Answers to Common Questions
Why has FEMA developed the ABFE information?
The known flood risk has changed since the last effective community Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) for many communities in New Jersey and New York. Because of this, FEMA has developed ABFE maps to more precisely reflect flood risk in certain areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. The ABFEs, which are based on more recent data and improved methodologies, are intended to be used as recommended elevations for rebuilding and new construction. By using this information, communities and their residents can reduce the vulnerability of structures to flooding and flood damage, thereby potentially decreasing the cost of flood insurance, as well as the potential cost to recover from future storms and floods.
How do I find out what the ABFE is for my property?
To quickly and easily find out what the ABFE and Advisory flood zone are for your property, you can use the ‘What is My ABFE?’ address lookup tool. Using this tool, you can simply enter your address, and a short report will be generated on the page which will show the ABFE and Advisory flood zone for your property, in addition to information from your community’s effective Flood Insurance Rate Map so you can compare the information.
If you’d prefer to view a map showing the ABFE information, you can view FEMA’s interactive map online. We recommend you view the video tutorial or read the Quick Start Guide before using the map.People with accessibility needs may call 1-800-427-4661 or use our online form to request and receive assistance in identifying and interpreting the Advisory Base Flood Elevation information for their property.
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I have looked up the ABFE for my property. Now what should I do?
FEMA has developed the ABFEs as recommended elevations for rebuilding and new construction in certain coastal areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. Some specific ways you can use the ABFE information for your property are listed below.
• The ABFE information will allow you to be better informed when you meet with your local building and permitting authority to discuss your individual property building requirements. The ‘What is My ABFE?’ address lookup tool allows you to generate a brief customized report of the ABFE information and information from your community’s effective Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) that you can bring with you.
• Consider elevating your home’s lowest floor above the ABFE or the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) shown on your community’s effective FIRM, whichever is higher. Keep in mind, if your community has adopted a freeboard requirement (requiring new buildings to be elevated higher than the ABFE or BFE), you may be required to meet this elevation requirement. This additional protection has multiple benefits including: lowering future flood insurance premiums and providing added protection against increased future flood levels. Contact your local building officials to find out information about your community’s building requirements.
• If your property is located in the Area of Moderate Wave Action as indicated in the What is my ABFE? report, you may be at risk of property damage because of coastal wave action. You may want to consider installing breakaway walls and other structural building measures that will allow the building to remain intact after a storm event.
You can get more information about coastal construction measures through FEMA’s Hurricane Sandy Building Science Resources webpage and the Building Sciences Resources Fact Sheet.
Remember that before building, you should consult with your local building officials to determine the mandatory elevations and any construction requirements for your home or building.
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Am I required to raise my home, and if so, by how much?
While FEMA strongly encourages communities to use the ABFE data when rebuilding, they are intended only as advisory tools. A community that decides to enforce ABFEs (or a higher level of risk reduction) may do so by amending its floodplain management regulations and building codes. The revised code would require elevating newly constructed or reconstructed buildings found to be substantially damaged to be equal to or higher than the ABFE. This is a stipulation that will be determined by your local building department. Therefore, before building, you should consult with them to determine the mandatory elevations and any construction requirements for your home or building.
New Jersey Residents: The State of New Jersey is requiring the adoption of the ABFEs and advisory flood zones as the basis for statewide floodplain development standards. The advisory maps will be adopted and enforced at the local level. Therefore, if the community determines that your structure is substantially damaged, you will be required to elevate the structure to the ABFE, at a minimum. For additional information, visit the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Post Sandy FAQ webpage or contact your local building department. ...............................................................................
In the future, FEMA will release new Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) that incorporate the recently released advisory data, which may result in new, higher flood elevations or risk zones than shown on the currently effective FIRM for your community. Once communities adopt the new FIRMs, the new elevations and zones will affect both building requirements and flood insurance premiums.
Although the initial cost to rebuild to the ABFE may be greater than the cost of rebuilding to the effective flood elevation shown on the current FIRM (if the ABFE is higher than the effective flood elevation), communities and homeowners will see long-term savings by building structures that are more resistant to costly flood damage.
More information on the benefits of rebuilding using the ABFEs including scenarios of long-term cost savings to property owners can be found in Rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy: Building Safer and Stronger Pays Off.
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Are there any grants or funding available to help me repair and/or elevate my home?
If your property is insured under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you may qualify for Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage. Policyholders in high-risk areas can receive up to $30,000 to help pay the costs of bringing their home into compliance with their community's floodplain ordinance. You can only file an ICC claim if your community determines that your home has been substantially or repetitively damaged by a flood. This determination is made when you apply for a building permit to begin repairing your home. Substantial damage generally means that repairs will cost 50 percent or more of the building’s pre-damage market value. More information on ICC coverage is available through FEMA’s ICC webpage. You may also call your insurance company or agent or the NFIP toll-free number at 1 800-427-4661 for assistance.
Both the States of New Jersey and New York have received major disaster declarations and are eligible to apply for Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds. The purpose of HMGP is to reduce the loss of life and property due to natural disasters and to enable mitigation measures to be implemented during recovery from a disaster. Individuals are not eligible to apply directly to FEMA for HMGP funds; however, an eligible Applicant or subapplicant (e.g. State or local government) may apply for funding on behalf of individuals to mitigate residences and other private structures under their jurisdiction. Property Acquisition (or “buy out”) is an eligible activity under the HMGP, as are other hazard mitigation measures such as structure elevation. To receive HMGP funds to elevate structures, you must build to the ABFE or the effective Base Flood Elevation, whichever is higher. More information regarding the HMGP may be found on FEMA’s website. Contact your local officials to inquire about HMGP opportunities in your community.
Options are also available for uninsured residents who have experienced property damage related to a presidentially declared disaster such as Hurricane Sandy, including a low-interest rate disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Renters and homeowners may borrow up to $40,000 to repair or replace clothing, furniture, cars, or appliances damaged or destroyed in the disaster. Homeowners may apply for up to $200,000 to repair or replace their primary residence to its pre-disaster condition. These loans may not be used to upgrade homes or make additions unless required by their local building authority. Loans may be increased by up to 20 percent of the total amount of disaster damage to real estate, as verified by SBA, to make improvements that lessen the risk of property damage by future disasters of the same kind. Second homes or vacation properties are not eligible for these loans. However, qualified rental properties may be eligible for assistance under the SBA business loan program. Anyone with questions about disaster loans can call the SBA Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 or visit the SBA's website.
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How will the ABFEs affect my flood insurance rates?
The release of the ABFE information will not change your current flood insurance premium, which will continue to be based on the official Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) currently in effect for your community. However, in the future, FEMA will release new FIRMs that incorporate the recently released ABFE data, which may result in new, higher flood elevations or risk zones than shown on the current effective FIRM for your community. Once communities adopt those new FIRMs, the new elevations and zones will affect both building requirements and flood insurance premiums.
In general, flood insurance premiums decrease as the building’s height above the effective flood elevation increases. The Rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy brochure provides examples of how flood insurance rates and the building’s elevation above the flood are correlated.
Grandfathered rates, subsidies, and other National Flood Insurance Program changes coming in 2013, including rate changes resulting from a change in ownership, are described in the brochure, Changes in the Flood Insurance Program. For more information regarding the availability and cost of flood insurance, you may contact the National Flood Insurance Program at 1-800-638-6620 or visit FloodSmart.gov.
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What is Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) Coverage and how can it help me?
If your property is insured under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you may qualify for Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage. Policyholders in high-risk areas can receive up to $30,000 to help pay the costs of bringing their home into compliance with their community's floodplain ordinance.
Four options are covered under ICC:
1. Structure elevation;
3. Demolition; and
4. Floodproofing (for non-residential buildings).
You can only file an ICC claim if your community determines that your home has been substantially or repetitively damaged by a flood. This determination is made when you apply for a building permit to begin repairing your home. Substantial damage generally means that repairs will cost 50 percent or more of the building’s pre-damage market value. Read the ICC brochure, visit FEMA’s ICC webpage or contact your insurance agent to learn more about ICC and how it can help you.
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Helpful Resources and WebsitesGeneral ABFE Information
Provides a general overview of the Advisory Base Flood Elevation information.
Hurricane Sandy ABFE Homepage
Provides an overview of ABFEs and access to ABFE information through online maps and the 'What is My ABFE?' address lookup tool.
The State of New Jersey is requiring the adoption of the ABFEs and advisory flood zones as the basis for statewide floodplain development standards. This FAQ provides additional information on these state requirements.
Vertical Datums and ABFE Maps Webpage
Provides answers to common questions about vertical datums and datum conversion tables for locations in New York and New Jersey.
ABFE Information for New Jersey and New York: Glossary of Map Layers and Key Terms
Document featuring descriptions of the data layers shown on FEMA's Advisory maps.
ABFE FAQ Webpage
Answers are provided for other frequently asked questions about Advisory Base Flood Elevations.
'Your Role in NJ/NY Coastal Flood Map Revisions' Training Videos
This 2-part video training session provides information about the release of the Advisory information, the coastal flood study underway for New York and New Jersey, and more. Session A includes information about ABFEs in addition to the coastal flood study underway. Session B covers Risk MAP products, the public role in the map revision process and timelines.
Flood Insurance - Rebuilding Considerations
This fact sheet provides information on how rebuilding using Advisory information will provide long-term cost savings to property owners.
Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) Webpage
FEMA’s webpage devoted to information on ICC coverage available to flood insurance policy holders. Topics covered include how much coverage is available, what is covered and when and how to file an ICC claim.
The official website of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) contains a wealth of helpful information about flood insurance, including tools to help you determine policy coverage, estimate rates and find an agent in your area.
Changes in the Flood Insurance Program: Preliminary Considerations for Rebuilding
Document provides answers to questions regarding recent changes to the NFIP as a result of the Biggert-Waters 2012 legislation passed by Congress and how those changes to the Program may affect you.
The Federal government's clearinghouse for disaster assistance information for individuals.