The Federal Flood Risk Management Standard is a flood standard that aims to build a more resilient future. As stated in Section 1 of Executive Order 13690, “It is the policy of the United States to improve the resilience of communities and federal assets against the impacts of flooding. These impacts are anticipated to increase over time due to the effects of climate change and other threats. Losses caused by flooding affect the environment, our economic prosperity, and public health and safety, each of which affects our national security.”
The FFRMS was established to encourage federal agencies to consider and manage current and future flood risks in order to build a more resilient nation. The standard was revoked but then reinstated through Executive Order 14030, Climate-Related Financial Risk, clarifying that the FFRMS as well as the guidelines for floodplain management under Executive Order 11988 should remain in effect.
It requires agencies to prepare for and protect federally funded buildings and projects from flood risks. More specifically, it requires agencies to determine specific federal building or project dimensions – that is, how high and how wide and how expansive a building or project should be – in order to manage and mitigate any current or potential flood risks.
The FFRMS gives flexibility and requires agencies to select one of the three approaches for establishing the flood elevation (“how high”) and corresponding flood hazard area (“how wide”) used for project siting, design and construction:
- Climate Informed Science Approach (CISA): The elevation and flood hazard area that result from using the best-available, actionable hydrologic and hydraulic data and methods that integrate current and future changes in flooding based on climate science;
- Freeboard Value Approach (FVA): The elevation and flood hazard area that result from adding an additional 2 feet to the base flood elevation for non-critical actions and by adding an additional 3 feet to the base flood elevation for critical actions; or
- 500-year floodplain: The area subject to flooding by the 0.2% -annual-chance flood.
Proposed Rulemaking for Comment on Federal Flood Risk Management Standard
On Oct. 2, FEMA published in the Federal Register revisions to its floodplain management regulations at Title 44 Part 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR): Floodplain Management and Protection of Wetlands. The revisions propose to fully implement the FFRMS.
The FFRMS increases the resilience of federally funded projects by incorporating anticipated changes in future flood risk into certain federally funded projects to ensure that those projects last as long as intended. The comment period will close on Dec. 1.
Across the nation, storms and floods are growing in severity and frequency. They damage - sometimes destroy - schools, hospitals, homes and other property. These disasters not only negatively affect individuals’ daily lives and overall livelihoods on-the-ground but can accumulate to impact entire communities and economies.
Since 1980, the United States has sustained hundreds of weather and climate disasters where damages and associated costs reached $1 billion for each event, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Of those disasters, severe storms and flooding are in the top three for most occurrences.
The total costs associated with severe storms and flooding calculated to $345 billion and $168 billion, respectively. Climate change projections suggest that storms will likely become more frequent and stronger in many regions of the country. The federal government is taking steps to ensure that federal investments include standards of safety against floods and sea level rise and build communities to be more resilient to flooding.
- Executive Order 11988, Floodplain Management, May 1977.
- Executive Order 13690, Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input, January 30, 2015.
- Executive Order 14030, Climate-Related Financial Risk, May 20, 2021.
- Guidelines for Implementing Executive Order 11988, Floodplain Management, and Executive Order 13690, Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input, October 8, 2015
- Appendices A – H of the Implementing Guidelines, published separately, October 8, 2015
- Partial Implementation of the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard Public Assistance (interim) - FEMA Policy 104-22-0003, June 3, 2022
- Partial Implementation of the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard for Hazard Mitigation Assistance Programs -- FEMA Policy 206-21-003-0001, December 9, 2022