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In this Issue of Welcome to the Flood Zone:

Message from Jim
Announcement: Portland Society for Architecture hosts "Recognizing and Mitigating Flood Risk"
In the News: "Study: Every $1 Spent on Buying Flood Lands Could Save U.S. $5 in Future Damages", "Insurers Cherry-Pick Homes, Leave Flooded Ones For Feds", and "North Dakota Risk Assessment Mapservice Offers Flood Risk Data"
Resources: "NFIP: Insurance Agents Lowest Floor Guide", "Framing the Challenge of Urban Flooding in the United States"
NFIP Guidance: NFIP Reauthorization & "A Look at Flood Insurance in 2020"
Real Estate Corner: "10 Resolutions for Your Home in the New Year" and "How to Guard Against 9 Winter Home Hazards"
Business Corner: "Top 10 Resolutions for Your Most Successful New Year"

Banner Image: The aftermath of Winter Storm Jonas, where on top of two feet of snow in some areas, high winds pushed substantial amounts of water inland on the coast of New Jersey. Photo from: "Winter Storm Jonas Flood Vicitims - You Have 60 Days to File a Proof of Loss", Merlin Law Group, January 25, 2016.


Message from Jim

Learning how FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are created, and what purpose they are intended to serve, is a valuable component of understanding risk and preparing for a flood. A flood map depicts an area prone to having a higher risk of flooding based on proximity to water bodies, but was never intended to define the landward extent of any type or size of a flooding event. In other words, FEMA’s flood maps do not identify actual risk, or areas which are safe from flooding.

The primary purpose of the FIRMs is to provide a mortgage lender holding a federally-backed or insured loan in excess of $5000 with a resource to evaluate flood risk on the collateral of the loan. FIRMs also help communities implement higher regulation within Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs), designated as Zone A or V on the map. Other peripheral benefits of a flood map include long term community planning, mitigation strategies, and the creation of preferred evacuation routes.

It is also important to understand that not all flood maps are created equal. Initial flood maps were based on United States Geological Survey (USGS) maps which featured topographic contour intervals ranging from 10’ to an excess of 100’. As a general rule, the larger the contour interval, the less topographically accurate the flood map. Many modernized flood maps have been created using smaller contour intervals (1’, 2’, or 5’) due to improved data collection as a result of advances in technology, but remember even more accurate engineer-computed lines cannot define actual risk.

Depending on location and the availability of funding to perform flood studies, the size and shape of a SFHA may be the result of:

a) A new flood study generated from more accurate data which evaluates physical ground changes and development in a particular area resulting in a revised Base Flood Elevation (BFE), and a new shape of the SFHA.
b) The reshaping of a SFHA utilizing more accurate data, but without a new flood study. This effort does not evaluate physical changes and development in a particular area, but may more accurately locate an existing BFE on the surface of the earth.
c) A transfer of USGS data to a new map format. This effort does not utilize more accurate data, or evaluate physical changes and development in a particular area.

Identifying which type of flood map exists in your area requires a certain level of mapping experience and knowledge, so I recommend implementing sound mitigation strategies and decisions that blanket all types of flood risk.

We must accept that we are in a constantly changing world and prepare by learning the strengths and weaknesses of the resources available, modifying our perceptions and behaviors accordingly. A flood map can be your friend, but as with an actual friend, forming a strong relationship is not possible without understanding each other’s personal attributes and weaknesses.



January 23, 2020, 12:00 - 1:30 PM, Portland, Maine

The Portland Society for Architecture hosts "Recognizing and Mitigating Flood Risk". Jim will provide a presentation on flood risk concepts and impacts, followed by input from city staff to discuss local planning efforts.

Click here for more information and to register for the event.


In the News

Study: Every $1 Spent on Buying Flood Lands Could Save U.S. $5 in Future Damages

Insurance Journal, December 10, 2019

Which would cost American taxpayers more: Paying now to protect undeveloped areas that are likely to flood in the coming decades, or allowing development to proceed based on current projections and paying for subsequent flood damages when they inevitably occur?

A new study set out to answer that question by comparing floodplain protection today to predicted flood losses. Its authors say they found that every $1 invested to protect floodplains saves at least $5 in potential future flood damages.

Read more!

Insurers Cherry-Pick Homes, Leave Flooded Ones For Feds

By Thomas Frank, E&E News: Climatewire, December 3, 2019

Taxpayers could be forced to spend billions of dollars to bail out the federal government's flood program as private-sector insurers begin covering homes with little risk of flooding while clustering peril-prone properties in the indebted public program.

An E&E News review of state and federal records shows that insurance companies have escaped paying large claims after major hurricanes, like Michael, and are likely targeting homes that are profitable to insure. It comes as insurers are beginning to offer flood coverage for the first time in decades.

Read more!

North Dakota Risk Assessment Mapservice Offers Flood Risk Data

By Jill Schramm, Minot Daily News, January 1, 2020

More communities are working with FEMA to develop mapping tools that provide more current and accurate flood risk information for municipal planning and homeowner use. Laura Horner, the State RiskMap Coordinator states, "It's really meant to help inform and to allow an individual to go into a situation with the information needed to understand their risk...The advantage of NDRAM is it captures areas that FEMA does not, such smaller ponding areas that might only affect a few lots. It captures rural areas and communities that FEMA hasn’t been mapping."

Read more!



lowest floor guid

NFIP: Insurance Agents' Lowest Floor Guide

This is a great resource to learn about the features of a building that determine how flood insurance premiums are calculated. The building diagrams described are distinguished during the process of performing an Elevation Certificate. This information is beneficial for more than just insurance agents.

Check it out!

urban flooding

Framing the Challenge of Urban Flooding in the United States

The National Academy of Sciences has published a new book, available in print or as a free downloadable PDF, on the important topic of urban flooding. The objective was to contribute knowledge by providing real world examples from specific metropolitan areas, to identify causes, adverse impacts, recovery problems, and effective mitigation strategies; to estimate the extent of flooding in those areas; and to relate causes and actions to existing federal resources or policies.

Click here to access the publication!


NFIP Guidance

National Flood Insurance Program: Reauthorization

Congress must periodically renew the NFIP’s statutory authority to operate. On December 20, 2019, the President signed legislation passed by Congress that extends the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP’s) authorization to September 30, 2020. Read more!

Opinion: A Look at Flood Insurance in 2020

By Joe Rossi, The Patriot Ledger, January 2, 2020

Many leaders in the insurance industry anticipated that 2019, much like 2018, would be a tumultuous year for flood insurance. They were correct, and uncertainty will continue into 2020. Congress’s actions (or inactions) influence the whole industry. More recently, the NFIP has been suffering from a lack of a long term reauthorization by Congress. The program has been propped up by short term extensions and proposed reform measures that have received mixed reactions from all industries. To add to the uncertainty, FEMA’s new rating system, Risk Rating 2.0 which has seen immense pressure by Congress to be halted, has now been postponed into 2021. What’s ahead in 2020? It’s important to review 2019 to see where 2020 takes us.

Read more!

for sale

Real Estate Corner

10 Resolutions for Your Home in the New Year

By Nabin Paudyal, Lifehack, 2016

This post is a little outdated, but the resolutions can still apply this year! Learn tips on how you can make your home safer, more energy efficient, and more enjoyable!

Read more!


How to Guard Against 9 Winter Home Hazards

By Devon Thorsby, Real Estate, November 30, 2016

Heading into winter, be sure your home has been appropriately maintained to function throughout the season – from your heating system to properly weather-stripped windows and doors. And keep a keen eye out for problems such as a damaged roof, slippery porch or potential fire hazard.

Learn more!


Business Corner

Top 10 Resolutions for Your Most Successful New Year

We love resolutions, so here's some more!

Click here to read "Win at Work and in Business With the Right New Year's Resolutions"


January Flood Funny

jan flood cartoon
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