From the Mountains to the Oceans:
How to Build Sustainability and Resiliency in FEMA Special Flood Hazard Areas
Notes Summary by Pamela Patrick
Held on November 21, 2014 in Foxborough MA, Hosted Jointly by BSCES and MALSCE
Speakers included: Peter Richardson (BSCES), Richard Zingarelli (State NFIP Coordinator),
and John Grace (FEMA Region 1)
National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is insurance backed by the federal government which is made available to residence of communities that participate. It was established in 1968, and required mapping of flood prone areas. Information is used for insurance, mapping, and regulatory matters. Nearly all communities in Massachusetts participate in NFIP. NFIP is $30 Billion dollars in debt due primarily to Sandy and Katrina. The primary objectives of this conference were to clearly understand what NFIP is (and is not) and to gain a general understanding of FEMA’s recommendations.
Important notes about flood insurance:
· All overland flooding is covered.
· Limitations apply to basement areas.
· Premiums depend on age of structure, flood zone, and height of lowest flower.
· Federal law requires lenders to require a property owner to purchase and maintain flood insurance for homes within Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) hazard maps areas.
· Remember, FEMA offers “recommendations” but does not “regulate”. NFIP can provide “requirements” for insurance policies / rates.
Important notes about flood mapped zones:
· Zones VE or V1 to V30 = 100 year coastal flood, experience direct wave action.
o Building Code: Residential structures must be on piles
· Zones AE or A1 to A30 = 1% chance flood zone
o Building Code: Residential structures must have wet proofing in basements
o Building Code: Non-residential structures can have dry proofing basements
· Either A or V “trigger insurance policy purchase requirements”
· Note that outside of A or V does not indicate “no flooding potential”…
o It merely indicates “minimal flooding potential”.
· Flood insurance maps do not show potential flooding from other sources: ponding, utilities, failures of levees, dams, etc.
· If you are outside FEMA flood zone there is no requirement to build above high groundwater table elevation.
Important notes about mitigation techniques:
· It is difficult to obtain permits for Dunes and Beach Nourishment.
· Best practice is to raise the lowest level of the house.
· Remember to lower footings enough so that foundation elements do not become exposed during erosion event.
· Seawalls are not realistic / feasible for private home owners. Private home owners do not design maintenance programs and/or operation plans for seawalls. This is required to “take you out” of flood zone requirement. Therefore, only USACE and similar agencies build adequate sea walls.
· There is an effort to move away from the term “100 year flood” and instead use the term “1%/year chance flood.” This new term seems to reminder laypersons that there is a chance a large flood could happen, even if one has happened within the last 100 years.
· When you have a FEMA map (available for free downloads from websites), consider looking at report / study that was used to produce the map. The study will have more information and give you a sense of level of confidence in the map at the specific site of interest.
· Some insurance policies are subsidized. For example: older homes (“Pre-FIRM”) are not rated by elevation. They are grandfathered in when the maps are made / changed.
· Small modifications (eg; deck or walkway) can have substantial impacts on insurance policies, especially if property straddles two different flood zones.