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Real Estate, Lending, and Insurance Professionals: Mapping Flood Hazards

This section provides information on the status of levee-related flood hazard mapping for real estate, lending, and insurance professionals. This searchable information includes descriptions of the accreditation status of levee systems and the risk that comes with living near a levee.

Know Your Risk, Know Your Role, Take Action Today!

Velva, N.D., June 26, 2011 -- Levee built around the town of Velva to hold back the overflowing Souris River.  Burleigh and Ward counties were designated a federal disaster area, opening the way for federal disaster assistance from FEMA.  Andrea Booher/FEMAFargo, N.D., March 28, 2009 -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is providing assistance to local officials and residents in Fargo, ND . The Red River is expected to crest at 41 feet on Sunday.  Photo by Patsy Lynch/FEMAWashington, D.C., August 28, 2008 --  Manuela Rayner (front) and Sarah Schoenborn, FEMA Mapping Division, prepare the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC), within FEMA Headquarters, with the current maps projecting the tracking of Hurricane Gustav and Tropical Storm Hannah. Barry Bahler/FEMA

Understanding and Communicating the Risk

Levee systems reduce the risk of flooding, but they do not eliminate it. Over time, a levee system’s ability to reduce flood risk can change. As a result, some levee systems no longer meet the minimum National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) regulatory requirements to be accredited on the flood map. They become “non-accredited.” For non-accredited levee systems, flood maps show the areas behind the levee as a high-hazard flood zone. Buildings in this zone often carry a federal requirement to purchase flood insurance.

Other levees, which have been constructed or improved to a higher standard, meet at least the minimum NFIP regulatory requirements for reducing the flood hazard. Flood maps show these levee systems as “accredited,” and the land behind them is typically mapped as an area of moderate flood hazard. Still other communities are in the process of complying with the NFIP regulatory requirements. Their levees are shown as “provisionally accredited” levee systems until the community has gathered all the data/documentation needed for accreditation.

When flood zone designations change to reflect the current flood risk in areas with levees, NFIP flood insurance requirements may also change. In some cases, property owners are required to purchase flood insurance. In others, they are released from the mandatory purchase requirement. In your profession, it is important to stay aware of any upcoming changes to the levee system accreditation and to be prepared to discuss these changes, the flood risk associated with them, and the options your clients have. While flood insurance may not be federally required for areas affected by some of these levee systems, FEMA encourages owners to understand and take steps to reduce their risk by taking advantage of low-cost insurance options and mitigation techniques. You have a critical role in helping property owners understand and take steps to mitigate that risk.

The following sections describe the three different levee statuses in more detail.

Levee Outreach Toolkit Materials

Outreach materials are included at the end of each levee status section. These include customizable templates and fact sheets that will help you inform your clients about both the flood risk and any new building and flood insurance requirements. All of the templated materials were created in Microsoft Word so they can be customized by end users; they include key messages and information. Red brackets clearly mark the areas to insert community-specific information. Directions inside the brackets suggest the appropriate information to include. The templates are not designed for high-resolution printing, but they can be printed in color. Other FEMA resource materials are provided as PDF documents to protect their integrity. These can be printed but are not designed to be changed.

Non-Accredited Levee Systems

When new flood maps are being issued in a community with a levee system that never met or no longer meets the NFIP regulatory requirements for reducing the hazards associated with the base (1-percent-annual-chance) flood, the levee will be shown on the new map as being non-accredited. This means the flood risk around the levee will be mapped as a high-hazard area, known as a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA).

Because of the higher flood hazard, properties in these areas will be subject to the NFIP mandatory flood insurance purchase requirement once the new maps take effect. Property owners will be required to purchase a flood insurance policy if they have a mortgage from a federally regulated or insured lender.

Many property owners can save significantly on flood insurance coverage by purchasing a low-cost Preferred Risk Policy (PRP) for their building and contents before the new map becomes effective. PRPs offer the same level of risk reduction as a standard flood insurance policy, but at a reduced premium. Other low-cost insurance options, like the Newly Mapped Procedure and Grandfathering, are also available. Property owners can take other steps to reduce their risk through various mitigation techniques. Visit https://www.fema.gov/what-mitigation to learn more.

Levee Outreach Toolkit Materials and templates for use by real estate, Insurance, and Lending Professionals

Accredited Levee Systems

When levees are certified to reduce flood hazards to at least the minimum federal standard, the areas behind these accredited levee systems are mapped as moderate-hazard areas. Levee system accreditation does not guarantee that flooding will not occur. The flood hazard in that area has been reduced, not removed. There is always a risk of flooding for people who live or work near a levee, as a levee can fail or be overtopped by a flood larger than the one the levee was designed to contain. As a result, flooding could be catastrophic. Residents and business owners in these areas should seriously consider their risks and take appropriate steps to safeguard themselves and their properties. More than 20 percent of all flood claims come from areas with a moderate to low flood hazard.

Flood insurance is an important way to reduce financial risk. Most residents and business owners living behind an accredited levee, in an area mapped as having a moderate to low hazard, will qualify for the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP’s) Preferred Risk Policy (PRP). PRPs cost about one-third to one-half the price of a standard-rated flood insurance policy, while providing both building and contents coverage. Note that a 30-day waiting period is typical before a flood insurance policy becomes effective. For additional steps property owners can take to mitigate their risk, go to https://www.fema.gov/what-mitigation.

Outreach Materials and Templates for use by Real Estate, Insurance, and Lending Professionals

Provisionally Accredited Levee Systems

If your levee system is now identified as a Provisionally Accredited Levee (PAL) or will be when the preliminary flood maps become effective, it means the system previously met federal regulatory standards for reducing flood hazards, but additional documentation is now required to show that it still complies. During this period of data gathering and review, the levee systems is temporarily designated as a PAL, because the available data indicates that it likely still reduces the level of flood hazard as needed.

While the levee system is shown as provisionally accredited, the flood maps will recognize the levee as continuing to comply with the NFIP regulatory requirements; however, the PAL designation serves as a reminder that the risk could change. There is always a risk of flooding for people who live or work near a levee, because levees can fail or be overtopped by a flood larger than the one the levee was designed to contain. As a result, flooding could be catastrophic. Residents and business owners in these areas should seriously consider their risks and take appropriate steps to safeguard themselves and their properties. More than 20 percent of all flood claims come from areas with a moderate to low flood hazard.

One of the ways to reduce this risk is through flood insurance. Most residents and business owners living behind a PAL in a moderate- flood hazard area will qualify for the NFIP’s Preferred Risk Policy (PRP). PRPs cost about one-third to one-half the price of a standard-rated flood insurance policy, while providing both building and contents coverage. Note that a 30-day waiting period is typical before a flood insurance policy becomes effective. For additional steps property owners can take to mitigate their risk, go to https://www.fema.gov/what-mitigation.

Outreach Materials for use by Real Estate, Insurance, and Lending Professionals

For More Information

For additional information on levees, levee risk, levee safety, and mapping, visit FEMA’s Levee Resources Library or use the resources listed above.

For assistance, contact a Map Specialist in the FEMA Mapping and Insurance eXchange (FMIX) through the following methods:

  • Call (1-877) FEMA MAP (1-877-336-2627) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. through 7 p.m. (Eastern Time)
  • Email FEMAMapSpecialist@riskmapcds.com
  • Chat with a Map Specialist Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern Time)

Subscribe to receive updates on FEMA flood hazard mapping activities, including updates on levee-related activities, via email.

Last Updated: 
01/03/2020 - 10:24