Frequently Asked Questions

What is Flood Insurance?
An insurance policy is required by mortgage lenders or insurance companies on real property located within a floodplain or special flood hazard area as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Who is required to have flood insurance?
All property owner whose real property or any portion thereof lies within a special flood hazard area, flood zone; A, AE, AH, AO, A99, V and VE as determined by FEMA.
Does my homeowner’s insurance policy cover flood damages?
Homeowner’s insurance is separate from flood insurance. Most homeowner’s insurance offer flood insurance also. You may contact the National Flood Insurance Program at 1-888-FLOOD29.
Where can I get flood insurance?
Flood insurance can be obtained through a homeowner’s insurance agent or the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Your current homeowner’s insurance agent may not have a competitive rate so it is best to shop around.
Is my property in a flood zone?
Zoning can be determined by viewing FEMA’s Federal Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) or Digital Federal Insurance Rate Map (DFIRM). You may view the maps by going on- line or you may obtain the FIRM by ordering from FEMA or if the property is located in the Unincorporated Areas of Orange County you can call the County of Orange Flood at (714) 834-5618 and ask for floodplain determination.
What are Flood Maps?
To prepare the flood maps that illustrate the extent of flood hazard in a flood prone community, FEMA generally conducts engineering studies referred to as Flood Insurance Studies (FISs). Using the information gathered in these studies, FEMA engineers and cartographers delineate Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) on Flood Maps, Special Flood Hazard Areas are subject to inundation by a flood that has a 1-percent or greater chance of being equaled or exceeded during any given year. This type of flood commonly is referred to as the 100-year flood or base flood.
Who maps the flood zone areas?
FEMA sets the flood zone areas and boundaries.
What is the 100-year floodplain?

The 100-year floodplain is defined as the area that would be covered by floodwater during a 100-year storm event. In stormwater managements, floods are classified by statistical probability of occurrence. When we speak of a 100-year flood, we are referring to a flood event that has a one percent chance of occurring in any given year. The magnitude of a 100-year flood is determined from historical data and precipitation patterns within the watershed.


Floodplain boundaries vary along a channel depending on such factors as topography, soils and vegetation, the size of the watershed, and the condition of the channel. These boundaries may also change over time as the watershed is developed or the channel is altered. In addition, the floodplain may be redefined as new or revised statistical data becomes available.

Does the 100-year flood occur once every 100 years?
No, in fact, the 100-year flood has a 26 percent chance of occurring during a 30 year period, the length of many mortgages. The 100-year flood is a regulatory standard used by the federal agencies and most states, to administer floodplain management programs. The 100-year flood is used by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as the basis for insurance requirements nationwide.
What is a "floodway"? What does it mean when homes or land are in the floodway?

Rivers and streams where FEMA has prepared detailed engineering studies may also have designated floodways. For most waterways, the floodway is where the water is likely to be deepest and fastest. It is the area of the floodplain that should be reserved (kept free of obstructions) to allow floodwaters to move downstream. Placing fill or buildings in a floodway may block the flow of water and increase flood heights. Because of this, your community will require that you submit engineering analyses before it approves permits for development in the floodway.


If your home is already in the floodway, you may want to consider what you will do if it is damaged. If it is substantially damaged (the costs to repair equal or exceed 50% of the market value of the building) your community will require that you bring it into compliance. In most cases, this means you will have to elevate it above the base flood elevation. Because placing fill dirt in the floodplain can make flooding worse, you'll probably have to elevate on columns, pilings or raised foundation walls. If your land is large enough to have a site outside of the floodway or even out of the floodplain, you may want to think about moving your home to a safer location.

What is BFE?
Base Flood Elevation (BFE)--The elevation shown on the Flood Insurance Rate Map for Zones AE, AH, A1-A30, AR, AR/A, AR/AE, AR/A1-A30, AR/AH, AR/AO, V1-V30, and VE that indicates the water surface elevation resulting from a flood that has a one percent chance of equaling or exceeding that level in any given year.
What is required to certify a levee as providing protection from the base flood?
In order for FEMA to recognize a levee system as providing protection from the base (1% annual chance) flood, it must meet, and continue to meet minimum design, operation, and maintenance standards established in Section 65.10 of the NFIP Regulations. The design criteria include, but may not be limited to, requirements for freeboard, closure devices, embankment protection, embankment and foundation stability, settlement, and interior drainage. Public agencies must have complete operation and maintenance plans. The operation plan for the levee may include, but is not limited to, procedures for closures, interior drainage systems, and emergency measures. The maintenance plan should detail responsibility and frequency of maintenance necessary to ensure the integrity of the levee system. All items necessary for a levee system to be recognized as providing protection from the 1% annual chance flood must be certified by a registered professional engineer. The certification requirement is different if a Federal agency has responsibility for the levee.
Will rates be reduced when a flood control project is partially completed?

The answer to this question depends on whether the flood control project provides an adequate level of protection and if it involves federal funding. If the project is federally funded, then FEMA will revise the FIRM to show changes in the floodplain if the critical features of the project are under construction, 50% of the total cost has been expended, and 100% of the funding is authorized. When the FIRM is revised, the protected area will be designated Zone A99, and the flood insurance rate will be the same as in Zones B, C, and X.


If a flood control project does not involve federal funds, FEMA would handle a map revision request as a Conditional Letter of Map Revision. The project sponsor must submit engineering and technical information to document the level of protection, how the floodplain is modified, the structural adequacy of the project, and operations and maintenance requirements. The FIRM would be changed after the project is complete and "as built" plans have been certified and submitted to FEMA. At that time, the flood insurance rate in areas certified as protected would be the same as in Zones B, C, and X.

What do I need to know if my building is in the floodplain?

Buildings in special flood hazard areas shown on FIRMs may be damaged when flooding occurs. Some buildings flood frequently, while others get damaged by only the more severe event. If your home is in the 1% annual chance floodplain, it has a 26% chance of getting flooded over a 30-year period. This means it is about five times more likely to get damaged by flood than by a severe fire!

You should know that usually you can get flood insurance, if available, by contacting your regular homeowners insurance agent. FEMA and others recommend that everyone in special flood hazard areas buy flood insurance. If you buy a home or refinance your home, your mortgage lender or banker may require flood insurance. But, even if not required, it is a good investment especially in areas that flood frequently or where flood forces are likely to cause major damage.

Another thing you should know is that your community may require permits for remodeling, improving, expanding, or rebuilding your building. In order to reduce long-term flood damage, the NFIP requires that buildings that are substantially improved or substantially damaged become compliant. This means if the cost of the improvements or repairs is more than 50% of the market value of the building, you will have to make it compliant with the rules for floodplain construction. Usually, this means lifting it off the foundation and elevating it above the predicted flood level. If you carry a flood insurance policy and have major flood damage, you may be eligible for up to $20,000 to help pay for the cost of this works.

The map shows that my lot is in the mapped floodplain, but the ground my house is on is higher. I believe I shouldn't be shown in the floodplain. What are FEMA's requirements for being removed from the 1% annual chance flood hazard area?

To be removed from the floodplain shown on the Flood Insurance Rate Map, a structure must be on land that is not subject to flooding by the 1% annual chance flood. Remember, more severe floods can and do happen, so even if your home is found to be on high ground, it may still be damaged by an extreme flood event.

If your lot or building site is on natural ground that is higher than the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) shown on the FIRM, then you may request a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA). To support your request, you will have to get a surveyor to determine the elevation of the ground next to your building and complete an Elevation Certificate. If the ground is higher than the BFE, then FEMA will issue a LOMA. With a LOMA, your lender may choose to not require flood insurance. If your home was built on fill that was placed after the FIRM was prepared, you may request a Letter of Map Revision Based on Fill (LOMR-F). As with a LOMA, you will need to get an Elevation Certificate completed by a land surveyor. If the filled ground is higher than the BFE, and if you do not have a basement, then FEMA may issue a LOMR-F, and your lender may choose to not require flood insurance.

Can floodway or floodplain boundaries be changed?
Under current floodplain regulations, the channel and/or adjacent lands may be modified to reduce the water surface elevation during a 100-year flood, thus, narrowing the floodway boundaries.
Why am I in a floodplain and my neighbor across the street is not?
The frequently occurs for properties located at the edge of a flood zone. FEMA maps the flood zone areas and boundaries and if the landscape is fairly flat within the dividing line being the middle of the street this could happen. Other times, your neighbor may have provided FEMA an elevation certificate and submitted a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA). The elevation certificate certifies that the structure is 1 foot or higher than the base flood elevation and the LOMA revises the FIRM to that effect. Only a licensed Civil Engineer can issue an elevation certificate.
Can I get my property out of the flood zone?

If you believe your structure or property is above the base flood elevation, you may want to invest money in hiring a licensed Civil Engineer to provide an elevation certificate. If the elevation certificate certifies that your property/structure is one foot above or higher than the base flood elevation, you may move forward and submit a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) to FEMA.

Where can I find a licensed Registered Civil Engineer to give me an Elevation Certificate?

You may find a registered Civil Engineer in the yellow pages of the phone book.

Can I build in a floodplain?
Most Cities and the County will not allow a new structure to be constructed in flood zones a, AE, AH, AO and A99.
What is Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA)?
An amendment to the currently effective FEMA map which establishes that a property is not located in a Special Flood Hazard Area. A LOMA is issued only by FEMA.
How do I get a revision to the Flood Insurance Rate Map?
A revision to the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) may be requested by completing and submitting the appropriate portions of the MT-2 application/certification forms package, entitled "Revisions to National Flood Insurance Program Maps" (FEMA Form 81-89 Series), and the required supporting information.
When should I request a map revision to the Flood Insurance Rate Map?
If physical changes to the floodplain have changed the flood hazard information shown on the effective National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) map, a revision should be requested. The request should be accompanied by the appropriate portions of the MT-2 application/certification forms package and the required supporting information.
Where should I send my map revision request?
Revision requests should be sent to the appropriate FEMA Regional Office.
How long does it take to get a map revision?
FEMA typically responds in less than 30 days, and must respond to a revision request within 90 days of receipt of the application/certification forms and the supporting information. The response may be a determination, a request for additional information, or a statement that additional time will be required to complete the processing of the request.
How can I expedite my request?
Because FEMA receives many requests, they are processed on a first-come, first-serve basis. The best way to get a timely response is to make sure the forms and supporting is complete.
Why did I receive a Letter of Map Revision and not a Physical Map Revision?
A Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) is a much quicker revision than a Physical Map Revision (PMR). PMRs can take up to two years to become effective. In addition, a LOMR is a more cost effective means for FEMA to revise a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). Due to budget constraints, FEMA uses the LOMR process as much as possible. You should keep a copy of the LOMR with your valuable papers. It will be important to have when you are ready to sell your property.
Why wasn't my Letter of Map Change incorporated into the panel revision?
When a new National Flood Insurance Program map becomes effective it supersedes all Letters of Map Change (LOMCs) that have been issued for the affected map panel. When the changes reflected in the LOMC can be shown on the new FIRM, they are incorporated; however, some LOMC changes cannot be shown on the new FIRM because the change is too small to see on the map.
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