Emergency Action Planning



Citizen Action

Citizens Action

When Flood Maps Change

Flood risk can, and does, change over time. Flood risks change for many reasons: new development, changes in levee classification, and environmental changes, to name a few. As a result FEMA is updating flood hazard maps across the country. These new flood maps, also, known as Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs), show flood risk at a property-by-property level.

When new maps are issued, your risk may have changed, along with your flood insurance requirements. If your property is mapped out of a high-risk area, your flood insurance costs will likely decrease. If you've been mapped into a high-risk area, you will be required to purchase flood insurance if your mortgage is through a federally regulated or insured lender. But you can save money through a process known as grandfathering.

If your property changes from low-risk to high-risk, you will likely be required to protect your building and its contents with flood insurance – even if you don't have a mortgage. Flood insurance rates for high-risk areas are higher, but there are ways to save money with the NFIP Grandfather Rule.

You can take advantage of grandfathering by obtaining a policy before the new maps take effect. You'll likely qualify for the NFIP Preferred Risk Policy (PRP), which covers buildings and their contents for as little as $119 for the first year. On renewal, you will qualify for the standard rates associated with moderate-to-low risk zones, rather than high-risk zones, and this could add up to significant savings. To lock in the lower rate, you must purchase flood insurance before the new maps become effective-otherwise, the property will be rated using the high-risk flood zone on the new map.

For older structures built before the community's first flood map was issued, this is the only grandfathering option. Structures built after the community's first flood map was issued have two opportunities to lock in the flood zone (or Base Flood Elevation, BFE):

  • You can purchase a policy before the new maps take effect, or
  • You can use the grandfather rule if you have proof that your home was built in compliance with the flood map that was in effect at the time of construction. Your insurance agent can help produce the necessary documentation.

Note that in some cases, the new flood map may actually result in a lower premium than what grandfathering applies. So have your insurance agent check all options.

Understand which insurance policy you should purchase during a map change.

If you live near a levee, your flood risk may be higher than you thought. In California, most floods have been caused by levee breaches. Hundreds of levees across the country no longer meet federal standards for protection, so when new flood maps are issued, these areas will be shown as high risk. Know your area. FEMA websites will help you learn your flood risk, see when new flood maps will be available for your community, and learn more about map changes.