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What Is Flood Zone AO? Your Risk and Insurance Costs

On a flood map, Flood Zone AO is a high-risk area with a 1% annual chance of experiencing a flood in a given year. Flooding is typically caused by sheet flow, a thin layer of water sliding down sloping terrain. Average flood depths typically range from one to three feet.

Homeowners in Zone AO are required to buy flood insurance if they have a government-backed mortgage but private mortgage lenders may enforce this requirement, as well. Flood policies in A zones through the National Insurance Flood Insurance Program cost, on average, $1,706.45 per year.

What is Flood Zone AO?

Flood Zone AO is a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) with a 1% annual chance of flooding. Flood depths typically range from one to three feet and are typically caused by sheet flow on sloping terrain. Sheet flow occurs when water falls in a thin layer over ground with a gentle slant and then pools if the area does not have defined drainage systems.

If your home is located in an AO flood zone designation and you have a government-backed mortgage, you will be required to buy flood insurance. However, private mortgage lenders may also enforce this requirement due to the high risk of flood hazards.

Insuring Flood Zone AO

Standard homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. To get coverage, you will need to purchase a separate policy, either through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or a private insurance company. With NFIP policies, you can purchase coverage separately for building (your home's structure) and personal belongings (e.g., furniture or electronics).

The average cost of NFIP flood insurance in Zone AO is $1,706.45 per year.

The NFIP vs. Private Flood Insurance for Flood Zone AO

NFIP policies are commonly purchased because they are widely available in 23,000 communities nationwide. Private policies also have certain advantages if you want more coverage at a cheaper rate:

  • Higher coverage limits: NFIP policies offer up to $250,000 of building coverage and $100,000 of personal contents coverage for a single-family dwelling. Private flood insurers may sell policies that exceed these coverage limits.

  • Replacement cost value for personal property: Personal property is only insured at actual cash value (item value, minus depreciation) with NFIP policies. Some private insurers may reimburse you for your property's replacement cost value, allowing you to replace the item at today's value following a covered flood loss.

Are Homes in Flood Zone AO Required to Have Flood Insurance?

As an SFHA, homeowners in Zone AO are required to purchase flood insurance.

Even if you live outside an SFHA, you may still want to consider buying flood insurance. Low-risk flood zones have reduced flood risks but the possibility is not entirely eliminated. Just one inch of floodwater can cause up to $25,000 in damages according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These damages will not be covered under standard homeowners insurance.

Homeowners in Zone AO are required to buy flood insurance if they have a government-backed mortgage and private lenders may require it as well.

Is My Home in Flood Zone AO?

The FEMA website has online flood insurance rate maps that allow you to enter your zip code and see flood zone designations in your area.

How Do Flood Zones Affect Home Insurance Costs?

After the implementation of Risk Rating 2.0 in 2021, FEMA uses flood zones primarily for designating SFHAs, which would indicate which homes require flood insurance. They are no longer used in calculating NFIP policy premiums. Instead, premiums are determined by the property's specific features, such as:

  • Foundation type

  • Height of lowest floor relative to base flood elevation

  • Replacement cost value of the home's structure

  • Historical losses

Find Affordable Homeowners Insurance Rates

How Much is Flood Insurance in Flood Zone AO?

The average cost of NFIP flood insurance in Zone AO is $1,706.45 per year according to February 2022 data by FEMA. Zone AO flood insurance rates are quite high due to the increased risk of flooding with average depths of one to three feet. However, the actual cost can vary significantly based on your level of coverage, your property's replacement cost value and its location.

Flood Zone AO is a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) with a 1% annual chance of flooding.

Private Flood Insurance

Cheaper flood insurance premiums may be available from private flood insurance providers. Below are sample rates in Florida provided by The Flood Insurance Agency:

Flood Zone

Annual Premium Quote

B, C, X zones

$669.90

All A zones

$875.17

All V zones

$2,094.75

Source: The Flood Insurance Agency (TFIA)
*For $250,000 building coverage and $100,000 personal contents coverage

What Does a Flood Zone Mean in Relation to Risk?

The letters preceding a flood zone signal whether your home is located in a low- or high-risk zone:

  • Zones preceded by letters B, C and X: Moderate- to low-risk flood zones with no flood insurance requirement for homes with government-backed mortgages.

  • Zones preceded by letters A or V: Special Flood Hazard Areas with a high risk of experiencing a flood in a given year. Flood insurance requirements apply for homes with government-backed mortgages.

Standard homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage.

Tips for Homeowners in Flood Zone AO

The following tips can help you protect your home and personal belongings, especially in a high-risk flood zone, like Zone AO:

  • Document all of your personal belongings and their value.

  • Store valuables and critical documents in waterproof containers above the base flood elevation.

  • If possible, elevate utility systems (e.g., furnaces, water heaters) at least 12 inches above the BFE.

  • Consider replacing carpeting with water-resistant tiles.

  • Seal basement walls with waterproofing compounds.

  • Prevent pooling water by installing flood vents in enclosed areas (e.g., foundation walls, garages).

  • Consult with a plumber to clear pipes of any backed-up sewage.

  • Secure outdoor furniture to prevent them from being swept away during a flood.

  • Seal cracks and gaps in windows, doors and gaps around pipes.

  • Elevate your home with stilts or piers.

  • Build new homes away from water sources, like rivers and shorelines.

  • Landscape your yard so it slopes away from your home and detached structures.

  • Coat your walls in water-resistant sheathing.

FAQs

What is AO flood zone meaning?

Zone AO is a flood zone designation with a 1% annual chance of experiencing a flood, usually caused by thin sheets of water cascading over sloping terrain. As a Special Flood Hazard Area, residential property owners in this high-risk flood zone are required to buy flood insurance if they have a government-backed mortgage.

What is the best flood zone designation?

Zone X is generally considered a low- or moderate-risk zone with a 0.2% chance of flooding in a given year. Flood insurance requirements will not be enforced on residential properties in this zone.

What is the highest flood zone?

Zones preceded by the letters A or X are considered zones with a high risk of flooding (1% annual chance).

What does BFE stand for in flood zones?

Base flood elevations (BFE) on flood maps represent how high water is expected to rise during a flood. The base flood elevation for Zone AO, for example, ranges between one and three feet.

Need Flood Insurance?

If you live in Zone AO and you have a government-backed mortgage then you are required to maintain flood coverage. While NFIP policy is one option, you may find a lower-cost policy with a private insurer, plus other benefits, like replacement cost coverage and higher coverage limits. SmartFinancial can match you with flood insurance and homeowners insurance providers based on your needs and budget. Just enter your zip code below or call 855.214.2291 to receive your free insurance quotes.

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