Living with Levees: It’s a Shared Responsibility

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Real Estate, Lending and Insurance Professionals: Levee Mapping Status

Know Your Risk, Know Your Role, Take Action Today!

Community backing on to a levee system Community surrounding a levee system before inundation Community surrounding a levee system following inundation

Understanding and Communicating the Risk

Levees reduce the risk of flooding. They do not eliminate it. And over time the ability for the levee to reduce the risk can change. Some levees today no longer provide the minimum level of risk reduction from a flood. Flood maps treat areas near these de-accredited levees as high-risk flood zones. Other levees have been constructed or improved to a higher standard and provide at least the minimum Federal standards of reducing the risk of flooding. Flood maps show these as accredited levees and areas behind them are typically mapped as a moderate-risk area. Still other levees are under review, and are shown as Provisionally Accredited Levees while further documentation takes place.

When levee designations change, flood risks and Federal flood insurance requirements may also change. In some cases, property owners are required to purchase flood insurance. In other cases, they are released from the requirement. It is important in your profession to stay aware of any upcoming changes in the levee accreditation and be prepared to discuss these changes, the flood risk associated with them and the options your clients have.

De-Accredited Levees

When new flood maps are being issued for a community with a levee system and the levee is found to no longer meet Federal standards for reducing the risks associated with a major flood, it will be shown on the new flood map as being de-accredited. This means the flood risk around the levee will be mapped as a high-risk area, known as a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA).

Because of the higher flood risk, owners of properties in high-risk areas will be subject to the Federal flood insurance requirement once the new maps take effect. This means property owners will be required to purchase a flood insurance policy if they have mortgages from federally regulated or insured lenders.

Many property owners can save significantly on flood insurance coverage by purchasing a low-cost Preferred Risk Policy (PRP) for their building and contents before new maps becomes effective. PRPs offer the same level of protection as standard flood insurance at a reduced premium.

The PRP savings will last for two years. At the end of the two-year period, the policy can continue to be rated using the previous flood map’s lower risk zone rather than the high-risk zone designation that would normally apply to their property based on the current map. That lower risk flood zone is then grandfathered for future rating resulting in lower premiums.

Accredited Levees

When levees are certified to provide at least the minimum Federal standard of reducing the risk of flooding, the areas behind these accredited levees are mapped as moderate-risk areas. Levee accreditation does not guarantee that flooding will not occur. The flood risk in that area is only reduced, not removed. There is always a risk of flooding if you live or work near a levee as a levee can fail or be overtopped by a larger flood than the levee was designed to contain. As a result, flooding could be catastrophic. Residents and business owners in these areas should seriously consider their risks and take appropriate steps to safeguard themselves and their properties. More than 20 percent of all flood claims come from moderate-low risk areas.

Most residents and business owners living behind an accredited levee that is mapped as a moderate- or low-risk area will qualify for the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP’s) Preferred Risk Policy (PRP). PRP’s cost about one-third to one-half of the price of a standard-rated flood insurance policy, while providing both building and contents coverage. Note that there is typically a 30-day waiting period before a policy becomes effective.

Provisionally Accredited Levees

If your levee(s) is now identified as a Provisionally Accredited Levee (PAL) or will be when the preliminary flood maps become effective, it means they previously met Federal flood standards for reducing flood risks, but additional documentation is now required to show they remain in compliance. During this period of review, levee(s) will be temporarily designated as PALs, because available data indicates they likely still offer the needed level of flood risk reduction.

While the levee is provisionally accredited, the flood maps will recognize the levee as continuing to meet Federal standards of reducing the risk for flooding; however, the provisional designation serves as a reminder that there is always a risk of flooding if you live or work near a levee because levees can fail or be overtopped by a larger flood than the levee was designed to contain. As a result, flooding could be catastrophic. Residents and business owners in these areas should seriously consider their risks and take appropriate steps to protect themselves and their properties. More than 20 percent of all flood claims come from moderate-low risk areas.

Most residents and business owners living behind a PAL that is mapped as a moderate-risk area will qualify for the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP’s) Preferred Risk Policy (PRP). PRP’s cost about one-third to one-half of the price of a standard-rated flood insurance policy, while providing both building and contents coverage. Note that there is typically a 30-day waiting period before a policy becomes effective.

For More Information

For additional information on levees, levee risk, levee safety and mapping, visit FEMA’s Levee Resources Library or use the resources listed above.

For more information or additional assistance:

Last Updated: 
07/24/2014 - 16:00
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