An Information Article by Jim VanErmen ABR, CRS, e-PRO Trainer

Flood Plain,Flood Insurance, Flood Maps, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
"It's all about the Water!"

"If I live in the 100-year flood plain, I have nothing to worry about, after all what are the odds."  According to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) a home in the 100-year flood plain  has a 26% chance of flooding during a 30 year period.
The Flood "Program"
The U.S. Congress established the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) with the passage of the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968.  The NFIP is a Federal program enabling property owners with properties in participating communities to purchase insurance as a protection against  flood losses in exchange for State and community flood plain management regulations that reduce future flood damages.  Participation in the NFIP is based on an agreement between the local community and the Federal Government

The  Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973,  US Code TITLE 42  CHAPTER 50  Sec. 4001 holds the lender (mortgage company, lender or broker) responsible for making the determination whether a property to be financed is located in a special flood hazard area and if flood insurance is required. Those homes noted by a survey or mortgage lender to be in the "100 year flood plain" will require flood insurance in order to obtain a mortgage. There are homes throughout our tri-county area which require flood insurance. A normal home owners policy does not cover damage by flood water and the home owner should consider flood plain insurance especially if their home is located in a lower area.

Since this is a federal program the cost of the insurance policy should be the same among insurance companies with the premium being determined by the value of the home and its risk (elevation) in relation to the local surface water hydrology and the
100 year flood plain.   An elevation certificate is used to determine the "risk" and  this is provided by a surveyor who performs an elevation survey.

The flood insurance program is the responsibility of the Federal Emergency Management Agency  (FEMA) who previously published the:  "Top 10  Facts"   copied in the insert below.  Current and more complete information can now be obtained from their new Flood Insurance information web site called

Top 10 Facts Every Customer needs to know about the
National Insurance Program (this information is no longer provided on the FEMA web site?)

1. Everyone lives in a flood zone.  You don't need to live near water to be flooded.  Floods are caused by storms, melting snow, hurricanes, and water backup due to inadequate or overloaded drainage systems, dam or levee failure, etc.

2. Flood damage is not covered by homeowners policies.  You can protect your home, business, and belongings with flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program.  You can insure your home with flood insurance for up to $250,000 for the building and $100,000 for your contents.

3. You can buy flood insurance no matter what your flood risk is.  It doesn't matter whether your flood risk is high, medium, or low, you can buy flood insurance as long as your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program.  And, it's a good idea to buy even in low or moderate risk areas: between 20 and 25 percent of all flood insurance claims come from low- to moderate-risk areas.

4. There is a low-cost policy for homes in low- to moderate-risk areas.   The Preferred Risk Policy is available for just over $100 a year.  You can buy up to $250,000 of coverage for your home and $60,000 of coverage for your contents.

5. Flood insurance is affordable.   The average flood insurance policy costs approximately $400 a year for about $100,000 of coverage.  In comparison, a disaster home loan can cost you more than $300 a month for $50,000 over 20 years.

6. Flood insurance is easy to get.  You can buy NFIP flood insurance from private insurance companies and agents; call yours today!  You may be able to purchase flood insurance with a credit card.

7. Contents coverage is separate, so renters can insure their belongings too.  Up to $100,000 contents coverage is available for homeowners and renters. Whether you rent or own your home or business, make sure to ask your insurance agent about contents coverage. It is not automatically included with the building coverage.

8. Up to a total of $1 million of flood insurance coverage is available for non-residential buildings and contents.   Up to $500,000 of coverage is available for non-residential buildings.  Up to $500,000 of coverage is available for the contents of non-residential buildings.

9. There is usually a 30-day waiting period before the coverage goes into effect.  Plan ahead so you're not caught without flood insurance when a flood threatens your home or business.

10. Federal disaster assistance is not the answer.   Federal disaster assistance is only available if the President declares a disaster.  More than 90 percent of all disasters in the United States are not Presidentially declared.  Flood insurance pays even if a disaster is not declared.  Every consumer needs to know about the National Flood Insurance Program.

The 100 year flood boundary and elevation map is a large area map for either a city, county or specified municipality and are composed of a number of panel maps  used to located the flood plain areas. The maps are periodically re-drawn (locally in Montgomery they were redrawn in the mid '80s again in 1992 and more recently in 2003).  It can happen that a home purchased and not in the flood plain is later added when the map is redrawn and now requires the owner to obtain flood insurance. It should be noted than upon obtaining a home loan, one of the agreements usually signed by the purchasers or included in the mortgage is a compliance agreement that if required in the future (i.e. new flood plan map includes your property in the 100 year flood plain), the purchaser will obtain the necessary flood insurance. 
Flood Plain Map Panels
FEMA has placed the flood plain maps on their web site for either purchasing or viewing. A click on the button below will take you to FEMA's web site in a separate window or tab which will allow you to click between this site and FEMA so you can follow the directions to obtain a flood map on an area of your choice.

FEMA Flood Maps

Upon clicking the button above a new window with the FEMA's Map Service page will open. Now this is important before you end up lost in all the products.  Click on the second link at the top of the page labeled "MapSearch".  A new window will appear, it is best to expand the page to fill your screen.  The map is interactive so pick your state and local area and proceed to access the area you are attempting to "map".  It takes 5 clicks on the map to arrive at a map which has the individual flood plain maps listed.  You can continue to click on the map and locate street names.  Successive clicks will take you to the location of your choice.  In either case you will eventually notice a number which corresponds to the map panel number (in the case of the location where I-65 meets I-85 the map panel # is 01101C0130G).   The page also includes a form to input an address but I find this is usually not the best way.

On the left side on the map screen are a number of map actions which you can accomplish from zoom-in, zoom-out, pan etc.  Click on the map action labeled Point (an arrow in  a target).   Place the cursor directly on top of the map panel # and "click".   A new window will appear titled FEMA Flood Map Store.  You will now have choices with the panel which you have selected. Click on VIEW which is the green dot.  NOTE if you are clicking back and forth between these instructions you may be taken back to the flood plain map at which time you would just reclick on the map panel # with the plus sign.  Once you click on the green button a new window will appear FEMA MSC Viewer along with the corresponding map panel.  You can use the map operations on the left to go to the street location. 

There is more.

If you desire to make a hard copy (print) of the map you would click on the button labeled Make a FIRMette (bottom left),  The button print area will be depressed and three areas on the map will be highlighted.  1. Scale and north arrow,  2. Title Block and  3. The Highlighted map square These are the items which will be printed.  The highlighted map area is movable by placing the plus sign on top of the highlighted map square and while depressing the left button on your mouse move your mouse and relocate the highlighted map area until it is located over the location you wish to print. If you are not sure of the location use the operations on the side of the map to locate the portion you desire to print. Release your left mouse button and Press either of the two buttons to make either an Adobe PDF document or a GIF and the panel map will will be formatted for your printer to print.  If your map prints you are to be congratulated for your perseverance.

Flood Zone Codes
Zone - A  corresponds to the 100-year flood plains that is determined in the Flood Insurance Study by approximate methods.  Because detailed hydraulic analysis are not performed in such areas, no Base Flood Elevations of depths are shown within this zone.  Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply

Zone - AE  corresponds to the 100-year flood plains that is determined in the Flood Insurance Study by detailed  methods.  In most instances, Base Flood Elevations derived from the detailed hydraulic analysis are shown at selected intervals within this zone.   Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply.

Zone - D  is used for areas where there are possible, but undetermined, flood hazards,  In areas designated as Zone D, no analysis of flood hazards have been conducted. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements do not apply, but coverage is available.

Zone - B, C and X  corresponds to areas outside the 100-year flood plains, areas of 100-year sheet flow flooding where average depths are less than 1 foot, areas of 100-year stream flooding where the contributing drainage area is less than 1 square mile, or areas protected from the 100-year flood by levees.  No Base Flood Elevations or depths are shown within this zone

Not listed but with mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements are Zones: A1- A30, A-99, AH, AO, V and VE.
FEMA Flood Tutorial
For those desiring more information, FEMA has provided a multimedia tutorial complete with a certificate of completion in a Macromedia Flash presentation on Flood Hazard Mapping  located at:
FLASH Floods
Flash floods are distinguished from a regular flood by a timescale less than six hours and occurs when rain fall exceeds the drainage capacity of an area. 2009 a number of homes and structures experienced a flash flood when approximatel 9 inches of water fell in a very short period. One news report stated 7 to 10 inches of rain fell in a relatively short period of time which was more than the local drainage system could handle.
A Few Contact Phone Numbers
Federal Emergency Management  Agency  1-202-566-1600

FEMA's Disaster Assistance (For use ONLY by people in designated federal disaster areas) 1-800-621-3362

To order free FEMA publications, please call 1-800-480-2520.

Region IV  Federal Emergency Management Agency, Atlanta, GA (serving AL, FL, GA, KT, MS, NC, SC TN) Tel: 770-220-5200  Fax: 770-220-5230

Alabama Emergency Management Agency  (205) 280-2200  (205) 280-2495 FAX

Local EMA Office,  Montgomery  Phone: 334-241-2820
Montgomery City Engineer (keeper of the local city flood map panels) (334)241-2690
My Closing Thoughts and Some Things to Consider
Water, Water everywhere, where does it all finally go?  I suggest there are only two places for water to drain.   First, into the ground to become ground water and Second, into the surface drainage system which may be composed of any number of ditches, sewers, storm drains, streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and coastal water ways.  Coastal land presents its own problems with water drainage due to tides, sea level and weather related problems.  In this area the two dams, especially lake martin was erected with flood control one of its goals. (on June 9, 1926  when the dam gates were closed the Talapoosa River began to fill the  the basin and formed Lake Martin which at that time was the world's largest artificial lake).  The lake is allowed to "drain down" in the winter to lower the lake while creating electricity for Alabama Power.  When spring brings the rain, the lake is used to accept the additional water which would have flooded lower areas down stream had the dam not been present.

Just my amateur thoughts on the subject.  If the surface drainage system remains the same and no matter what you do you will always be limited to how much water can be accepted at any one given time, then ground absorption becomes the one variable which changes over time.  In any developing area access to surface drainage is gradually removed by new roads, parking lots, buildings, etc.  So using amateur theory one would expect the flood plain to include more land as an area develops.  This is exactly what has happened in Montgomery. The 1992 Flood Plain maps included areas that were not previously included (an example would be the Hyde Park area of Montgomery East) and the new 2003 includes what some estimate to be an increase of 5% more land (especially land along Wares Ferry Rd. east).  So even though you may not be buying in a flood zone area any future flood plain revision can in fact add your lot  into the flood plain. Being higher is always a premium when it comes to flooding.
Author / Editor Jim VanErmen is a: Licensed Alabama Real Estate Broker employed as an Associate Broker with Apex Listing LLC.,
An approved Alabama Real Estate Instructor / Educator, and Co-Founder Central Alabama Real Estate Academy is the premier local real estate information site now celebrating 12 years of Internet service.  Email Jim at
Copyright 1998-2010© VanErmen Real Estate Productions, All Rights Reserve. Web Master reviewed 2/14/2010