NFIP Policyholders Encouraged to Review Coverage, Understand Mapping Process

Flood insurance policyholders are encouraged to periodically review their coverage and understand the process that makes them eligible for the National Flood Insurance Program.

Flood Insurance Rate Maps—used to determine a community’s risk—may be updated and result in changes to coverage and cost. Understanding FIRMs can help NFIP policyholders save on premiums and select the best possible coverage. Risk-reduction measures—such as elevation—are also taken into consideration. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions on FIRMs and NFIP:

What are FIRMs?

  • Flood maps, known officially as Flood Insurance Rate Maps, show areas of high- and moderate-to-low flood risk in a series of zones.
  • FIRMs are used to set minimum building ordinances and floodplains.
    • Insurance agents use FIRMs to determine flood insurance requirements.
    • FEMA uses FIRMs to help determine the amount property owners and renters should pay for flood insurance.

How can FIRMs help protect homes and properties?   

  • It is important to update FIRMs due to changes in flood risks and drainage patterns.
  • New FIRMs or changes to maps can take more than a year to become finalized or adopted by local governments and communities.
    • Questions and concerns can be addressed by local floodplain managers before FIRMs are adopted.

What are Special Flood Hazard Areas and Non-Special Flood Hazard Areas? 

  • Local governments pass and enforce regulations for designated Special Flood Hazard Areas. SFHA are high-risk areas.
    • These zones begin with the letters ‘A’ or ‘V’ and are usually located lower than the Base Flood Elevation.
    • Zone V is considered the most hazardous.
      • This includes areas along coasts subject to inundation by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood event with additional hazards associated with storm-induced waves.
  • Undetermined or unstudied flood hazard areas begin with the letter ‘D.’
    • These areas include land located near swamps, lakes or creeks.
  • The risk of flooding is reduced in moderate-to-low risk areas, also called Non-Special Flood Hazard Areas.
    • Moderate-to-low risk zones on FIRMs begin with the letters ‘B’, ‘C’ or ‘X.’
    • These areas are usually protected with levees.

How can FIRMs help protect homes and properties? 

  • Flood insurance is recommended for all property owners and renters, even those who live in moderate-to-low risk areas.
    • Insurance premiums vary depending on the type of policy purchased, the property’s risk of flooding and the elevation of the structure.
  • Property owners who carry a mortgage from a federally regulated or insured lender are required by law to have a flood policy.
  • Changes to FIRMs can increase or reduce flood premiums.
    • Structures added to a high-risk zone following map changes may be eligible for a rate reduction for the first 12 months.
    • Some policyholders may be eligible under a grandfather clause.
    • Homes and businesses built in compliance with FIRMs at the time of construction can request to keep the original zone.
    • Property or homeowners may be eligible for FEMA-funded programs or flood-proofing enhancements, like the Increased Cost of Compliance coverage.
      • ICC assists with elevating, relocating or demolishing homes or businesses.

Can NFIP provide reduced rates?

  • Properties located in moderate-to-low risk areas may qualify for lower-cost Preferred Risk Policy rates.
  • To qualify for flood insurance, the home or business must be in a community that has joined the NFIP and agreed to enforce floodplain management standards.
    • To find out if your community participates in NFIP, call 800-638-6620.
  • All Louisiana properties are at a risk of flooding.
    • Nearly 39 percent of the homes and businesses damaged by the August 2016 floods were located in moderate-and-low risk areas.

Where Can I Learn More?