Why is FEMA updating the flood hazard information on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) for my community?
Congress requires FEMA to update the nation's FIRMs periodicially so they remain current and accurately reflect local flood hazards. Flood risk can change over time. Natural changes in stream channels, beach erosion, and man-made changes, such as development and construction of bridges or sea walls, may decrease or increase the likelihood of flooding in a given area. Additionally, many FIRMs were developed in the late 1970s and the 1980s – there have been great advancements in the methodologies, technologies, and information available to identify and map flood hazards since that time. The New York/New Jersey coast is one of the most highly populated and developed coastlines in the nation, with a great amount of development having occurred since the area was last mapped. The coastal flood study underway will use the most current and accepted methods for modeling storm surge and coastal flood hazards available.
What is the flood hazard information on the FIRMs used for?
The flood zone designations on FIRMs are used to determine flood insurance rates and requirements. Communities also use the FIRMs to manage development and to make other floodplain management decisions. More precise, up-to-date flood hazard information can also help property owners make decisions on steps they can take to protect their families, neighbors, and property from flooding.
Who is responsible for developing the coastal flood study and the new FIRMs?
This coastal flood study is a shared effort among FEMA, its mapping partners and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with input and participation by the area's coastal counties and their communities. Visit the Partners page for additional information.
How can I get the current effective FIRM for my community?
You can view and order a copy of the current effective FIRM for your community through the FEMA Map Service Center. Your local Community Map Repository, which is usually in the planning and zoning office, also has copies of the FIRMs.
Will I be able to view the preliminary FIRM before it becomes effective?
Yes. Once complete, the preliminary FIRM and accompanying Flood Insurance Study report will be available both online through this website and through your community’s local map repository (often, the planning or zoning office). It is anticipated that the preliminary FIRMs for the communities affected will be issued beginning in the summer of 2013.
Will I have the opportunity to comment on the preliminary FIRM before it becomes effective?
Yes. Shortly after the preliminary FIRMs are issued, a community coordination meeting will be held by FEMA to explain the changes to the FIRM, answer questions, and obtain feedback from communities and the public. The times and dates of all meetings will be posted on this website.
A 90-day appeal period will be also be provided, during which the community and others may appeal the proposed flood hazard information by submitting scientific or technical data that proves the flood hazard information is shown in error on the preliminary FIRM. Comments on other aspects of the FIRM such as road and corporate limit changes will also be accepted at that time. For additional information on the appeal period, visit FEMA’s Flood Hazard Determinations webpage.
What happens after the preliminary FIRMs are issued?
Following issuance of the preliminary FIRM, a community coordination meeting will be held by FEMA to explain changes to the FIRM, answer questions, and obtain feedback from communities and the public.
Afterwards, a 90-day appeal period will be provided, during which the community and others may appeal the proposed flood hazard information by submitting scientific or technical data that proves the flood hazard information is shown in error on the preliminary FIRM.
At the end of the 90-day appeal period or once all appeals are resolved, whichever is later, FEMA will issue a Letter of Final Determination (LFD) which establishes that the flood hazard information is final. The LFD initiates the 6-month compliance period during which the community must adopt or amend its floodplain management regulations to reflect the updated flood hazard information shown on the FIRM. The FIRM will become effective following the 6-month compliance period. At that time, flood insurance will be required for properties now within the Special Flood Hazard Area (the area inundated by the one-percent-annual-chance flood) shown on the FIRM. The final FIRM will be available at your community’s local map repository and online through FEMA’s Map Service Center.
Post-Preliminary FIRM Processing Steps
When will the preliminary FIRMs become effective?
On average, a FIRM becomes effective anywhere from 18 to 24 months after the preliminary FIRM has been released.
What do the flood zone designations on FIRMs mean?
Zones with low and moderate risk are labeled B, C, X, or an X with shading. High-risk zones, or Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs), are labeled A, AE, AO, or AH. SFHAs have at least a one percent chance of flooding every year, and flood insurance is mandatory for properties within it. Coastal high hazard areas (Zones V or VE) are SFHAs where computed wave heights are 3 feet or more; these areas are subject to more stringent building requirements and different flood insurance rates than other zones shown on the FIRM because these areas are exposed to a higher level of risk than other SFHAs. More detailed descriptions of all FEMA flood zones can be found on FEMA’s Flood Zones webpage.
What actions can I take to keep safe from flood risk?
Understand your flood risk – check with your community for information on areas with a known flood risk. And check out your community’s current effective Flood Insurance Rate Map through the FEMA Map Service Center website or your community’s local map repository.
Be prepared – make sure you have an emergency plan for your family and be aware of local evacuation procedures. For more information on preparing a plan, visit the Flooding homepage on Ready.gov, FEMA’s disaster preparedness website. New York residents may visit the New York City Office of Emergency Management’s Ready New York page.
Safeguard your financial future by purchasing flood insurance, if you haven’t already. Most homeowner insurance policies and many business owner policies do not cover damage from flooding. To learn more, visit FloodSmart.gov.
For general questions about the National Flood Insurance Program and flood hazard mapping, the FEMA Map Information eXchange is available to assist you by phone toll-free at 1.877.FEMA.MAP or through e-mail or Live Chat service. For questions about the coastal flood study underway for New Jersey and New York, or about other information on this website, contact us using our online form.