call

What Are Flood Zones and How Does It Affect Your Insurance?

Every year, areas are hit with unexpected flooding that devastates their cities or towns. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has created flood zones to better predict when and where flooding will occur. Flood zones also help insurers to determine risks and calculate flood insurance rates.

What Is a Flood Zone?

A flood zone is a designated area with a low, moderate or high likelihood of flooding, based on an area's history, its proximity to water sources, base elevation and other factors.

FEMA uses Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) or Flood Hazard Boundary Maps (FHBM) to depict flood risks and flooding types in different communities.

Standard homeowners insurance doesn't cover flooding damages or destruction, so homeowners must buy a separate, stand-alone flood insurance policy.

If you live in a high-risk flood zone, your home insurer or mortgage lender may require you to buy flood insurance. Even when flood insurance isn't required, you should consider purchasing flood insurance to protect your home.

Flood zones help insurers to determine risks and calculate flood insurance rates.

What Is a Special Hazard Area (SHFA)?

Special Flood Hazard Areas (SHFA) are locations where residents are required to buy flood insurance. SFHAs are labeled as Zones A, AO, AH, AE (A1-A30),  A99, AR, AR/AE, AR/AO,  AR/A1-A30, AR/A, V, VE and V1-V30.

Most communities have between a 0.2% and 1% risk of flooding each year.  According to FEMA, SFHA zones have a 1% or greater chance of being inundated by a flood event annually. The agency defines this 1% probability as the "base flood" or  "100-year flood" event.

This 1% annual risk translates to a 26% probability of a flood occurring during the lifetime of a 30-year mortgage.

Types of Flood Zones and Flood Risks

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assesses locations throughout the nation to determine where flooding occurs. FEMA divides flood zones into 15 basic categories, and assigns each category a letter or letter-number designation, such as VE or A99.

Flood Zone

Flood Hazard Risk

Source of Flooding

Flood Insurance Available?

B and X (shaded)

Moderate 0.2.% - 1% annual flood risk.

Levee-protected areas with shallow flooding. Flood depths average less than 1 ft.

Flood insurance is available but not required.

C and X (unshaded)

Low. Less than 0.2% annual flood risk.

Levee-protected locations with a low-flood risk.

Flood insurance is available but not required.

A, AE, AR, A1-A30, A99

High. There is a 1% annual flood risk and 26% over the lifetime of a 30-year mortgage.

Zones A, AE, AR, A99 have undefined sources of flooding. Zones A1-30 have base elevation flooding.

Flood insurance is available and required.

AH

High. There is a 1% annual flood risk and 26% over the lifetime of a 30-year mortgage. 

Ponds and shallow sources of flooding.

Flood insurance is available and required.

AO

High. There is a 1% annual flood risk and 26% over the lifetime of a 30-year mortgage.

River or stream flood hazard areas with a 1% or greater chance of shallow flooding each year, usually in the form of sheet flow, with an average depth ranging from 1 to 3 feet.

Flood insurance is available and required.

V, VE, V1-V30

High. There is a greater than 1% chance of flooding in these areas and 26% over the lifetime of a 30-year mortgage. 

Coastal flooding and storm surge from hurricanes

Flood insurance is available and required.

D

Undetermined

No risk analysis has been conducted in these areas, so sources of flooding are unknown.

Flood insurance is not required.

How Do I Know If I'm in a Flood Zone?

Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) is the map that displays your community's special flood hazard areas and risk premium zones. There are several options to view your property's or community's flood risk:

Compare Quotes and Save on Flood Zone Insurance

Do Flood Zones Affect Insurance Rates?

The flood zone you live in significantly determines your flood insurance rate. If your property covers two or more zones, the flood insurer will rate your premium based on the most hazardous zone.

In 2021, the National Insurance Flood Program announced its premiums would increase from an estimated average of $880 per policy to $969, which is an average increase of 10.2%.

These amounts don't include the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HFIAA) surcharge of the Federal Policy Fee. When these two amounts are included, the total amount billed to the policyholder will increase from $990 to $1,080, for an average increase of 9.0%.

Here are the updated preferred risk policy premiums for flood insurance released on January 1, 2022.  We've provided the base flood insurance rates for residential buildings without basements.

Zones

Building

Contents

Premium

B, C, X, AR or A99 Zones

$100,000

$40,000

$371

B, C, X, AR or A99 Zones

$150,000

$60,000

$422

B, C, X, AR or A99

$200,000

$80,000

$466

SFHA Areas

$100,000

$40,000

$371

SFHA Areas

$150,000

$60,000

$422

SFHA Areas

$200,000

$80,000

$466

Flood Zone FAQs

How is my flood insurance rate determined?

Flood insurance carriers and mortgage lenders use FEMA's Flood Insurance Rate Map to calculate the cost of flood insurance. If you cannot get flood insurance from a private insurer, you can get it from FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program.

FEMA and private insurers use six factors to calculate flood insurance premiums:

  • Flood zone

  • Coverage type (e.g. building and contents coverage)

  • The deductible and amount of building and contents coverage

  • Your structure's location

  • Your structure's design and age

  • Location of your structure's contents (e.g. Are utilities elevated?)

If you cannot buy flood insurance from a private insurer, you can get it from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program but with less coverage.

Buy Flood Insurance To Protect Your Belongings

Many homeowners believe they only need flood insurance in high-risk areas, but every area is, in a sense, a flood zone – it's just a question of how much flooding may occur and when. Before the unexpected occurs, consider adding flood insurance to your homeowners insurance policy.

First, make sure you have the best homeowners insurance policy in place. See if you can save money on premiums by comparing rates from over 200 top insurers for free, using SmartFinancial's app. All you have to do is enter your zip code below and answer a few questions.

Get a Free Home Insurance Quote Online Now.