BILOXI, Miss. -- A team of experts working on behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is conducting the Mississippi Coastal Flood Study, an in-depth, large-scale study to produce Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs) for Hancock, Harrison and Jackson Counties.
While the project to update and digitize flood maps across the United States and in Mississippi began before Hurricane Katrina, FEMA responded to requests by Governor Haley Barbour and local officials for accelerated guidance for rebuilding after the storm. Advisory base flood elevation maps (ABFEs) and related guidance were developed to provide communities with information for use during the reconstruction process until more detailed data become available.
Until the Mississippi Coastal Flood Study is complete and new DFIRMS issued and adopted, these maps are provided to help state and local officials and homeowners identify existing and increased flood hazards. FEMA continues to encourage communities to use the ABFEs because they more accurately reflect the flood risk than the effective Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) which are 25 years old. Until the release of the preliminary DFIRMs, the ABFEs should be used for floodplain management purposes because it is the best information available now.
The Mississippi Coastal Flood Study team has been working on an accelerated schedule for several months to produce the DFIRMs as quickly as possible without compromising the quality of the maps. The preliminary DFIRMs showing the revised flood hazard information are scheduled to be released late summer 2007.
The flood hazard and risk information presented in the new DFIRMs will be more precise because the latest digital mapping technologies are being applied. Local officials will be able to use them to improve planning and rebuilding activities. Residents and business owners can make better financial decisions about protecting their properties.
Review and Adoption Process
When the Mississippi Coastal Flood Study is completed, an analysis of the findings will be presented to state and local officials. With the issuance of the preliminary DFIRMs, FEMA will conduct a series of community meetings in all three counties to provide information about the maps and seek public comment. Following the community meetings, a 90-day appeal and protest period begins for submitting technical appeals. After resolution of any appeals and protests, the local communities will have six months to update their local ordinances and adopt the DFIRMs.
The base flood elevations presented on the DFIRMs are the minimum standard that communities participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) must meet. As it always has, FEMA encourages communities to adopt higher standards where possible and prudent to do so to make their communities safer and reduce the potential for loss of life and property when a flood event occurs.
In addition to being safer and less prone to flooding, communities with structures built above the base flood elevations shown on effective DFIRMs will benefit by paying lower flood insurance premiums. Building just one foot above the base flood elevation could reduce an insurance premium substantially.
FEMA has encouraged coastal communities in Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties to adopt the ABFEs until the DFIRMs are implemented. Though prudent, adoption of the ABFEs is not required. However, applicants for FEMA grants under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, and the Flood Mitigation Assistance program must use the ABFEs for activities that are funded using FEMA grant funds.
FEMA coordinates the federal government’s role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whe...