FEMA Flood Maps and Zones Explained

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Flood maps, known officially as Flood Insurance Rate Maps, show areas of high- and moderate- to low-flood risk. 

  • They are shown as a series of zones.

Communities use the maps to set minimum building requirements for coastal areas and floodplains; lenders use them to determine flood insurance requirements.

  • FEMA uses FIRMs to help determine what you should pay for flood insurance.
  • FIRMs are available to the public free of charge through the FEMA Flood MapService Center at https://msc.fema.gov/portal.

Special Flood Hazard Areas are high-risk areas. 

  • They are shown on the flood maps as zones beginning with the letters 'A' or 'V.'
  • There is at least a 1 in 4 chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage in high-risk areas.

All home and business owners in high-risk areas with mortgages from federally regulated or insured lenders are required to buy flood insurance.

Non-Special Flood Hazard Areas are moderate-to-low risk areas.

  • The risk of flooding is reduced, but not completely removed.
  • Moderate- to low-risk areas are shown on flood maps as zones beginning with the letters 'B', 'C' or 'X' (or a shaded X).
  • These areas submit more than 20 percent of National Flood Insurance Program claims and receive one-third of federal disaster assistance for flooding.

Flood insurance isn't federally required in moderate- to- low-risk areas, but it is recommended for all property owners and renters.

Some flood maps also include areas where there are possible but undetermined flood hazards or unstudied areas.

  • These areas are shown on flood maps or areas beginning with the letter 'D.'
  • Flood insurance rates reflect the uncertainty of the flood risk.

NFIP is administered by FEMA, which works closely with more than 80 private insurance companies to offer flood insurance to homeowners, renters, and business owners.

Flood insurance is available to homeowners, renters, condo owners/renters, and commercial owners/renters.

  • Costs vary depending on how much insurance is purchased, what it covers and the property's flood risk.

In order to qualify for flood insurance, the home or business must be in a community that has joined the NFIP and agreed to enforce sound floodplain management standards.

  • Floods can happen anywhere.
  • More than 315 Louisiana communities participate in NFIP.
  • To find out if your community participates in NFIP call 800-638-6620.  

You can only purchase flood insurance through an insurance agent; you cannot buy it directly from the NFIP.

  • Find an agent in your area by calling 800-638-6620 to reach the NFIP call center.

Local governments pass and enforce regulations for designated SFHAs.

Contact local floodplain administrators for more information on specific local requirements.

For mitigation information visit fema.gov/Louisiana-Disaster-Mitigation.

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