FEMA Unveils Q&A for New Katrina Flood Recovery Maps

November 21, 2005

The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is providing a brief Q & A related to the recently released Katrina Flood Recovery Maps for Mississippi coastal counties.

Why is FEMA issuing the Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps?

The purpose of issuing the ABFE maps, commonly referred to as Flood Recovery Maps, or simply Recovery Maps, is to help support Mississippi coastal communities by providing guidelines for safe elevations in the rebuilding effort so as to reduce future risk to life and property along the Mississippi Gulf Coast region in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties. The existing Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) were produced in the mid 1980’s and the extensive damage of Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the need to produce new maps.

What do these new maps show?

The maps include tide and storm data collected from Katrina, as well as other high water events during the last century. The results of these studies show that the elevations on the existing Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are generally 3 to 8 feet too low.

How can I get a copy of the maps?

The maps can be found on FEMA’s Web site, www.fema.gov/recoverydata.shtm . A link to the maps is also on MEMA’s Web site at www.msema.org .

What are Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and why are they important?

Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are the risk assessment tools used to identify flood prone areas and to establish flood risk zones and base flood elevations. They are important because they are used for calculating the cost of flood insurance premiums. Insurable structures located in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs), secured by a federally backed loan, are required to purchase flood insurance.

How will insurance premiums be affected by these maps?

Insurance rate premiums will be calculated using existing FIRMs until new FIRMs are published by FEMA in the next 18 months and adopted by communities. FEMA strongly encourages property owners use the advisory maps as a guideline for redevelopment. Building higher to meet the advisory elevations will bring significant flood insurance premium savings because the insurance will be rated against the existing FIRMs.

How will these maps affect the construction costs for the recovery effort?

Construction could be more expensive in order to meet the updated advisory elevations. If local communities decide to adopt these advisory elevations to reduce future flood risk, then the advisory elevations would become the community standard and property owners would need to comply with the local code. It is important to remember that FEMA provides advisory information to local governments and they are encouraged to use the data provided to regulate redevelopment. Ultimately, it is state and local officials, working with their citizens, who make the final decisions on land use and other building code requirements.

Do these maps mean that my house is now in the 100-year floodplain?

The existing FIRM for a community is the official document used to determine if a particular building or property is in the 100-year floodplain. The new maps include tide and storm data collected from Katrina but also include other events over the last century. The data from the new maps and additional future studies will eventually be used to update the existing FIRMs. Nothing definitive can be determined until the final FIRMs are published. The Recovery maps indicate that once the final FIRMs are published, the flood risk zones will more closely approximate the Recovery maps than the existing FIRMs. FEMA strongly encourages communities to use these advisory maps as their guideline during rebuilding .

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