Answers to Common Questions
Why has FEMA developed updated flood hazard data?
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 developed ABFE maps to assist in rebuilding and recovery efforts. Once completed, preliminary work maps will replace the ABFE maps as the most recent data available from FEMA for the area. The preliminary work maps are based on the same underlying data as the ABFE maps, but use a more refined analysis of shoreline conditions along the impacted coastal area, including the effects of erosion and wave runup. The release of the preliminary work maps will be followed by the release of preliminary FIRMs which will show both the coastal flood hazards shown on the preliminary work maps and the riverine flood hazards for each community.
How do I find the FEMA flood hazard data available for my property?
To quickly and easily find out what the flood elevation and zone are for your property, you can use the ‘What is My BFE?’ 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 flood elevation and zone for your property, in addition to information from your community’s effective FIRM so you can compare the information.
If you’d prefer to view a map showing the flood elevation and zone information, visit the View FEMA Flood Hazard Data page.
People with accessibility needs may call 1-800-427-4661 to request and receive assistance in identifying and interpreting the flood elevation and zone information for their property.
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I have looked up the flood elevation and zone for my property. Now what should I do?
Some specific ways you can use FEMA flood hazard information for your property are listed below.
• FEMA flood hazard 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 BFE?’ address lookup tool allows you to generate a brief customized report of the updated and effective flood hazard information for your property that you can bring with you.
• Consider elevating your home’s lowest floor above the updated flood hazard elevation 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 updated flood hazard elevation or effective 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 between the Limit of Moderate Wave Action (LiMWA) and the VE Zone as shown on the updated maps, you may be at risk of property damage because of coastal wave action. You may want to consider installing breakaway walls and using 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?
Following a disaster, FEMA determines which flood hazard information is considered to be the “best available data” and required to be considered when using FEMA disaster recovery assistance such as the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program or Public Assistance funds. While not a National Flood Insurance Program requirements, FEMA strongly encourages communities to use the most recent flood hazard data released for rebuilding efforts to ensure the same standard is used in all post-disaster recovery efforts. Keep in mind that if your community decides to use ABFEs, preliminary work maps, or the preliminary FIRM and FIS report as the basis of development decisions, it must compare this flood hazard information to the effective FIRM for a given development site and use the most restrictive flood hazard information. Also keep in mind that community or State requirements (see below) may be more restrictive.
Before building, you should consult with your local community building official to determine the mandatory elevations and any construction requirements for your home or building.
New Jersey Residents: FEMA maps will be adopted and enforced at the local level. The State of New Jersey is requiring the adoption of the updated FEMA flood hazard data as the basis for statewide floodplain development standards. New Jersey law requires the lowest floor of residential buildings to be constructed at least one foot above the updated flood hazard data elevation or the effective BFE, whichever is higher. Some communities may require elevating even higher. Therefore, if the community determines that your structure is substantially damaged, you will be required to elevate the structure to the standard determined by your municipal floodplain administrator or building official. For additional information, visit the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Post Sandy FAQ webpage or contact your local building department.
New York Residents: New York City is using preliminary FIRM information as the basis for floodplain development standards for new and substantially improved buildings. As a result, until the new preliminary FIRM becomes effective, owners of new or substantially improved buildings must use either the flood zone/BFE information from the preliminary FIRM or the City’s current effective FIRM (whichever is more restrictive) for construction requirements. Contact the New York City Department of Buildings for more information.
In the future, FEMA will release new Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) that incorporate the recently released flood hazard 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.
Information on the benefits of rebuilding higher 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.
Many funding options for New Jersey homeowners are provided through the reNew Jersey Stronger website. Options include the New Jersey Home Elevation Program funded by the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (discussed in detail below) which provides reimbursement of up to $30,000 for elevations of existing single family homes in certain counties severely affected by Sandy. Information about how to apply for these programs is also available on the reNew Jersey Stronger website.
Eligible homeowners who wish to sell their properties damaged by Sandy in tidal areas of New Jersey may take advantage of the Blue Acres Floodplain Acquisition Program, a joint effort of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the State Office of Emergency Management and FEMA. For more information, including application information, visit the Blue Acres Program homepage.
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. 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 best available flood hazard data elevation or the effective BFE, 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. New Jersey residents may also apply for elevation funding directly through the reNew Jersey Stronger website and get information about submitting property acquisition requests through the Blue Acres Floodplain Acquisitions Program page.
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 draft or preliminary flood hazard data affect my flood insurance rates?
The release of the ABFE, preliminary work map, and preliminary FIRM data 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 updated 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.
NFIP rate changes you will want to know about are described in the brochure, Changes in the Flood Insurance Program. For more information regarding the availability and cost of flood insurance, call 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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