Understanding Your Home or Property’s Flood Risk
Flooding can happen anywhere that receives rainfall. Floods can range in severity, from an inch of standing water to depths capable of submerging entire buildings. Understanding your unique flood risk allows you to take actions that can help you protect yourself and your property.
Where do you start? Consult your community’s Flood Insurance Rate Map, or FIRM. These maps are produced by FEMA and detail a community’s flood zones and their boundaries.
Flood zones are specific ratings assigned to geographical areas based on the area’s estimated flood risk. Flood insurance is mandatory in some flood zones, and flood zone ratings affect the cost of flood insurance policies.
Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) are the geographic areas at greatest risk of flooding, with a one percent or greater chance of flooding each year. Properties within a Special Flood Hazard Area receive flood zone ratings beginning with the letters A or V:
V Zone is the most hazardous of all flood zones. These are high-risk coastal areas subject to damage from powerful storm surge waves. Flood insurance is mandatory for properties within V zone ratings.
A Zone properties are usually located near ponds, rivers or streams and have an increased risk of flooding. Flood insurance is also mandatory for this rating.
B, C and X Zone classifications are given to properties in Non-Special Flood Hazard Areas (NSFHAs). Homes in NSFHAs are considered to have low-to-moderate flood risk, with a less than one percent chance of flooding each year. Flood insurance is not mandatory for properties in B, C, and X zones, but it is still recommended.
D Zone ratings are given to areas where flood hazard analysis has yet to be conducted, so the level of risk is still unknown to FEMA. Flood insurance is not mandatory for D Zone properties, but coverage is still available.
Those with homes outside high-risk flood zones may think that flood insurance is unnecessary. But one in four flood insurance claims comes from properties that are not in high-risk flood zones. According to FEMA — even homes in low- or moderate-risk zones — are five times more likely to experience a flood than a fire over the next 30 years. They estimate that just one inch of water inside a home can cause $25,000 worth of damage. This can be devastating for homeowners without flood insurance.
Your property’s flood risk can change over time. New home or business development in the area can change your property’s risk of flooding. That means a home that is currently considered to have low or moderate flood risk may be placed in a high-risk flood zone down the road. It is important to stay informed about changes that could affect your property and your duty to insure it against the peril of flood.