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Guidelines and Standards for Flood Risk Analysis and Mapping

A pyramid separated into horizontal tiers. From bottom (widest) to top (narrowest) the tiers are labeled This page provides Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines and standards for flood risk analysis and mapping activities under the Risk Mapping, Assessment and Planning (Risk MAP) Program.

These guidelines and standards define the implementation details of the statutory and regulatory requirements for National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) mapping. They describe how FEMA performs Flood Risk Projects, Letters of Map Change (LOMC), and related coordination activities. They are intended for mapping professionals and Cooperating Technical Partners (CTPs) under the Risk MAP Program.

The guidelines and standards are organized in a hierarchy. Standards are mandatory FEMA policy. They are divided into two categories: Program Standards and Working Standards.

Program Standards – Define important elements of the Risk MAP Program. Exceptions to program standards can be granted only by program leadership.

Working Standards – A required element of the Risk MAP Program, usually at a more detailed level than the program standards. Working standards are applied by specialists (engineers, planners, technicians, scientists, etc.) and generally have minimal ethical, political, and legal impacts to the program. FEMA Regional Offices may occasionally grant exceptions to these requirements.

Guidance – A recommended approach to meet the Risk MAP standards. Acceptable approaches are not limited to this recommended approach; other methods may be used if they meet or exceed the standards.

Best Practices/Lessons Learned – Any method, in addition to guidance, that helps to meet or exceed Risk MAP standards. Best practices are shared by FEMA Regions and Mapping Partners following successful approaches to program activities.

All standards for the Risk MAP Program have been published as a FEMA policy. Guidance has been published separately as a series of documents focusing on specific topics. This policy and the related guidance and technical references supersede all of the previous Guidelines And Specifications For Flood Hazard Mapping Partners and associated procedure memorandums.

Finding Standards, Guidance and Related Documents

The standards policy, guidance, technical references, and related documents all are stored in the online FEMA Library. FEMA has created a Master Index that provides a cross-reference of the guidelines and standards documentation available. There are over 400 standards in the policy, nearly 100 guidance documents, several technical references, a number of related templates, and other related documents. The Master Index helps organize this information by providing a cross-reference among the standards, guidance, technical references, and related documents. The core organizing principle is the primary keyword assigned to each standard and document. This keyword represents the topic most closely related to content and provides users with a resource to more easily locate related standards and guidance. The Master Index documents can be found at Finding Standards, Guidance and Related Documents.

Guidelines and Standards Maintenance

FEMA maintains standards and guidance on an annual basis to support the Risk MAP Program. Standards or guidance can reviewed at any time based on questions or feedback; however, FEMA’s maintenance plan outlines a schedule such that each item is reviewed at least once in a five-year period.

At the beginning of each maintenance cycle, FEMA publishes an announcement outlining the proposed changes. During each maintenance cycle, FEMA conducts a public review of draft standards. The review period lasts approximately one month and generally starts three months prior to the completion of the maintenance cycle. The most recent public review announcement and summary of public review comments and responses are published in the Public Review.

A list of changes previously made to the guidelines and standards are provided in a Diary of Revisions, which uses a versioning system to assist in understanding which version of the standards and guidance have been applied to a particular Risk MAP project.

The Maintenance Announcement, Diary of Revisions and the Risk MAP ID Tables can be found on the Maintenance Page.

FEMA Guidance

Guidance documents provide vetted recommended approaches for FEMA’s Risk MAP Program. They are intended to support current FEMA standards and facilitate effective, efficient implementation of the program. All guidance documents were written to support FEMA standards; however, nothing presented in these documents is considered mandatory. Alternate approaches that comply with standards and support program objectives are also acceptable. To help navigate the available guidance and related documentation, there are additional instructions for Finding Standards, Guidance and Related Documents.

Technical References

Technical References are specifications of a technical nature essential to the success of the program but too granular to be considered standards. These include database specifications and product and documentation requirements. There are several standards that mandate compliance with all of the Technical References.

Templates and Other Resources

Templates and Other Resources are a collection of documents used to support the implementation of Flood Risk Projects and may be referenced in standards, guidance, or technical references. The types of documents include templates, checklists, forms, database schemas, metadata profiles, and product prototypes.

Document Control Procedures Manual

The FEMA Document Control Procedures Manual (Manual) is to be used in conjunction with the Guidelines. The Manual provides guidance to FEMA, Mapping Partners, and contractor staff for:

  • Processing of standard and non-standard documents used in FEMA-contracted studies/restudies.
  • Community-initiated map revisions.
  • Conditional and final map revisions based on conditions other than fill.
  • Conditional and final map revisions based on fill.
  • Conditional and final map amendments.
  • Letter of determination review and special conversions.

The Manual also provides procedures and sample documents for tracking community compliance and documenting a community's entry into the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The Manual is a living document and FEMA encourages interested parties to submit ideas for improving the Manual.

Guidelines and Standards Archives

Flood Risk Projects may take several years to complete; therefore, ongoing projects may conform to prior versions of the guidelines or standards. In addition, older products may have been produced using older versions of the guidelines and standards. When new and/or updated guidelines and standards are published, FEMA issues implementation instructions that assist in determining how the new or revised standard or guidance may be used.

FEMA maintains a Guidelines and Standards Archive Library that contains superseded versions of the guidelines and standards for reference.

How to Submit Comments and Suggestions

Comments or suggestions concerning mapping standards and guidance may be submitted to FEMA electronically by sending an email message to FEMA.GS@riskmapcds.com.

For More Information

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Last Updated: 
03/20/2018 - 08:03