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How to Read a Flood Elevation Certificate?

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

What is a Flood Elevation Certificate?

An elevation certificate is a document that is often used to identify the potential flood risk of your home. It usually includes details about the elevation characteristics of your property, like your building’s location and its lowest point of elevation. It may also include flood map data provided by FEMA, including the base flood elevation (BFE), the flood zone, and when the map was completed.

This may seem confusing, but we’re here to help!

Reading Your Flood Elevation Certificate

Some of the pages included in your flood elevation certificate are straight forward, but others can be complicated, making it frustrating to determine their meanings. Below, we’ve broken down each section for you.

Section A: Property Information

Section A is designed to include basic information about your home. It provides a legal description of your property and breaks down the square footage for specific areas of the building. Note the requirement in section A6 for your surveyor to attach at least 2 photographs of the building.

Double check that this matches everything about your property.

Section B: Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) Information

This section typically shows information about your address that has been previously gathered by FEMA. It includes the date the flood map was originally created, and if there have been any revisions since. It may also show the flood zone assigned by FEMA, and the BFE (Base Flood Elevation). This is the usually the MOST IMPORTANT information of this section (item B9).

Base flood elevation is defined by FEMA as the elevation to which a flood is anticipated to rise at least once during the next 100 years, or a 1% chance per year. It is compared to the elevation of your home to determine if flood insurance is mandatory, or only recommended. However, it is only a prediction and does not guarantee that your home will or will not flood.

Section C: Building Elevation Information (Survey Required)

This is where the “above” or below” happens. A land surveyor or engineer is typically required to come to your property to determine accurate elevation information about your building. The surveyor will most likely report their findings in this section.

Listed in (C2a) the surveyor will typically show the elevation of the lowest floor of your building, whether it be your main floor or basement. This number is then compared to your base flood elevation to determine if you have a positive or negative flood depth. This will often be one of the primary factors a flood insurance company will use to calculate the cost of a flood policy. Other factors they may consider from the elevation certificate include the lowest elevation of equipment (think furnace, water heater, air conditioner) listed in (C2e), and the lowest elevation level of the ground next to your building (C2f).

Section D: Surveyor, Engineer, or Architect Certification

This section is designed for the surveyor or engineer to provide their qualifications and direct information. They will likely include things like their name and license number. The surveyor must then stamp a seal and sign the document.

Section E: Building elevation for zone AO and A (without a BFE).

Only applicable if your property is in Flood Zone AO or Zone A without a BFE. The surveyor will typically complete this section, if required, and submit it to FEMA for further investigation.

Section F: Property Owner Certification

This section typically applies if the surveyor filled out Section E of the elevation certificate. There is a place for the property owner to sign, and by signing they are confirming that the information provided is correct to the best of their knowledge.

Section G: Community Information

This section is optional and is usually completed by the Flood Plain Administrator. The authorized official can enter data from other sources, provided that the previous document is signed and sealed by licensed surveyors or engineers. The local official will also need to sign in this area.

What is the Most Important Part of the Flood Elevation Certificate?

You will want to compare the BFE (Base Flood Elevation) to the lowest floor elevation of your home. This often has a big effect on the cost of your flood policy. If you need help understanding your flood elevation certificate, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our Flood Experts at 866-503-5663. We’re happy to help.

For more information on how to get an elevation certificate, or if you need one, visit: What is an Elevation Certificate (EC)?


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