Local community officials play a critical role in making their communities safer and more resistant to disaster. Identifying their community’s flood hazards and then acting to reduce those risks along with managing to a higher standard will result in a stronger, more resilient community.
Become a Participating Community
Joining the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is an important step toward reducing a community’s risk of flooding and making a speedier, more sustained recovery should flooding occur. It also allows property owners within a participating community to purchase NFIP flood insurance and receive disaster assistance for flood-related damage. Participation is voluntary and more than 22,000 communities have agreed to adopt and enforce floodplain management ordinances that provide flood-loss reduction building standards for new and existing development. See the Community Status Book for a list of all participating communities. If your community does not participate, please read Joining the National Flood Insurance Program and consider contacting your FEMA Regional Office or the NFIP State Coordinating Agency for information on how to join. These offices will provide an application, a sample resolution and a model floodplain management ordinance.
Adopt Higher Standards
Participating counties, municipalities and tribal nations can become stronger and more resilient by risk reducing actions, such as the following best practices:
- Adopting and enforcing higher floodplain management standards than NFIP minimum requirements (e.g., higher freeboard, lower substantial damage ratios)
- Maintaining rigorous enforcement
- Promoting open space through property buyouts and community planning
- Encouraging responsible building practices (ASCE or IBC, for example, including IBC Appendix G)
- Promoting the purchase of flood insurance
Best practices for keeping your community safe include the adoption of higher standards, which can be adopted at any time. The flood map adoption process near the end of a new Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) study process is a good opportunity to improve those standards. With higher standardsBy following these best practices and adopting higher standards than the federal minimum, a community can expect faster recovery from flooding events, lower impact to other properties and communities, and reduced financial and physical effects on property owners. In addition, flood insurance premiums for residents and business owners in high-risk areas can be reduced substantially if communities build higher and actively participate in the Community Rating System (CRS). Typically, two feet of freeboard will save a homeowner more than 40 percent off flood insurance through the NFIP.
Additional information about some of the more common applications of higher standards can be found at these links:
- Higher Floodplain Management Standards
- Critical Facilities and Higher Standards
- Use of Freeboard
- Regulating Limit of Moderate Wave Action (LiMWA or Coastal A) Zones
Community Rating System (CRS) Provides Additional Incentives
The Community Rating System was created to encourage communities to establish sound programs that recognize and encourage floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP requirements. By conducting mitigation and outreach activities that increase safety and resilience, including CRS credits for regulating to higher standards, communities can earn credits and discounts (up to 45 percent within the Special Flood Hazard Area) on flood insurance premiums for property owners. Review the Mitigation Planning and the Community Rating System bulletin to learn how local governments can improve their local mitigation plans and leverage the insurance benefits of the CRS to advance mitigation outcomes. For more information about CRS, read the local officials guide to CRS and the CRS Coordinator’s Manual.
Tools and Resources to Support Higher Standards
Local communities should work closely with their State, as well as FEMA and other federal agencies, as they can provide tools and resources to help support adoption of higher standards which, in turn, would result in them being more resilient. For example, FEMA’s Community Assistance Program-State Support Services Element (CAP-SSSE) is a grant program whereby states receive funding to provide technical assistance to local communities. The CAP-SSSE is intended to help states proactively identify, prevent and resolve floodplain management issues in participating communities before a flood event even occurs.
Federal grants and other programs, such as FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) grants, may be available to communities to help pay for mitigation projects that reduce flooding impacts.
NFIP policyholders in high-risk areas who are substantially damaged may be eligible for up to $30,000 in Increased Cost of Compliance coverage. When a community receives FEMA HMA grant funds for an awarded mitigation project, the policyholder may be able to assign the ICC claim for the community to use to payment as part of the non-Federal cost-share requirements. The ICC Guidance for State and Local Officials provides more details.
FEMA publishes the Floodplain Management Requirements Study Guide and Desk Reference for local officials who are responsible for administering their community's floodplain management regulations. The reference has guidance on handling specific issues and explains requirements to community members.
Additional floodplain management resources are available for download. They can also be ordered by phone through the FEMA Publication Distribution Center at 1-800-480-2520. Publications may be requested by their FEMA number.
Floodplain managers are encouraged to take related training courses offered by the Emergency Management Institute (EMI), the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM), their state chapters and other organizations.
- 44 CFR Section 59.1
- 44 CFR Section 59.1 of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Regulations provides definitions of NFIP terms.
- 44 CFR Section 60.3
- Section 60.3 of the National Flood Insurance Program Regulations provides floodplain management criteria for flood-prone areas.
- Permits are required to ensure that proposed development projects meet the requirements of the NFIP and the community's floodplain management ordinance.
- Elevation Certificate
- A community's permit file must have an official record that shows new buildings and substantial improvements in all identified Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs)are properly elevated.
- Environmental and Historic Preservation
- This process ensures that federal grant monies are used in a manner consistent with federal laws pertaining to the environment and historic preservation, as well as consideration of the effects to, and protection and enhancement of, natural and cultural resources.
- Environmental and Historic Preservation Tips
- Substantial Improvement/Substantial Damage Desk Reference
- Local floodplain management regulations and codes contain minimum NFIP requirements that apply not only to new structures, but also to existing structures which are “substantially improved (SI)” or “substantially damaged (SD).”
- Substantial Damage Estimator (P-784)
- FEMA developed the SDE tool to assist State and local officials in estimating Substantial Damage for residential and non-residential structures in accordance with the requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as adopted by the communities.
- Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) Resources
- This collection contains information on Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC). Its coverage provides a claim payment for the cost to comply with State or community floodplain management laws or ordinances after a direct loss by flood.
- Section 1316
- Section 1316 of the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, as amended, provides for the denial of flood insurance coverage for any property which the Administrator finds has been declared by a duly constituted state or local authority to be in violation of state or local floodplain management regulations.
- FEMA Flood Map Service Center
- Use the Map Service Center to find your official flood map, access a range of other flood hazard products, and take advantage of tools for better understanding flood risk.
- NFIP Technical Bulletins
- The bulletins help state and local officials interpret the NFIP Regulations and are also useful resources for homeowners, insurance agents, building professionals and designers.
- NFIP Publications and Outreach Material for State and Local Officials
- This page shares links to online materials and publications about the National Flood Insurance Program that may be especially useful to state and local officials before, during and after flood events.
- Mitigation Best Practices Portfolio
- Hazard mitigation is the way to provide protection for one's family and property from the effects of devastating losses.
- NFIP Forms
- This page links to an assortment of forms for use by the general public, industry professionals and government officials interested in: claims adjusting; elevation certificates; submitting a Letter of Map Change (LOMC) request; floodproofing certificates for non-residential structures; ordering public awareness materials; ordering underwriting and claims materials; and getting a flood hazard determination.
- NFIP Policy Index
- The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policy index is a list of floodplain management regulations, policies, technical bulletins, and guidance organized in alphabetical order.