy of the effective NFIP map panel for the community showing the location of the structure or manufactured home; and (5) a copy of all material used by the lending institution or designated third party to make the determination.

Coverage

21. How much flood insurance coverage is available?

As of March 1,1995, the following coverage limits are available.

Building Coverage

  • Single-family dwelling*: Emergency Program $35,000, Regular Program $250,000
  • Other residential*: Emergency Program $100,000, Regular Program $250,000
  • Non-residential or small business: Emergency Program $100,000, Regular Program $500,000

Contents Coverage (per unit)

  • Residential: Emergency Program $10,000, Regular Program $100,000
  • Non-residential including small business: Emergency Program $100,000, Regular Program $500,000

*Higher limits of basic coverage are available under the emergency program in Hawaii, Alaska, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.

22. What flood losses are covered?

The Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP) Forms contain complete definitions of the coverages they provide. Direct physical losses by "flood" are covered. Also covered are losses resulting from flood related erosion caused by waves or currents of water activity exceeding anticipated cyclical levels, or caused by a severe storm, flash flood, abnormal tidal surge, or the like, which result in flooding, as defined. Damage caused by mudslides (i.e., mudflows), as specifically defined in the policy forms, is covered.

23. What coverage is available in basements and enclosed areas beneath the lowest elevated floor?

Coverage is provided for foundation elements, including posts, pilings, piers, or other support systems for elevated buildings. Coverage also is available for basement and enclosure utility connections, certain mechanical equipment necessary for the habitability of the building, such as furnaces, hot water heaters, clothes washers and dryers, food freezers, air conditioners, heat pumps, electrical junctions, and circuit breaker boxes. Finished structural elements such as paneling and linoleum, and contents items such as rugs and furniture are not covered. The SFIP has a complete list of covered elements and equipment.

24. What is a basement?

The NFIP's definition of "basement" includes any part of a building where all sides of the floor are located below ground level. Even though a room may have windows and constitute living quarters, it is still considered to be a basement if the floor is below ground level on all sides.

25. Are losses from land subsidence, sewer backup, or seepage of water covered?

These losses are covered only if the following conditions are met:

a) There is a general and temporary condition of flooding in the area.

b) The flooding is the proximate cause of the land subsidence, sewer backup, or seepage of water.

c) The land subsidence, sewer backup, or seepage damage occurs no later than 72 hours after the flood has receded.

d) The building is insured, at the time of the loss, for at least 80 percent of its replacement cost or the maximum amount of insurance available under the NFIP.

26. What is Increased Cost of Compliance coverage?

Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) under the NFIP provides for the payment of a claim to help pay for the cost to comply with State or community floodplain management laws or ordinances from a flood event in which a building has been declared substantially damaged or repetitively damaged. When an insured building is damaged by a flood and the State or community declares the building to be substantially damaged or repetitively damaged, ICC will help pay for the cost to elevate, floodproof, demolish, or relocate the building up to a maximum benefit of $15,000. This coverage is in addition to the building coverage for the repair of actual physical damages from flood under the Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP).

27. Is there a limit to the amount a policyholder can collect under ICC coverage?

Yes. The maximum amount a policyholder may collect under ICC is $15,000. This amount is in addition to the amount the policyholder will receive for physical damages by flood. The total amount the policyholder will receive for combined physical structural damage from flood and ICC is always capped by the maximum limit of coverage established by Congress. The maximum amount collectible for both ICC and physical damage from flood for a single family dwelling is $250,000.

Filing a Flood Insurance Claim

28. How does a policyholder file a claim for flood loss?

A flood insurance policyholder should immediately report any flood loss to the insurance company or agent who wrote the policy. A claims adjuster will be assigned the loss, and the policyholder must file a "proof of loss" within 60 days of the date of loss. A policyholder whose policy is with a WYO company must follow the company's claim procedures. The 60 day time limit for filing a proof of loss remains the same.

Floodplain Management Requirements

29. 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 within the SFHA are designed to prevent new development from increasing the flood threat 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 program requirements. Local regulations must be updated when additional data are provided by FEMA or when Federal or State standards are revised.

30. Do State governments assist in implementing the NFIP?

At the request of the Administrator of FIA, each Governor has designated an agency of State or territorial government to coordinate that State's or territory's NFIP activities. These agencies often assist communities in developing and adopting necessary floodplain management measures. Some States require more stringent measures than those of the NFIP.

31. Do Federal requirements take precedence over State requirements?

The regulatory requirements set forth by FEMA are the minimum measures acceptable for NFIP participation. More stringent requirements adopted by the local community or State take precedence over the minimum regulatory requirements established for flood insurance availability.

32. 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. There may also be situations 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.

33. What constitutes "substantial improvement" or "substantial damage"?

"Substantial improvement" means any rehabilitation, addition, or other improvement of a building when the cost of the improvement equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the building before start of construction of the improvement. The term includes buildings that have incurred "substantial damage." "Substantial damage" means damage of any origin sustained by a building when the cost of restoring the building to its pre-damaged condition would equal or exceed 50 percent of the market value of the building before the damage occurred. Substantial damage is determined regardless of the actual repair work performed.

Substantial improvement or damage does not, however, include any project for improvement of a building to correct existing violations of State or local health, sanitary, or safety code specifications identified by local code enforcement officials and that are the minimum necessary to assure safe living conditions. Also excluded from the substantial improvement requirement are alterations to historic buildings as defined by the NFIP.

34. Do the floodplain management requirements apply to construction taking place outside the SFHAs within the community?

The local floodplain management regulations required by the NFIP apply only in SFHAs. However, communities may regulate development in areas of moderate flood hazard.

35. Does elevating a structure on posts or pilings remove a building from the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)?

Elevating a structure on posts or pilings does not remove a building from the SFHA. If the ground around the supporting posts or pilings is within the floodplain, the building is still at risk. The structure is considered to be within the floodplain, and flood insurance will be required as a condition of receipt of Federal or Federally related financing for the structure. The reason for this, even in cases where the flood velocity is minimal, is that the hydrostatic effects of flooding can lead to the failure of the structure's posts or pilings foundation. 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. Even small areas of pending will be subject to the hydrodynamic effects of flooding; no pond or lake is completely free of water movement or wave action. This movement of water can erode the ground around the posts or pilings and may eventually cause collapse of the structure.

Flood Hazard Assessment and Mapping Requirements

36. What is the difference between an FHBM and a FIRM?

An FHBM is based on approximate data and identifies, in general, the SFHAs within a community. It is used in the Emergency Phase of the NFIP for floodplain management and insurance purposes. A FIRM usually is issued following a flood risk assessment conducted in connection with the community's conversion to the Regular Phase of the NFIP. If a detailed assessment, termed a Flood Insurance Study, has been performed, the FIRM will show base flood elevations and insurance risk zones in addition to floodplain boundaries. The FIRM may also show a delineation of the regulatory floodway. After the effective date of the FIRM, the community's floodplain management ordinance must be in compliance with appropriate Regular Phase requirements. Actuarial rates, based on the risk zone designations shown on the FIRM, are then applied for newly constructed, substantially improved, and substantially damaged buildings.

37. How are flood hazard areas and flood levels determined?

Flood hazard areas are determined using statistical analyses of records of river flow, storm tides, and rainfall; information obtained through consultation with the community; floodplain topographic surveys; and hydrologic and hydraulic analyses. The FIS covers those areas subject to flooding from rivers and streams, along coastal areas and lake shores, or shallow flooding areas.

38. What is the role of the local community in its flood hazard assessment?

In conducting a FIS, FEMA considers all available information for use in the study. Public meetings are usually held with community officials and other interested parties in an effort to obtain all relevant information to help ensure accurate study results. FEMA also works closely with community officials before and during the study to describe technical and administrative procedures and to obtain community input before the FIRM and collateral FIS report are published. Before the FIS is initiated, FEMA representatives, the selected contractor, and community officials meet to discuss the areas to be studied and the level of study required. This meeting is called a "time and cost" meeting.

39. What flood hazard zones are shown on the Flood Insurance Rate Map and what do they mean?

Several areas of flood hazard are commonly identified on the FIRM. One of these areas is the SFHA, which is defined as the area that will be inundated by the flood event having a 1 percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year. The 1 percent chance flood is also referred to as the 100 year or "base" flood. SFHAs are labeled as Zone A, Zone AO, Zone AH, Zones A1-30, Zone AK, Zone A99, Zone V, Zone VE, and Zones V1-30. Moderate flood hazard areas, labeled Zone B or Zone X (shaded), are also shown on the FIRM, and are the areas between the limits of the base flood and the 0.2 percent annual chance (or "500 year") flood. The areas of minimal flood hazard, which are the areas outside the SFHA and above the 0.2 percent annual chance flood level, are labeled Zone C or Zone X (unshaded). The definitions for the various flood hazard areas are presented below.

  • Zone V: Areas along coasts subject to inundation by the 100 year flood event with additional hazards associated with storm induced waves. Because detailed hydraulic analyses have not been performed, no base flood elevations or depths are shown. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply.
  • Zones VE and V1-V30: Areas along coasts subject to inundation by the 100 year flood event with additional hazards due to storm induced velocity wave action. Base flood elevations derived from detailed hydraulic analyses are shown within these zones. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply. (Zone VE is used on new and revised maps in place of Zones V1-V30.)
  • Zone A: Areas subject to inundation by the 100 year flood event. Because detailed hydraulic analyses have not been performed, no base flood elevation or depths are shown. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply.
  • Zones AE and A1-A30: Areas subject to inundation by the 100 year flood event determined by detailed methods. Base flood elevations are shown within these zones. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply. (Zone AE is used on new and revised maps in place of Zones A1-A30.)
  • Zone AH: Areas subject to inundation by 100 year shallow flooding (usually areas of pending) where average depths are between one and three feet. Base flood elevations derived from detailed hydraulic analyses are shown in this zone. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply.
  • Zone AD: Areas subject to inundation by 100 year shallow flooding (usually sheet flow on sloping terrain) where average depths are between one and three feet. Average flood depths derived from detailed hydraulic analyses are shown within this zone. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply.
  • Zone A99: Areas subject to inundation by the 100 year flood event, but which will ultimately be protected upon completion of an under construction Federal flood protection system. These are areas of special flood hazard where enough progress has been made on the construction of a protection system, such as dikes, dams, and levees, to consider it complete for insurance rating purposes. Zone A99 may only be used when the flood protection system has reached specified statutory progress toward completion. No base flood elevations or depths are shown. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply.
  • Zones B,C,and X: Areas identified in the community FIS as areas of moderate or minimal hazard from the principal source of flood in the area. However, buildings in these zones could be flooded by severe, concentrated rainfall coupled with inadequate local drainage systems. Local stormwater drainage systems are not normally considered in the community's FIS. The failure of a local drainage system creates areas of high flood risk within these rate zones. Flood insurance is available in participating communities but is not required by regulation in these zones. (Zone X is used on new and revised maps in place of Zones B and C.)
  • Zone D: Unstudied areas where flood hazards are undetermined, but flooding is possible. No mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply, but coverage is available in participating communities.

40. What is a regulatory floodway and who designates it?

The regulatory floodway, which is adopted into the community's floodplain management ordinance, is the stream channel plus that portion of the overbanks that must be kept free from encroachment in order to discharge the 1 percent annual chance flood without increasing flood levels by more than 1.0 foot (some states specify a smaller allowable increase). The intention of the floodway is not to preclude development. Rather, it is intended to assist communities in prudently and soundly managing floodplain development and prevent additional damages to other property owners. The community is responsible for prohibiting encroachments, including fill, new construction, and substantial improvements, within the floodway unless it has been demonstrated through hydrologic and hydraulic analyses that the proposed encroachment will not increase flood levels within the community. In areas that fall within the 1 percent annual chance floodplain, but are outside the floodway (termed the "floodway fringe"), development will, by definition, cause no more than a 1.0 foot increase in the 1 percent annual chance water surface elevation. Floodplain management through the use of the floodway concept is effective because it allows communities to develop in flood prone areas if they so choose, but limits the future increases of flood hazards to no more than 1.0 foot.

41. What procedures are available for changing or correcting a Flood Insurance Rate Map?

FEMA has established administrative procedures for changing effective FlRMs and FIS reports based on new or revised scientific or technical data. A physical change to the affected FIRM panels and portions of the FIS report is referred to as a "Physical Map Revision," or "PMR." Changes can also be made by a Letter of Map Change (LOMC). The three LOMC categories are Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA), Letter of Map Revision based on Fill (LOMR-F), and Letter of Map Revision (LOMB). These LOMC categories are discussed in more detail later.

42. What comprises technical or scientific data?

In general, the scientific or technical data needed to effect a map amendment or revision include certified topographic data and/or hydrologic and hydraulic analyses to support the request for amendment or revision.

43. What is a Physical Map Revision (PMR)?

A PMR is an official republication of a community's NFIP map to effect changes to base (1 percent annual chance) flood elevations, floodplain boundary delineations, regulatory floodways, and planimetric features. These changes typically occur as a result of structural works or improvements, annexations resulting in additional flood hazard areas, or corrections to base flood elevations or SFHAs.

The community's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) must submit scientific and technical data to FEMA to support the request for a PMR. The data will be analyzed, and the map will be revised if warranted. The community is provided with copies of the revised information and is afforded a review period. When base flood elevations are changed, a 90 day appeal period is provided. A 6 month period for formal approval of the revised map(s) is also provided.

44. What is a Letter of Map Revision Based on Fill (LOMR-F)?

A LOMR-F is an official revision by letter to an effective NFIP map. A LOMR-F states FEMA's determination concerning whether a structure or parcel has been elevated on fill above the base flood elevation and is, therefore, excluded from the SFHA.

45. What is a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA)?

A LOMA is an official revision by letter to an effective NFIP map. A LOMA results from an administrative procedure that involves the review of scientific or technical data submitted by the owner or lessee of property who believes the property has incorrectly been included in a designated SFHA. A LOMA amends the currently effective FEMA map and establishes that a specific property is not located in an SFHA.

46. What is a Letter of Map Revision (LOMR)?

A LOMR is an official revision to the currently effective FEMA map. It is used to change flood zones, floodplain and floodway delineations, flood elevations, and planimetric features. All requests for LOMRs should be made to FEMA through the chief executive officer of the community, since it is the community that must adopt any changes and revisions to the map. If the request for a LOMR is not submitted through the chief executive officer of the community, evidence must be submitted that the community has been notified of the request.

47. What is a conditional map revision?

NFIP maps must be based on existing, rather than proposed, conditions. Because flood insurance is a financial protection mechanism for real property owners and lending institutions against existing hazards, flood insurance ratings must be made accordingly. However, communities, developers, and property owners often undertake projects that may alter or mitigate flood hazards and would like FEMA's comment before constructing them. A Conditional Letter of Map Revision (CLOMP) is FEMA's formal review and comment as to whether a proposed project complies with the minimum NFIP floodplain management criteria. If it is determined that it does, the CLOMR also describes any eventual revisions that will be made to the NFIP maps upon completion of the project.

While obtaining a CLOMR may be desired, obtaining conditional approval is not automatically required by NFIP regulations for all projects in the floodway or 1 percent annual chance floodplain. A CLOMR is required only for those projects that will result in a 1 percent annual chance water surface elevation increase of greater than 1.00 foot for streams with BFEs specified, but no floodway designated, or any 1 percent annual chance water surface elevation increase for proposed construction within a regulatory floodway. The technical data needed to support a CLOMR request generally involve detailed hydrologic and hydraulic analyses and are very similar to the data needed for a LOMR request.

In addition to the situations described above, property owners and developers who intend to place structures in the 1 percent annual chance floodplain may need to demonstrate to the lending institutions and local officials before construction that proposed structures will be above the base flood elevation. If the project involves only the elevation of structures on natural high ground, they can request a Conditional Letter of Map Amendment (CLOMA) from FEMA. If the elevation of structures on earthen fill is the sole component of the project (i.e., there is no associated channelization, culvert construction, etc., that would alter flood elevations) and there is no fill placed in the regulatory floodway, they can request from FEMA a CLOMR based on fill or a CLOMR-F. Requests for CLOMAs and CLOMRs should be made by the community and addressed to the Mitigation Division Director at the appropriate FEMA Regional Office or to the Hazard Identification Branch staff at the FEMA Headquarters Office. The addresses of all Regional and Headquarters Offices are provided in the NFIP Address and Telephone Directory at the end of this booklet. Until a LOMR is issued, this property remains in the floodplain and is subject to the community floodplain management ordinance and the mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements.

48. Who should be contacted in FEMA to initiate a LOMA, LOMR, or Physical Map Revision?

Requests for conditional and final map revisions should be addressed to the Mitigation Division Director at the appropriate FEMA Regional Office or to the Hazard Identification Branch staff at the FEMA Headquarters Office. The addresses of the Regional and Headquarters Offices are provided in the NFIP Address and Telephone Directory at the end of this booklet.

49. How long does it take to obtain a LOMA, LOMR, or physical map revision?

For single-building or single-lot determinations that do not involve changes to base flood elevations or floodways, a LOMA or LOMR F generally can be issued within 4 weeks. LOMAs and LOMRs involving multiple lots or multiple buildings require up to 8 weeks to process. Times are specified from the date of receipt of all technical, scientific, or legal documentation. LOMRs involving decreases in Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) or floodways take approximately 90 days for processing. If changes in flooding conditions are extensive or if BFEs increase, a physical map revision will be required, which will take 12 months or longer.

50. If a LOMA, LOMR-F, or LOMR is issued by FEMA, will a lending institution automatically waive the flood insurance requirement?

Although FEMA may issue a LOMA, it is the lending institution's prerogative to require flood insurance as a condition of its own beyond the provisions of the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 and the National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994, before granting a loan or mortgage. Those seeking a LOMA should first confer with the affected lending institution to determine whether the institution will waive the requirement for flood insurance if a LOMA is issued. If it will, the policyholder may cancel flood insurance coverage and obtain a premium refund. If not, amending the NFIP map to remove the structure from the SFHA will generally lower the flood insurance premium.

51. If a LOMA, LOMR-F, or LOMR is granted and the lender waives the requirement for flood insurance, how can a flood insurance policy be cancelled?

To effect a cancellation of a flood insurance policy, the policyholder must supply a copy of the LOMA, LOMR-F, or LOMR and a waiver for the flood insurance purchase requirement from the lending institution to the insurance agent or broker who services the policy. A completed cancellation form with the LOMA, LOMR-F, or LOMR and the waiver must be submitted by the agent to the NFIP or the appropriate WYO company.

When a LOMA, LOMR-F, or LOMR is issued and cancellation requested, the policyholder may be eligible for a refund of the premium paid for the current policy year only if no claim is pending and no claim has been paid during the current policy year.

Presidential Disaster Declarations and the NFIP

52. When a major flooding event occurs resulting in a Presidential disaster declaration, how does this affect the NFIP?

Although a Presidential disaster declaration is not required for an NFIP policyholder to file a claim, it may provide additional options to the policyholder to mitigate or prevent future damages. The policyholder may gain valuable information from his or her local officials about mitigation opportunities which may become available as a result of the Presidential disaster declaration

53. What are examples of mitigation opportunities that may become available following a Presidential disaster declaration?

When major flooding disasters have affected a region, it is common for communities and individuals to consider relocation, acquisition or elevation of flood damaged structures. Property owners who sustained extensive damages are often very interested in avoiding the recurrence of such an experience. The feasibility of such mitigation projects must be established on a case by case basis. It is important for a flood insurance policyholder to be aware of these possibilities and contact local officials to learn as much as possible.

54. Are there any specific programs available associated with a Presidential disaster declaration to assist with mitigation?

Yes, the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, authorized under Section 404 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act is FEMA's primary hazard mitigation program designed to assist States and communities in implementing long term hazard mitigation measures following a major disaster declaration. States manage this program and may set State specific project criteria. Individuals with questions should contact their local officials for more information. Through the Small Business Administration, loans may be available to qualifying applicants to assist with the costs of mitigation. Due to the need to coordinate many activities following Presidential declarations, it is important for individual citizens to raise their questions and concerns about these post-disaster mitigation opportunities with their local community officials.