Baton Rouge, LA -- Water will find a way. The old saying holds true for more than just the leak in your old roof. It explains a lot about the ever-changing course of a vast interlaced network of rivers, streams, brooks and storm-waters in the fragile land areas known as floodplains.
Trying to capture an accurate picture of this evolving scenario is an on-going challenge for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The data is critical to keeping people out of harm's way, spotting potential risks and keeping National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) costs in line with up-to-date risk assessment.
FEMAs Map Modernization Program is part of an effort to gauge floodplain risks better by moving from manual cartography to real-time high-resolution digital satellite imagery that uses new laser-based sensing technologies (LIDR), Geographic Information Systems computer models and other data base tools.
One of the programs' main goals is to create a clear and accessible series of flood maps that accurately depict the risk premium in purchasing NFIP insurance.
"People tend to make good decisions when they have solid up-to-date facts," said Carlos Mitchell, federal coordinating officer for Tropical Storm Isidore and Hurricane Lili. "These new flood maps should help residents and businesses see their risks and lessen the cost of future damage by purchasing flood insurance and undertaking mitigation measures."
NFIP policyholders in participating communities are encouraged to visit local code enforcement officials for more information, especially when a resident applies for a building permit. Some of the most common questions include:
What factors determine flood insurance premiums?
Major factors include the amount of coverage purchased; the deductible; and the location, age, occupancy and type of building. For newer buildings in floodplains, the elevation of the lowest floor relative to the elevation of the 1-percent-annual-chance flood can also be used to rate the policy.
My house is not in a floodplain according to the current map, but the new map will show it as being in a floodplain. Will I have to purchase flood insurance when the new map officially takes effect?
Lending institutions that are federally insured or regulated, including local banks with FDIC deposit insurance must see evidence of NFIP coverage before they grant secured financing to buy, build, or improve structures in special flood hazard areas. If your property has such federally-related financing and you do not already have flood insurance, your lender may contact you once the new map takes effect and require that you purchase flood insurance. If you do not purchase the insurance within 45 days after being informed that flood insurance is required, the lender can force place the insurance and charge you for the cost of it.
If you dispute the lender's determination that your property is located in a floodplain, you and your lender can jointly request a Letter of Determination Review from FEMA within 45 days of being informed by your lender that your property is located in a floodplain. If you have insurance before the new maps take effect, the basis for rating that policy remains unchanged (i.e., you can use the rate that was charged to you when your property was located outside the floodplain).
I have flood insurance, and my house is in a floodplain according to the current map. The new map, however, will show my house as being outside the floodplain. Will I have to continue carrying flood insurance when the new map officially takes effect?
If you have Federal or federally related financing for the property in question, you will no longer have a Federal requirement to purchase flood insurance when the new maps take effect; however, lenders retain the right to require flood insurance, even for property...