What Is a Flood Zone?

(Here's what you need to know)
Are you in a flood zone?

People love to be near the water. Whether it’s a river, lake, or the sea, a body of water makes for a beautiful landscape and many fun activities. Unfortunately, these bodies of water can also cause flooding. Flooding can happen at any time no matter where you live, so it is important to get educated about floods and flood zones. Read on to learn more about these natural disasters and your risk.

Flooding Statistics

  • Floods are the #1 natural disaster in the United States, causing more deaths and damage than tornadoes and hurricanes.
  • The average annual cost of damage due to flooding in the United States is over $2 billion.
  • The most flood insurance claims in 2012 were received from Louisiana residents.
  • Texas is the state with the most flood related deaths in the last 36 years.
  • Flash floods are the most dangerous type of flooding.
  • Most flood-related deaths are due to people trying to drive in flooded areas.
  • Causes of flooding include heavy rainfall, melting snow, and building or structure collapse.

What Is the Definition of a Flood Zone?

A flood zone is an area designated on a Flood Hazard Boundary Map. These geographical areas are given a specific rating depending on the estimated flood risk. A flood zone will determine how much flood insurance will cost, and whether or not it is mandatory to carry flood insurance.

  • A: Flood zones that start with A are considered to be at high-risk for flooding. These areas are usually along ponds, rivers, and streams.
  • B or shaded X: These flood zones are considered to be moderate risk areas.
  • C or un-shaded X: These areas are considered to be at low risk for floods.
  • V: These areas have not been evaluated for flood risks.

The designation V is used for high-risk coastal areas, which may receive damage due to flooding and strong waves in storms.

More Flood Terminology

Coastal Barrier Resource System (CBRS): These are areas of restricted development along coastlines. These designated areas provide essential barrier protection against flood damage to inland areas.

Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM): A map that shows the flood zones and floodplain boundaries for your community. These maps are regularly updated, so talk with an insurance agent to get the most updates FIRM for your area.

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP): The NFIP is a standardized insurance program, established by FEMA and offered through insurance agents. As property insurance does not cover flooding, purchasing NFIP flood insurance is the only way to protect yourself financially in the event of flood damage. There is a 30-day waiting period for flood insurance to take effect. This means you cannot buy flood insurance the day before flooding is predicted and expect to receive coverage.

Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA): Also known as floodplains, these are areas of land that are designated by FEMA to be at a high risk for flooding.


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How Do I Find Out My Flood Zone Designation?

There are a few different ways to find out your flood zone designation and risk. One way is to ask a local insurance agent, as these agents have access to the latest Flood Insurance Rate Maps. If you are looking to buy a new house, be sure to talk with your agent and your realtor about the flood zone risk of the property before you move in. 

If you own a home or other property, the flood zone might be listed on the title. If these methods won’t work for you, you can always go online to find flood maps. Many state or city websites will have flood maps of local areas for residents to view. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, also has flood maps available through their website.

For a more personalized assessment, you can hire a surveyor to assess your home for flooding risk. A surveyor will use many different factors to assess your individual risk, including your proximity to bodies of water, your home’s foundation, and the age of your home.

Do I Have To Carry Flood Insurance?

Depending on where you live, flood insurance may be mandatory. In an A or V flood zone, flood insurance is required. These are typically areas that are coastal, directly on the waterfront, or near a river. It could also be an area that receives a high amount of rain throughout the year. Moderate and low risk areas may not require you to carry flood insurance, but depending on the weather and the proximity of the area to bodies of water, it might be a good idea to carry flood insurance anyway.

Flood insurance covers rising waters and flood damage, as well as flooding from hurricanes. Homeowners insurance, condo insurance and mobile home insurance do not typically cover flood damage.

Can I Protect My Business with Flood Insurance?

In addition to residential flood insurance, commercial flood insurance is available. This insurance protects businesses in case of a flood. Flooding damage can quickly cause over $75,000 of damage to a commercial business. 

Many businesses are unable to reopen after a severe flood if they don’t have flood insurance to cover the expenses for cleanup, repairs, and replacement of damaged business collateral, equipment and furniture. If you own a business or commercial property, adding this insurance is smart, especially if you are in an area known to be a flood zone.

Do Flood Zones Change?

Knowing your current flood zone is one thing, but you need to stay updated on any changes in your risk of floods. Environmental changes, new construction, or recurring weather patterns can change your flood zone rating. Changes to your flood zone can lead to higher insurance premium costs. It’s important to reexamine your flood zone risks from time to time to avoid any surprises.

Flooding can happen in any area, from a coastal seaside home to a business in the middle of the desert. While the chances of flooding in certain areas may be low, a “no risk” flood zone simply does not exist. Keep yourself informed about flood zones and your insurance options to get the most protection from this type of natural disaster.

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