Is My Home In a Flood Zone? Understanding FEMA Flood Maps
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If your home is near a large body of water, like an ocean or lake, or if it’s vulnerable to heavy rainwater, then your home may be located in a flood zone. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has an online tool that can help homeowners confirm if their house is in a high- or low-risk flood zone. Learn about the various flood zones and which require flood insurance.
What Is a Flood Zone?
A flood zone is an area that is at risk of flooding due to a variety of factors such as topography, weather patterns and proximity to water sources. FEMA has designated certain areas as flood zones as high- or low-to-moderate risk to help communities understand and prepare for potential dangers.
High-Risk Flood Zones
High-risk flood areas are areas that have a 1% or greater chance of flooding in any given year, also known as a special flood hazard area (SFHA). FEMA has designated high-risk zones with the letter A, V or sometimes X (more on this later).
Moderate-to-Low-Risk Flood Zones
Moderate-to-low-risk flood areas may still experience flooding but at a much lower chance than girls-risk zones. FEMA uses the letter B, C and sometimes X to designate these lower-risk zones. Homeowners are not required to buy flood insurance if they live in these areas.
What Flood Zone Am I In?
You can determine your home's flood zone by using FEMA's Flood Map Service Center, which provides information on flood zones and flood risk for your area. The tool requires you to input your address, city, state or zip code.
Based on the location you entered, the online tool will pull up a map of the area that shows each area’s flood zone designation.
Flood Zones According to FEMA
FEMA uses letters to designate whether a zone is high-risk or low-to-moderate risk. The assignment will consider the area’s proximity to local bodies of water and the chance of flooding in a given year or over a 30-year mortgage.
Zone C or X (Unshaded)
If you live in an area designated as Zone C or X (must be unshaded on a flood zone map), then your area has the lowest risk of flooding compared to all other zones. Since homes in these areas have less than a 0.2% chance of experiencing a flood in a given year, flood insurance requirements generally do not apply.
- Flood zone risk: Less than 0.2% chance in any given year
- Insurance requirement: None
Zone B and X (Shaded)
FEMA has designated areas with a 0.2% chance of flood in a given year as Zone B or Zone X (shaded). While the chances aren’t as low as in Zones C or X, homes in Zones B and X are still relatively safe from floods and flood insurance is usually not required.
- Flood zone risk: 0.2% chance of flooding in any given year
- Insurance requirement: None
Areas falling under Zone A are designated as high-risk flood areas, or SFHAs. They are characterized in two ways: having a 1% chance of flooding per year or a 26% chance throughout a 30-year mortgage. Zone A has several subcategories, including AE, AR, A99, AH and AO. Older flood maps may show Zone A1-30 but these terms are no longer used today.
- Flood zone risk: 1% chance of flooding in any given year or 26% chance through the lifespan of a 30-year mortgage
- Insurance requirement: Yes for federally-backed mortgages; likely for private mortgages
Zone V is similar to Zone A with two differences: first, flooding is based on coastal hazards such as storm waves. Second, the annual risk of flooding is 1% or greater. Zone V also has subcategories based on environmental qualifiers, including VE and V1-V30.
- Flood zone risk: 1% or greater chance of flooding in any given year caused by a storm wave or 26% chance through the lifespan of a 30-year mortgage
- Insurance requirements: Yes for federally-backed mortgages; likely for private mortgages
Zone D is a bit of an outlier because some areas have not been studied yet. Therefore, flooding in Zone D may be highly possible but the actual chance of it happening has not been measured.
- Flood zone risk: Unknown but still possible
- Insurance requirement: None
What Are High-Risk Inland Zones?
Usually designated as Zones A or V, high-risk inland zones are at the highest risk of flooding due to heavy rainfall, river overflow and flash flooding. Due to this, flood insurance requirements may apply to homes located in these areas.
The homes in the map below are located in Zone A party due to their proximity to a lake and dam.
Premiums for coverage in these zones can be significantly higher than for homes in lower-risk zones due to the implied risk. Check FEMA flood maps or consult with a qualified insurance provider to determine your property's flood risk.
What Are High-Risk Coastal Zones?
High-risk coastal zones, also known as V zones, are areas that are at the highest risk of flooding due to coastal storm surges or waves. These zones include areas along coastlines of oceans, bays and large lakes that experience high winds and tides.
The homes in the map below are located in Zone VE because they are located near the ocean.
Like inland zones, homes in coastal V zones are required to have flood insurance if they have a federally-backed mortgage that will likely cost more than a lower-risk area. The design and construction standards for homes in V zones are also more stringent than for homes in other zones, to better withstand the impact of storm surges and waves.
Do Flood Zones Impact Insurance Rates?
If your property is located in a high-risk flood zone, you can expect to pay higher insurance premiums than if your property is located in a low-risk zone. Insurance rates factor your property’s risk level, which considers its location, elevation above the ground and the history of flooding in the area.
The sample rates below were provided by The Flood Insurance Agency. Rates for high-risk zones A and V were higher than those for low- to moderate-risk zones X, B and C.
|Annual Premium Quote*
|All A Zones
|All V Zones
|X, B, C Zones
*For $250,000 building coverage and $100,000 personal contents coverage
Flood insurance is not included in standard homeowners insurance policies, so if you live in a flood zone, you will likely need to buy an endorsement to your existing policy or buy a standalone policy.
When Do I Need Flood Insurance?
You need flood insurance, including flood insurance for renters, if you live in a high-risk flood zone and have a federally-backed mortgage. Flood insurance requirements may apply to private mortgages, too. Coverage may still be recommended for homes in moderate-to-low-risk flood zones, as flooding can still occur.
How Do I Get Flood Insurance?
Flood insurance can be purchased from either private insurance companies or the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). NFIP policies are sold in partnership with private companies but the policy itself is underwritten by FEMA.
To obtain coverage, you can contact the individual private insurance companies that offer flood insurance. To purchase NFIP insurance you can visit their website directly to obtain a list of companies that are authorized to sell FEMA-backed insurance coverage.
When calculating insurance rates, the underwriting process will consider several flood variables, including:
- Flood sources like storms, rain, river overflow, etc.
- Cost of rebuilding
- Elevation of property
- Distance from water sources
The NFIP policy rating methodology was recently updated in 2022, to ensure flood rates more accurately align with actual flood risks. For example, rebuilding costs were recently added as a rating factor to prevent homeowners of lower-valued homes from paying proportionally higher rates than those living in higher-valued homes.