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Frequently Asked Questions
FIRM – Flood Insurance Rate Maps
Flood Maps & Flood Zones
1. How can I view the New Flood Maps/What FEMA flood zone is my property in?
- Instructions for viewing the FEMA maps can be found here.
- The City of Chesapeake Planning Department has the current official FEMA FIRM maps and the proposed FIRM maps currently out for public review. These maps can be viewed in the Planning Department on the 2nd floor of City Hall.
2. How will I know if I am in the floodplain from the maps?
The ‘AE’ designated area (blue shading) is in the 100 year floodplain and could be required to have flood insurance. Zone X (yellow shading) is the 500 year floodplain.
3. Where else can I go to see Flood Maps?
- Public Libraries for access to a computer.
- Planning Department, Second Floor, City Hall Building.
- Development & Permits, Third Floor, City Hall Building
4. Who can assist with other questions:
- Flood Maps & Ordinance- Development & Permits 757-382-6260.
- FEMA- 800-611-6122
- See your insurance agent.
The following questions and answers are provided to the home owner for informational purposes only.
5. Why is my property shown in a high-risk flood zone? My house has never flooded.
Flood zones are determined by risk, not by history. Because of the sporadic occurrence of flood events, it is not possible to base the delineation of flood zones on the lack of flooding occurrences in a particular location or flooding occurrences in recent memory. FEMA’s engineering studies develop a long-term projection of flood risk. FEMA estimates that structures in designated SFHAs have a one-in-four chance of incurring flood damage during the term of a 30-year mortgage.
6. What is a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)?
SFHA is used interchangeably with 100 year flood plain. The SFHA is a high-risk area defined as any land that would be inundated by a flood having a 1-percent chance of occurring in a given year (also referred to as the base flood or 100 year flood). Development may take place within an SFHA, provided that development complies with local floodplain management ordinances, which must meet the minimum Federal and City requirements. Flood insurance is required for insurable structures within high-risk areas.
7. How are the maps updated?
FEMA uses state-of-the-art analysis methods and digital engineering applications to define flood risks. Then FEMA overlays the flood risk information on detailed topographic mapping based on Geographic Information System (GIS) or Global Positioning System (GPS) data.
8. What is the process when FEMA changes a FIRM?
FEMA works closely with community officials and uses the best available data to ensure new maps are accurate. Before the maps become effective, FEMA holds meetings with community officials to present, explain, and receive feedback on the maps. FEMA then publishes two notices in local papers to notify officials and property owners that the maps are available for inspection. After the second notice, a 90-day appeal period begins. Appeals must be received within the 90 days and must include technical and/or scientific data to demonstrate that the proposed Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) are scientifically or technically incorrect. Non-technical concerns, such as incorrect street names, discrepancies in community boundaries, etc., can also be raised during this time. If FEMA and the community are unable to agree on the resolution of an appeal, the community can request a review by an independent Scientific Resolution Panel.
9. When will the new maps become effective?
After all appeals are resolved, FEMA issues a Letter of Final Determination (LFD). The new map becomes effective six months after the date the LFD is issued. The estimated effective date is summer 2014.
10. How will the new flood hazard maps affect me?
Flood risks change over time, and new maps will likely result in changes to SFHA boundaries. The boundaries might increase to include properties that were previously in low- or moderate-risk zones, or they might decrease to exclude properties that were previously in high-risk zones. These changes will impact community development. The most direct impact on an affected homeowner will be changes in flood insurance rates and requirements. A Federal flood insurance requirement applies to structures in SFHAs that carry a mortgage backed by a federally regulated lender or servicer. Flood insurance rates are lower in areas of low- or moderate-risk, but flooding can still occur in these areas. Therefore, FEMA recommends flood insurance coverage, even if it is not required by law or lender.
11. Can the City provide a letter indicating the floodplain status of my property?
No. The City makes the official floodplain maps available for self-assessment and research purposes, however, the City cannot be the responsible party for making an “official flood zone determination”. That is the legal responsibility of the mortgage lender and /or insurance company. It is recommended that the property owner contact their flood insurance agency or lender for this information.
12. What can a property owner do if they believe they are incorrectly determined to be in a flood zone?
a. A property owner can submit a LOMA (Letter of Map Amendment) to FEMA. The LOMA is typically prepared by a surveyor or a citizen and then submitted to FEMA. A LOMA establishes a property's location in relation to the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). LOMA’s are usually issued because a property has been inadvertently mapped as being in the floodplain, but is actually on natural high ground above the base flood elevation. (www.fema.gov/letter-map-amendment-loma)
and / or
b. A Developer can petition to FEMA to have an entire development removed from the floodplain by having a LOMR (Letter of Map Revision). This application can be prepared by a surveyor and the developer. The City of Chesapeake’s Department of Development and Permits (3rd floor) will review the application if there will be any filled areas prior to the Developer or surveyor submitting to FEMA. (www.fema.gov/letter-map-amendment-loma)
13. Does elevating a structure on posts or pilings remove a building from the SFHA?
Elevating a structure on posts or pilings does not remove a building from the SFHA. An elevated building will still require a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA, see question 12(a) above). If the ground around the supporting posts or pilings is within the floodplain, the building is still at risk. Ground saturation can lead to decreased load-bearing capacity of the soil supporting the posts or pilings, which can lead to partial or full collapse of the structure. Flood insurance will be required as a condition of receipt of Federal or federally regulated financing for the structure. FEMA recommends securely elevating structures above the SFHA to reduce the risk to life and property, and has established a rating structure that could result in significant savings in premium costs for those who elevate.
14. Who should get flood insurance?
Properties within the 100 year floodplain are required to have flood insurance if there is a federally backed mortgage. If your property is outside of the 100 year floodplain, FEMA still recommends property owners consider purchasing flood insurance as an inexpensive coverage against floods.
FACT: People outside of high-risk areas file more than 20% of NFIP claims and receive one-third of disaster assistance for flooding.
15. How is flood insurance purchased? Who can answer insurance questions?
A policy may be purchased from any licensed property insurance agent or broker who is in good standing in the state in which the agent is licensed or through any agent representing a Write Your Own (WYO) Company, including an employee of the company authorized to issue the coverage. The agent will complete the flood insurance application, obtain the proper supporting documentation required, and determine the rates for establishing the flood insurance premium.
Contact FEMA for a list of certified agents in the area (800-611-6122) or visit the FloodSmart website.
16. Is the purchase of flood insurance mandatory?
The Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 and the National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994 mandate that federally regulated, supervised, or insured financial institutions and Federal Agency lenders require flood insurance for buildings located in a participating NFIP community and in an SFHA. Some financial institutions may require flood insurance for properties outside the SFHA as part of their own risk management process.