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Flooding in Houston, Texas after Hurricane Harvey, 2017. Photo Credit: Richard Carson | Reuters

Welcome to the Flood Zone is a nationally distributed resource for those interested in flood zone issues, land surveying, real estate, history, and educational opportunities. If you no longer wish to receive this newsletter, simply click the unsubscribe link in the footer of this message.


In this Issue of Welcome to the Flood Zone:

Message from Jim
Announcement: Adam received a Certificate of Locating Competency!
Education: Upcoming CEU opportunity for the Androscoggin Valley Council of Realtors
Flood Mapping Updates: New updates have been made to FEMA's Flood Map Service Center
Resources: Flood After Fire, National Hazard Mitigation Saves, and Green Infrastructure
In the News: "More Questions than Answers" by Wendy Lathrop, and "Corps Pitches Unprecedented Watershed Study After Harvey" By Mihir Zaver
Real Estate Corner: Selling Real Estate in the Flood Zone

Jim Headshot

Message from Jim

Water always takes the shape of the container being used to hold it. In many ways, land development and watershed modifications become the container and change the shape of water, or in other words, define drainage flow intensity, direction, and volume. Outside of a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), where risk is deemed as being low or moderate, development practices which modify the land and change drainage may be regulated less strictly and the effects of development on the watershed may not be as obvious. This means flood risk could be increasing with little awareness of it. Since approximately 25% of all flood insurance claims occur outside of a SFHA, this is a great place to acknowledge flood risk.

When fixing problems or trying to achieve a goal, I try to identify the easiest way to create momentum to get things moving in the right direction. In the flood program, the easiest way to better prepare for flood risk is to obtain a flood insurance policy since flood coverage is often not part of a homeowner’s policy. Outside of a SFHA, flood insurance is generally not required by a lender, and a Preferred Risk Policy (PRP) is rarely recommended. Unless a lender forces coverage through a PRP, it is an optional purchase flood insurance policy with a lower annual premium since properties in non-Special Flood Hazard Areas are generally identified as having lower risk.

Per a FEMA brochure dated October 2017, the average cost of a PRP is approximately $395 a year. This is less than $8 per week to have flood coverage. Assuming that going out to eat can easily cost $60, one less dinner date every other month will almost get you there! This requires no other effort than sitting down with your insurance agent and filling out the paperwork. Again, with approximately 25% percent of all flood claims being outside of a SFHA, this is a wise idea!

Of course eligibility requirements do exist, but they are not daunting if a poor loss history does not exist. If you are in a participating community, building and contents insurance are available for owners of all eligible occupancy types. Coverage for contents located in a basement is excluded.

With many communities transitioning from the paper Flood Insurance Rate Map to the Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map (DFIRM), a PRP can be a wise option if a structure is being remapped from a non-SFHA into a SFHA (going from lower risk to higher risk). Though “grandfathering a Preferred Risk Policy” does not apply, having a PRP in place before the date a DFIRM becomes effective will slow the process of moving toward a full risk rated premium through gradual annual increases. The savings could be in the tens of thousands for the same exact coverage, and you will be protected should flood damage occur!

Individuals must be accountable for preparing for future flood risk. The program is making great progress updating flood maps in areas with the highest risk, but not all maps can be updated due to budget constraints. Unfortunately, with development, watershed modifications, and the impacts of climate change, even the updated maps will become inaccurate over time. Having a Preferred Risk Policy is a very practical way to address risk amidst a changing environment.

Sit down with a qualified insurance agent knowledgeable of the flood program to find out what your options are should a map revision be proposed in your community. Find out if you are eligible for a Preferred Risk Policy and see how premiums will change over time based on your specific property. Here are some links to resources to help you learn more:

2017 NFIP Flood Insurance Manual - Preferred Risk Policy
Preferred Risk Policy Eligibility Extension - FAQs



We are pleased to announce that one of our surveying staff, Adam Hawkes, recently obtained the Certificate of Locating Competency from Staking University, in Manteno, Illinois. Congratulations, Adam! We are excited to add your knowledge and experience of utility location to our services!



We will be presenting "Understanding Land Surveying and Flood Zones", at the Androscoggin Valley Council of Realtors meeting on February 28th, in Auburn, Maine. This course is sponsored by The Real Estate Learning Group, and is approved by the director of the Maine Real Estate Commission for 3 credit hours for real estate licensees.


Flood Mapping Updates

Map Service Center Enhancements and Related Tools Updates

A number of important changes are coming to FEMA’s Map Service Center (MSC) and related services as the agency continues to improve how they provide information related to the delivery of flood maps.

On February 3rd, FEMA implemented changes to the MSC Address Search tool and enhancements to the National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL) Viewer. The updates streamline access to the NFHL, and reorganize how some other tools are accessed. These updates help reduce the complexity of FEMA for map users by reducing the steps necessary to get the information they need and providing an authoritative, consolidated view of flood risk.

Some examples of updates:
* You can now view an interactive NFHL map immediately following an address search.
* The dynamic NFHL shows the current effective information, including Letter of Map Revisions since the most recent flood map revision.
* The Preliminary Map Comparison Tool, which allows you to see "preliminary" and "effective" maps overlaid on one another.




Flood After Fire

After a historic wildfire season, FEMA is warning that flood risk will be much higher in those regions affected. "...wildfires leave the ground charred, barren, and unable to absorb water, creating conditions ripe for flash flooding and mudflow."

Download FEMA's Fact Sheet: "Flood After Fire" to learn more.

mitigation saves

National Hazard Mitigation Saves

The National Institute of Building Sciences and the Multihazard Mitigation Council has released it's 2017 Interim Report on the cost savings of employing mitigation strategies against natural hazards, and it has good news! Research shows that in terms of safety, preventing property damage/loss and disruption of day-to-day life, society saves $6 in future costs for every $1 spent through mitigation grants through select federal agencies and has benefit-cost ratio of 4:1 for investments which exceed certain 2015 model building codes.

Read more from the Summary of Findings.


Green Infrastructure

Green infrastructure reduces flood damage through practices that absorb stormwater runoff and prevent pipe networks from becoming overwhelmed during heavy rainfalls. Examples include enhanced infiltration through rain gardens, bioswales, and permeable pavements.

Learn more from the Environmental Protection Agency.


In the News

More Questions than Answers

By Wendy Lathrop, PS, CFM, The American Surveyor, December 2017 Issue

Fellow Professional Land Surveyor and Certified Floodplain Manager, Wendy Lathrop, has published a great article on the challenge we face as consultants offering guidance on complicated issues relating to flood zones. Sometimes, there really is no simple answer. This article focuses on a question we hear often: "Will an Elevation Certificate lower my insurance premium?"

Wendy writes:
"This question seems straight forward on its face, but involves a number of intertwined variables that precluded a simple “yes” or “no” response and made my response a lot more complicated than what the writer probably wanted to hear. However, I felt a shorter answer could have been misleading."

Read more to find out just how complex the answer can be!

Corps Pitches Unprecedented Watershed Study After Harvey

By Mihir Zaveri, Houston Chronicle, January 21, 2018

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing a wide-ranging study of flooding in the Houston metropolitan area in response to the region's devastating deluges, including Hurricane Harvey, an undertaking that could examine nearly every aspect of flood control, such as the city's overburdened drainage system, a changing climate and the impact of paving over prairie and rural landscapes."

Read more!

for sale

Real Estate Corner

Selling Real Estate in the Flood Zone?

If you are listing a property that is in a high risk flood zone, you might want to talk to an insurance agent and get an estimate for the additional costs that a buyer might face if flood insurance is required as part of their mortgage. You may find it necessary to adjust the listing price to account for that. Or your seller could offer to cover the cost of the first year's insurance premium to make the buyer more comfortable with their purchase. Not sure that the property should even be scaled into a high risk flood zone? You might want to seek professional consultation to apply for a Letter of Map Change.


Flood Funny

Happy Valentine's Day! Hope your plans don't get flooded!

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