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         January 29, 2023


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Update 2022/8/25
FEMA - Flooding



FEMA: On updating flood maps and flooding insurance


WT Staff
  1. How much money does FEMA need to update the flood maps?

Funding levels to update maps is about $275.5 million for fiscal year 2022 (source: link).

Since the inception of the National Flood Insurance Program in 1969, the U.S. has invested approximately $10.6 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars for flood hazard mapping. These cartographic tools have consistently improved both community planning and the construction of vital infrastructure lifelines such as highways, bridges and water treatment facilities.

  1. Are the FEMA maps up to date?

FEMA  revises and updates all floodplain areas and flood risk zones identified, delineated or established, based on an analysis of all-natural hazards affecting flood risks on a five-year cycle.  To accomplish this, FEMA uses allocated resources to identify areas of need. This process is coordinated at the regional level with state and local partners. FEMA identifies which maps need to be updated by having conversations with states, then communities, about their priorities. To learn more, read Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter III, Section 4101(e).

FEMA can verify that less than 22% of hydrologic analyses supporting effective flood maps were originally conducted prior to 1990 and less than 11% of hydrologic analyses were conducted prior to 1980. FEMA can also verify that approximately 85% of effective regulatory flood maps are more than five years old.  As addressed in responses to questions that follow, age is not the only relevant factor when determining if a map is up to date. 

  1. How often are they updated?

By statute, FEMA is required to re-evaluate all flood hazard studies at least once every five years, but that doesn’t always mean that all maps are updated every five years. FEMA applies a systematic assessment approach to understand if the flood risk depicted on a flood map meets current program standards or needs an update.

FEMA coordinates the management of flood hazard mapping needs in a comprehensive approach, referred to as the Coordinated Needs Management Strategy. The strategy allows FEMA to prioritize updates to ensure its mapped miles meet FEMA’s quality standard using the New, Validated, or Updated Engineering metric.

FEMA utilizes the metric to help meet the statutory requirement to assess, at least once every five years, whether all Flood Insurance Rate Maps and their underlying data are valid and current, to identify areas where the old maps do not reflect current risks in flood-prone areas.

In September 2020, FEMA was able to demonstrate that 80% of the inventory met technical standards for accuracy and currency, meaning that FEMA is on track to keep the inventory up to date on the statutorily required five-year cycle (updating data for 20% of the inventory every year).

  1. Are some maps more out-of-date than others? Or are all state maps updated at the same rate?

By statute, FEMA is required to reevaluate all flood hazard studies at least once every five years, but that doesn’t always mean that all maps are updated every five years. FEMA applies a systematic assessment approach to understand if the flood risk depicted on a flood map meets current program standards or needs an update.

Updates to flood maps are a collaboration between a community and FEMA, and approximately 22,000 communities participate in the NFIP.  This means that in any given time that are multiple map updates going on in a given state or territory on independent schedules. FEMA encourages NFIP participating communities to provide technical data to FEMA that may influence the depiction of the flood hazard as the agency cannot monitor all development that happens in or near the floodplain.

Community officials can submit scientific or technical data to FEMA to support a local map revision at any time, and communities can request changes to flood maps at any time. When updating the maps, FEMA regional teams will work with the communities to ensure local knowledge, areas of concern and data sources are integrated into mapping studies to update Flood Insurance Rate Maps.

Dates of individual flood maps can be searched online at the Map Service Center by address or place.

  1. How does flood insurance work if you’re not in a mapped flood area?

Homeowners, renters and businesses only need to be in a community that participates in the National Flood Insurance Program. A list of the 22,000 communities is here.

If you’re using the Flood Insurance Rate Map to determine your property’s flood risk and whether you should purchase flood insurance to protect your property, you’re only looking at one aspect of the overall flood risk for an individual property. It’s important to recognize what the FIRMs are and what they are not. FIRMs are not predictions of where it will flood, and they don’t just show where it’s flooded in the past. These maps are snapshots in time designed to show areas where minimum standards apply for floodplain management and areas where flood insurance is required. The key point here is that the maps are not predictions of where it will flood.

Storms don’t follow lines on a map. When it comes to flood risk we know, where it can rain, it can flood. FEMA does have a tool that moves away from lines on a map and addresses individual flood risk. The National Flood Insurance Program has overhauled its rating methodology so now when you call an agent you can receive information about your property’s unique flood risk. The new methodology, Risk Rating 2.0, now leverages the mapping data – along with cutting-edge technology – to obtain a better understanding of a single property’s unique flood risk. Visit fema.gov to learn more.

Whether you live inside or outside of a high-risk flood area, if you own property, you should consider purchasing flood insurance for the protection and peace of mind it brings.







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