Understanding the FEMA Flood Zone Map
Updated: Apr 6
The first step for any homeowner looking to protect their property from flood damage is to find out whether or not your house is in a FEMA flood zone, and to learn more about your property’s unique flood risk. But, what is a flood zone? Is your house in one? And what does it actually mean if you are?
Simply put, flood zones are geographic areas that FEMA has categorized according to their varying levels of estimated flood risk. Each zone reflects the severity or type of flooding the area is vulnerable to.
Areas with the greatest risk of flooding are designated as Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) on FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps. These geographic areas have a one percent or greater chance of flooding each year. Properties within a Special Flood Hazard Area are assigned flood zone ratings that begin with the letter ‘A’ or ‘V’.
Flood zones B, C, X, and D are considered low-to-moderate risk zones. Flood insurance for homes in these areas is not required. Even still, nearly one in five flood insurance claims originate outside of high-risk areas, so even if it isn’t required, you should still consider purchasing flood insurance.
A national report by the First Street Foundation found that 5.9 million properties that are at risk of flooding are not shown as being in a Special Flood Hazard Area on FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps, leaving their owners unaware of or severely underestimating their flood risk. Additionally, FEMA’s flood maps can go an extensive amount of time without being updated – sometimes for decades – which means no matter what the maps say, there is no way to estimate your property’s flood risk with 100 percent accuracy. Here are some key pieces of information about the various flood zones.
V and VE Zones
Include high-risk coastal areas with a one percent annual chance of flooding.
Over the span of a 30-year mortgage, the chance of flooding in these areas is 26 percent.
Properties located in V and VE zones carry additional risk associated with velocity from storm waves.
VE zones have had detailed hydraulic analyses conducted to determine Base Flood Elevations.
Base Flood Elevations for V zones have not been determined.
Flood insurance is mandatory for properties in all V/VE zones.
A and AE Zones
Like V zones, A zones, face a higher risk of flooding than other flood zones.
There are five types of Zone ‘A’ floodplains.
Properties in an A zone are typically located near non-coastal bodies of water, like ponds, rivers or streams.
Flood insurance is mandatory for properties in all A zones
B, C and X Zones
Considered low-to-moderate flood risk zones.
These classifications differ from A and V Zones in that they are assigned to homes in Non-Special Flood Hazard Areas (NSFHAs).
Although it is not mandatory, getting flood insurance for properties in these zones is still recommended.
These ratings apply to any geographic area where FEMA has not conducted a flood risk analysis.
Again, flood insurance isn’t required for homes in these areas, but it is still recommended.
Regardless of what zone your home may be in, every property, both inland and coastal, has some level of flood risk. So why not give yourself the security and peace of mind that your home is adequately protected? When you’re ready to take that first step, access this tool to learn more about your property’s flood zone and consult with a trusted flood insurance specialist to guide you throughout the process.