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Avoid Risks of New FEMA Flood Maps

FEMA Flood MapThe Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is completing new digital maps of flood hazard zones for many areas throughout the United States. If you are involved in real estate transactions and real estate development, you should be aware of new risks that you may need to resolve, as well as the expertise that is available at R.A. Smith National to assist you.

The new FEMA flood maps are available online. You may enter an address to see the new map and get an indication of a property’s flood risk. But don’t stop there.

Take some time to learn about the risks associated with FEMA’s new digital maps; understand how flood hazard maps are used to determine accurate flood insurance rates; and consult with a professional to avoid risks in your real estate transactions.

Beware of the Risks
Some of the data on FEMA’s new digital flood hazard maps may be incorrectly mapped or incomplete because of varied sources and methods of data collection. In some areas, a new detailed engineering study was conducted to define flood elevations along a stream with the elevations mapped using recent topographic data. While this situation ensures reliable data, the same cannot be said of all data efforts behind the new digital maps.

In some cases, previously completed floodplain engineering studies include flood elevation information that is now outdated, but was transferred onto recent topographic mapping. In still other areas, flood hazard zones were identified using approximate methods without mapping a specific flood elevation. These inconsistent data collection methods can significantly reduce a data’s reliability.

Another risk associated with FEMA’s new digital flood maps is that the maps only indicate if the property, not a specific structure on the property, is in a high-risk area. In some cases, an owner may feel that the structure is elevated enough to warrant a lower flood insurance rate, but will need to have their property surveyed to prove that they are sufficiently above the flood elevation.

Flood Insurance Relies on Accurate Data
Flood hazard maps, also known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM), show which properties within a community are at risk for flooding. If a building is within a special flood hazard area, flood insurance is mandatory for mortgages with federally regulated lending institutions. Properties within a special flood hazard area have a 1% chance of flooding in any year and a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30-year mortgage.

Flood insurance is sold by private insurance agencies and is backed by the federal government. It is available to all property owners in communities in the National Flood Insurance Program and covers flood damages to the structure and its contents, except basement improvements and personal belongings in basements. Insurance rates are based on the specific hazard zone and the difference between the flood elevation and the lowest floor of the structure.

Seek Professional Expertise
R.A. Smith National can assist with surveying and floodplain engineering expertise to resolve incorrectly mapped flood hazard areas or provide data that may reduce the cost of flood insurance. Our Certified Floodplain Managers are experienced in flood elevation engineering studies and flood hazard mapping procedures, as well as FEMA forms and procedures for flood map changes.

More Information
For more information or questions about FEMA’s flood hazard maps and flood insurance, contact Gary Raasch at 262-317-3369.

Order Copy of Presentation
If you are interested in ordering a CD with R.A. Smith National’s recent “FEMA’s Digital Maps” seminar, please contact Gary Raasch, 262-317-3369.


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