FEMA Region 6 Updating Flood Maps FAQs

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What map is being used in my area for Insurance Rating?

A: Jefferson Parish
Maps dated March 23, 1995 are being used to rate your property for insurance. These are the current effective Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for Jefferson Parish and Incorporated Areas.

A: Orleans Parish
Maps dated March 1, 1984 are being used to rate your property for insurance. These are the current effective Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for city of New Orleans and Orleans Parish.

A: St. Bernard Parish
Maps dated May 1, 1985 are being used to rate your property for insurance. These are the current effective Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for St. Bernard Parish. 

A: St. Charles Parish
Maps dated June 16, 1992 are being used to rate your property for insurance. These are the current effective Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for St. Charles Parish. 

A: Plaquemines Parish
Maps dated May 1, 1985 are being used to rate your property for insurance. These are the current effective Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for Plaquemines Parish. 

Q: Why is my insurance being rated on an old map?

A: Until new flood hazard information has been mapped and the affected communities have the chance to review, comment, and adopt these new maps the current effective maps continue to be used for insurance rating. See the question above for current map information.

Q: What is a FIRM?

A: FIRM is an acronym for Flood Insurance Rate Map. A FIRM depicts the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) or areas within a community that are vulnerable to flooding when a storm with 1-percent annual chance (sometimes referred to as the 100-year storm) occurs. The 1-percent annual-chance storm has the probability of occurring one time each year. This probability is based upon historical information within your community.

FIRMs are used to enforce state and community floodplain management regulations, calculate flood insurance premiums, determine whether a property is required to obtain flood insurance as a condition of obtaining a federally backed loan, and for emergency management. These maps can also be used locally for land use, water resource, and hazard mitigation planning.

Q: What map is being used in my area (for permitting/building)?

A: Jefferson Parish (East Bank)      
Along the East Bank of the Mississippi River, local Parish officials are using the preliminary DFIRM panels released by FEMA in 2008 to determine the flood risk in your vicinity.  These maps are also being used by your local officials to promote responsible development and to put plans in place to reduce your community’s risk of flooding. Local officials will also use the Base Flood Elevations depicted on these maps to permit construction throughout the East Bank areas of the parish.

A: Jefferson Parish (West Bank)      
Along the West Bank of the Mississippi River, local Parish officials are using the Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) mapping released by FEMA in 2006 to determine the flood risk in your vicinity. These maps are being used by your local officials to promote responsible development and to put plans in place to reduce your community’s risk of flooding. Local officials will also use the Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFEs) depicted on these maps to permit construction throughout the West Bank areas of the parish.

A: Orleans Parish      
Throughout Orleans Parish, local officials are using the Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) mapping released by FEMA in 2006 to determine the flood risk in your vicinity. These maps are being used by your local officials to promote responsible development and to put plans in place to reduce your community’s risk of flooding. Local officials will also use the Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFEs) depicted on these maps to permit construction throughout the parish.

A: St. Bernard Parish      
Throughout St. Bernard Parish, local officials are using the Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) mapping released by FEMA in 2006 to determine the flood risk in your vicinity. These maps are being used by your local officials to promote responsible development and to put plans in place to reduce your community’s risk of flooding. Local officials will also use the Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFEs) depicted on these maps to permit construction throughout the parish.

A: St. Charles Parish      
Throughout St. Charles Parish, local officials are using the Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) mapping, released by FEMA in 2006, to determine the flood risk in your vicinity. These maps are being used by your local officials to promote responsible development and to put plans in place to reduce your community’s risk of flooding. Local officials will also use the Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFEs) depicted on these maps to permit construction throughout the parish.

A: Plaquemines Parish (All Areas - EXCEPT Belle Chasse)  
Throughout a majority of Plaquemines Parish, local officials are using the current effective Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), released by FEMA in 1985, to determine the flood risk in your vicinity. These maps are being used by your local officials to promote responsible development and to put plans in place to reduce your community’s risk of flooding. Local officials will also use the Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) depicted on these (FIRMs) maps to permit construction throughout the parish.

A: Belle Chasse Area (Plaquemines Parish)
In the Belle Chase area of Plaquemines Parish, local officials are using the Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) mapping, released by FEMA in 2006, to determine the flood risk in your vicinity. These maps are being used by your local officials to promote responsible development and to put plans in place to reduce your community’s risk of flooding. Local officials will also use the Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFEs) depicted on these maps to permit construction throughout the parish.

Q: What do those Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) maps represent?

A: The Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) maps were developed to help local officials, as well as homeowners, renters, and business owners identify existing and increased flood hazards caused by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and other storms that have struck the Greater New Orleans area in the last 25 years. The ABFE maps also were created to provide information on where and how to build to avoid future flood damages as the area started its recovery and redevelopment effort. 
FEMA has a larger study effort, which is underway to update the Flood Insurance Rate Maps for your Parish. These updates will reflect the rehabilitation efforts of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and other drainage projects that have been constructed throughout the Greater New Orleans area.

Q: What do those (DFIRM) Preliminary maps represent?

A: FEMA worked with the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) to produce an updated coastal surge analysis for the Louisiana Coastline.  The results of this coastal analysis are shown on the Preliminary DFIRM maps that were released in 2008. The levee systems in the Greater New Orleans area are shown on the Preliminary DFIRMs as they existed in 2007, prior to the rehabilitation work that has taken place to date.

FEMA has a larger study effort, which is underway to update the Flood Insurance Rate Maps for your Parish. These updates will reflect the rehabilitation efforts of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and other drainage projects that have been constructed throughout the Greater New Orleans area.

Q: What is the status of the DFIRM (Preliminary) mapping?

A: FEMA is currently working with the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE), local communities and levee boards to collect the updated analysis for the Greater New Orleans area to assure FEMA has the most up to date information given the recent levee rehabilitation efforts in the metro area. 

Realizing the reduction to flood risk with the construction of the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS), FEMA will incorporate these flood risk reduction improvements to update the current Preliminary DFIRMs. 

Following the issuance of these revised Preliminary DFIRM panels; FEMA will continue to work with the communities in the five Greater New Orleans area parishes (Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles, and Plaquemines) to review the mapping in the post-preliminary processing for these maps. In 2013, a public comment period will be held and comments will be reviewed for incorporation prior to issuing final mapping for this study effort.

Q: Now that the levees have been rehabilitated what happens next?

A: Building on the achievements in flood risk reduction with the construction of the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS), FEMA is incorporating these flood risk reduction improvements in updates to the current Preliminary DFIRMs.

FEMA is currently working with the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE), local communities, and levee boards to collect the updated analysis for the Greater New Orleans area to assure the agency has the most up to date information given the recent rehabilitation efforts in the metro area for inclusion in this mapping effort. We encourage you to go to your local floodplain administrator for more information.

Q: How long before we get new maps?

A: FEMA is currently revising the Preliminary DFIRM maps in the immediate vicinity of the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS). These revised maps, which include the recent rehabilitation and construction efforts by local communities and the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE), are anticipated to be released for public review and comment by the late fall or early winter of 2012.

Following the revised Preliminary DFIRM panel issuance, a number of steps remain to assure that FEMA has allowed local communities, residents and business owners an opportunity to review and comment on the update. The process is intended to assure the most precise mapping of flood risk is prepared and released and includes collaboration with local community officials ahead of the maps being finalized.

  1. FEMA will meet with the local officials to review updated maps
  2. FEMA will hold a public comment period, known as the “appeal period”
  3. FEMA will review, and where appropriate, update the panels to include appeals received
  4. Once a Letter of Final Determination is issued, a six-month compliance period will allow local communities to update their floodplain management regulations.
  5. Following the six-month compliance period, the DFIRMs are issued effective and the updated maps will be used to rate insurance in your area.

Q: So the levee is finished but I am being (insurance) rated on a different map?

A: While FEMA continues to work with local officials and the US Army Corps of Engineers to most accurately portray flood risk in the your community, the current effective Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are used to determine the flood zone for insurance purposes.

When the maps are finalized with input from your local community officials and the maps are issued effective, they will be used to rate insurance in your area. That process generally takes 12 to 18 months. The new flood hazard maps will provide updated information about your flood risk that will allow you to make more informed decisions about protecting your home or business. 
 

Q: Why does it take so long to update the maps used to determine my insurance rate?

A: The process for creating flood insurance rate maps is designed to ensure local input and thorough review of the maps prior to finalizing them. FEMA draws on a wide range of disciplines, using expertise from domestic and international private sector companies, local, state and federal governments and academia to ensure the updated maps include the best available data.

Throughout the update effort, FEMA will hold a number of meetings with local community and levee board officials to include local input in the mapping efforts. FEMA will continue to work closely with local community officials through the remainder of the updating process to obtain additional community input prior to the completion of the study and issuance of the final map.

Q: What is the IPET?

A: Following Hurricane Katrina, an Interagency Performance Evaluation Taskforce (IPET) was established as an engineering investigation team to understand what happened during Katrina and why. The objective was to learn from Katrina and apply those lessons immediately to the repair and rebuilding of the storm damage reduction structures in and around the Greater New Orleans area.   

The IPET conducted analyses designed to answer five principal questions:

  1. The System: What were the pre-Katrina characteristics of the HSDRRS components; how did they compare to the original design intent?
  2. The Storm: What was the surge and wave environment created by Katrina and the forces incident on the levees and floodwalls?
  3. The Performance: How did the levees and floodwalls perform, what insights can be gained
    for the effective repair and improvements of the system (lessons learned), and what is the residual capability of the undamaged portions? What was the performance of the interior drainage system and pump stations and their role in flooding and un-watering of the area?
  4. The Consequences: What were the societal-related consequences of the flooding from Katrina to include economic, life and safety, environmental, and historical and cultural losses?
  5. The Risk: What risk and reliability did the system have prior to Katrina, and what will it have after the planned repairs and improvements? (June 2007 was established as IPET’s “current” system for risk analysis.)

The IPET maps will contain depth grids that depict the amount of water that would be expected within the system during a storm larger than 1 percent annual chance. 
 
Who was included in IPET: IPET was established by the Chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and includes more than 150 nationally recognized experts from more than 50 different organizations (eight federal, state and local government agencies; 25 universities and 23 private sector firms). USACE can be contacted with further questions at (504) 862-2201.

Q: What do the IPET maps produced by the USACE represent?

A: Risk analyses were performed in the vicinity of the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) to assess the vulnerabilities of the system experiencing a levee or wall failure during a storm which exceeds the design criteria. The system was designed to defend against storm surge during a storm with the likelihood of occurrence of 1-percent annually.

The results of these assessments are depicted in the series of maps within a report recently issued by the US Army Corp of Engineers.  Depth grids depict the amount of water that would be expected within the system during a storm larger than 1-percent annual chance. These results are intended to provide decision makers with information concerning how potential armoring investments could reduce those vulnerabilities for more extreme events.

Q: Will the FEMA maps show the IPET information?

A: FEMA will use the results shown in the IPET report as a basis for the engineering analysis that it will perform in the vicinity of the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS). The analyses performed for the IPET mapping are not intended to identify final water surface elevations within the systems walls. The hurricane surge and wave studies on which the risk analysis is based are not of the detail required to establish water-surface elevations within the system during the 1-percent annual chance (sometimes referred to as 100-year) event.   

FEMA is currently working with local community and levee board officials to assure flood controls that are locally operated and drainage projects that have been locally performed are also included in the engineering study results that are being prepared. 
 

Q: Why did they map our area twice?

A: The engineering analysis and mapping being performed by the USACE and FEMA are complementary. FEMA will use the USACE’s IPET analysis as a basis of the engineering analysis that FEMA will perform in the vicinity of the HSDRRS. 

FEMA is currently working with local community and levee board officials to assure locally operated flood controls and local drainage projects are also included in the engineering study results that are being prepared.

Q: What level of protection does the levee system provide?

A: The hurricane and river levees which make up the Hurricane and Storm Damage and Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) are designed to defend from surge (incoming waves) created by a 100-year storm, or a storm with a 1 percent chance of occurring every year. Larger storms may result in overtopping of the levees and cause additional flooding. There are additional levees within the Greater New Orleans Parishes outside of the HSDRRS that have varying levels of protection. Check with your local floodplain administrator to better understand your risk and the systems that reduce the flood risk in your vicinity. A wealth of information on the HSDRRS system is available on the USACE's website. The USACE can be contacted with questions at (504) 862-2201.

Q: So we’re safe living behind the levee?

A: Levees reduce, but do not remove the possibility of flooding during storm events. The Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) was designed and built to reduce the flood risk in the vicinity of the system and minimize the flooding effects during the 1-percent annual chance storm (100-year). Larger storms increase the risk of flooding in the Greater New Orleans area. Living with levees is a shared responsibility and it's up to everyone to know their risk, know their role, and take action to reduce their risk. 

Q: What does the levee safety evaluation rating mean?

A: A new levee rating system was ordered by Congress in 2006, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The levee safety evaluation rating is aimed at helping Congress and federal and local officials determine which levee systems must be improved. The new rating system is being developed and will be implemented by the USACE. The USACE can be contacted with questions regarding the levee rating system at (504) 862-2201.

What are they evaluating?
In determining the ratings, screeners review a variety of performance factors, including a levees’ ability to withstand erosion, the stability of the slope of earthen levees, and the ability of embankments and foundations to withstand seepage. They also look at the how well gates and other closures in the system can withstand failure, the chance of floodwalls being pushed over or undercut by storm surge, past performance during flooding, and performance predictions for future events. The USACE can be contacted with questions about the ratings at (504) 862-2201.

Q: What is the HSDRRS? (The levee)

A: The Hurricane and Storm Damage and Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) is a multi-functional flood control system made up of:
• 350-miles of levees and floodwalls
• 93 pumping stations (federal and non-federal)
• 4 gates/outfalls/closure structures
During hurricanes and storms, all parts of the system work together to provide flood risk reduction in the Greater New Orleans areas.

Q: What is a polder?

A: The term “polder” in the Greater New Orleans area describes smaller drainage areas within the Hurricane and Storm Damage and Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS). Inside a polder storm water is collected and removed through a pumping station to help drain the area.

Q: What area of the DFIRMs will be updated?

A: The Preliminary DFIRMs that were issued in 2008 to Greater New Orleans area parishes will be updated by FEMA to include the reduction of flood risk with the construction of the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS). Only the panels covered by the HSDRRS area will be updated at this time.

Q: What information is FEMA using on the DFIRM update?

A: In creating the new maps, FEMA drew on a wide range of disciplines, using expertise from domestic and international private sector companies, local, state and Federal governments and academia.

  • The recent completion of the storm surge protection in the vicinity of the Greater New Orleans area will be depicted on the revised DFIRM panels prepared.
  • FEMA is working with local officials to collect local drainage project information for inclusion in the analysis and mapping update.
  • Experts from internationally known Dutch engineering firms participated in the coastal modeling.
  • FEMA worked with the USACE to determine the interior drainage and storm elevations within the Greater New Orleans polder areas.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provided climatology expertise and detailed elevation data.
  • Louisiana State University’s Agricultural Center provided a review of the coastal modeling.
  • Communities and parishes provided local data and information, and three parishes participated as FEMA Cooperating Technical Partners (CTPs).
  • FEMA’s quality assurance program involved an Independent Technical Review conducted by local and national coastal engineering experts and an external peer review by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the National Research Council (NRC).

Q: Who can I call if I have questions on the FEMA Maps? 
(Current Effective, Advisory BFEs, Preliminary Mapping)


A: FMIX Call Center 
If you have general questions, you can contact the FEMA’s Map Assistance Center at 1-877-FEMA MAP (1-877-336-2627).  It is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central Standard Time. If you have a more specific question, you may also contact your floodplain administrator or other official in your local community. In your community, you can contact: (refer to Appendix A for a listing of names and available hours).

Last Updated: 
08/10/2012 - 11:00
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