Flood Mapping

Knowing your risk enables you to take actions that can reduce that risk

Communities use Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) to regulate their identified floodplains as part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

FIRMs are also used by insurance agents to rate flood insurance policies, lenders to determine if flood insurance is required with a federally backed loan, and property owners to understand their risk of being impacted by a flood event.

A floodplain is the area adjacent to streams, creeks, and rivers that provide floodwater storage

What is a Flood Map?

A Flood Map informs your community about the local flood risk. It helps set minimum floodplain standards so that your community builds safely and resiliently. It determines the cost of flood insurance, which helps property owners to financially protect themselves against flooding.  The lower your degree of risk, the lower your flood insurance premium will be. In areas with a high risk of flooding, you might be required to get flood insurance.  

Information related to flood hazard mapping

FEMA 101: Flood Mapping

Through FEMA’s flood hazard mapping program, Risk MAP, FEMA identifies flood hazards, assesses flood risks and partners with states and communities to provide accurate flood hazard and risk data to guide them to mitigation actions. Flood hazard mapping is an important part of the NFIP, as it is the basis of the NFIP regulations and flood insurance requirements. FEMA maintains and updates data through Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and risk assessments. FIRMs include statistical information such as data for river flow, storm tides, hydrologic/hydraulic analyses and rainfall and topographic surveys.

FEMA uses the best available technical data to create the flood hazard maps that outline your community’s flood risk areas.  Flood maps inform communities about the local flood risk and help set minimum floodplain standards for communities to build safely. They determine the cost of flood insurance, which helps property owners to financially protect themselves against flooding. The lower the degree of risk, the lower the flood insurance premium will be. Flood maps are also the basis for flood insurance rates through the National Flood Insurance Program. By law, some may be required to get flood insurance if they live in the highest risk areas. However, flooding can happen anywhere; about twenty percent of all the flood claims come from areas with lower risk.

The process for developing and updating flood maps allows FEMA to work with communities and property owners at all steps of the process to incorporate the best available data into each community’s flood maps. Flood mapping projects typically take from three to five years to complete. Through the Risk Mapping Assessment Planning (MAP) program, flood maps are developed using the best available science developed by engineering experts. The mapping standards are published, vetted, peer revised and updated continuously to ensure they are up to date with current best practices. Through this collaborative process, a community can review, appeal and contribute to the development of a flood map before it is adopted by the community.

For an overview of all that goes into the flood map development process and the key engagement points with community officials, link to Flood Maps: Know Your Risk and Take Action Against Flooding.

Flood Map Service Center

The FEMA Flood Map Service Center (MSC) is the official public source for flood hazard information produced in support of the NFIP. Use the MSC to find your official flood map, access a range of other flood hazard products, and take advantage of tools for better understanding flood risk.

Updated Fact Sheet:  Map Changes and Flood Insurance: What Property Owners Need to Know

January 2019

FEMA recently updated a fact sheet that educates property owners on map changes and flood insurance.The update titled, Map Changes and Flood Insurance: What Property Owners Need to Know, includes a printer friendly version and a Spanish version. The fact sheet explains what flood maps are, why they change, how flood maps show flood risks, and how flood maps are used by community officials, mortgage lenders, insurance professionals, developers, and home and business owners.  The material also includes information on how the risk shown on a flood map is reflected in insurance premiums, what to do if a new flood map shows your risk has changed, and how to reduce your rates.

Homeowner’s Guide to Map Amendments Released

October 2018

FEMA has created an easy to read and follow guide that helps homeowners understand the process for Letters of Map Amendment (LOMAs) and Letters of Map Revision Based on Fill (LOMR-Fs). LOMA or LOMR-F are processes to gain a better understanding of your home’s flood risk – and potentially lower your flood insurance premium.

This guide was created to increase the number of complete applications by providing clear instructions on who is eligible to apply, what should be included in an application, and what happens after you receive a determination letter.

This guide is intended for homeowners and can serve as a valuable resource to hand out during community meetings, such as Open Houses, as well as for stakeholders who are engaging with the public at other times.

You can download the guide here or on FEMA’s website at https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/172215.

For application materials, visit MT-1 Application Forms and Instructions for Conditional and Final Letters of Map Amendment and Letter of Map Revision Based on Fill (https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/31858).

Check Your Community’s Preliminary Flood Hazard Data

FEMA has released an authoritative source for Preliminary Flood Hazard Data (preliminary data).  Moving forward, preliminary data will be available to the public in a centralized and easily accessible location, along with FEMA’s other flood mapping products and tools.  As data are released, they will populate in the new preliminary data search tool. You may access this tool through the Preliminary Flood Hazard Data FEMA webpage, or through FEMA’s Map Service Center (MSC) Product Catalog. Preliminary data available include new or revised preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), Flood Insurance Study (FIS) reports, and FIRM Databases.

This preliminary data search tool provides:

  • Centralized access and simple navigation to nation-wide preliminary flood hazard data
  • Quick and easy search functions
  • Ability to search for data by state and county
  • FEMA Mapping Information eXchange (FMIX) customer service support
  • Accessibility of both preliminary and effective data from the MSC

Change a Flood Zone Designation – Online Letter of Map Change

FEMA’s Online LOMC web application allows anyone to submit a Letter of Map Change (LOMC) request online. This online page is intended for homeowners and other interested parties that wish to submit a LOMC application online instead of the paper form method.  If you believe your property has been inadvertently included in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), you may now request a change over the web, instead of by mail.

Access the Online LOMC application to start a new application or check the status of your submitted application. If you do not wish to submit your request online, you may submit through FEMA’s other processes: eLOMA or through the MT-EZ, MT-1 or MT-2 paper forms submitted through the mail.

Letter of Map Amendment – Out As Shown

Revised 2018

If you, or a citizen in your community, has a federally backed loan for a structure, the lender can require you to carry flood insurance at any time, regardless of which flood zone your home is in.  This can and does occasionally happen.  Often times however, there was either an error with the homes floodplain determination, or the company the bank hired to do the determinations for them were very conservative with their assessments.  In these instances, the property owner can take steps to have FEMA verify their home is outside the floodplain and can request that the flood insurance requirement be waived by their lender.

Link to an updated set of instructions to assist community members in applying for a LOMA Out As Shown Instructions – KY (LOMA-OAS).

This LOMA-OAS is a simple process, which only requires filling out a 2-page application and 1-2 additional supporting documents. Pass along these instructions to property owners to help them understand and complete this process.  The instructions also include information on how to submit the LOMA-OAS application, how FEMA will respond, and what they next steps for the property owner are.

USGS Publishes Bulletin 17C, “Guidelines for Determining Flood Flow Frequency”

April 2, 2018

Accurate estimates of flood frequency and magnitude are a key component of any effective nationwide flood risk management and flood damage abatement program.  In addition to accuracy, methods for estimating flood risk must be uniformly and consistently applied because management of the nation’s water and related land resources is a collaborative effort involving multiple actors, including most levels of government and the private sector.  Bulletin 17C’s Chapter B5 of book 4 (TM 4–B5) deals with flood flow frequency analysis at gaged sites using the Expected Moments Algorithm.  The use of extreme flood data represented by interval and censored data types, including historical, paleoflood and botanical evidence, is emphasized.

Overview Endangered Species Act Compliance for Conditional Letters of Map Change

Endangered Species Act (ESA) Factsheet

May 25, 2016

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 protects threatened and endangered species by preserving the ecosystems in which they live.  The U.S. Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), collectively known as “the Services,” share the responsibility for administering the Act.  The FEMA requires documentation of compliance with the minimum ESA requirements for Conditional Letters of Map Change (CLOMCs).

Link to theESA Factsheet.

Stay Dry: A Basic Application to View FEMA Flood Hazard Information Using Google Earth ™

September 14, 2017

The “Stay Dry” utility allows you to use Google Earth (TM) to view basic flood hazard information from FEMA’s National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL) for a community or an address.  You can view flood hazard zones, cross sections and labels, community names and boundaries, Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) numbers and boundaries, and Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) case numbers and boundaries.

To use the application, you must have Google Earth installed on your computer, a high-speed Internet connection, and the Stay Dry kmz file.  The kmz file is available through FEMA’s Map Service Center at http://msc.fema.gov.

Link to the Stay_Dry_User_Guide.

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