Officials Remind Ala. Residents to Know NFIP Facts Before Repairs, Rebuilding

February 24, 2006

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency remind Alabama residents considering new construction and repairs on substantially damaged structures/buildings located in identified special flood hazard areas to consult local building officials to obtain floodplain development permits prior to starting construction.

A substantially damaged structure is one in which the damage equals or exceeds 50 percent of the pre-damage market value of the building. Each community participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) makes the determination whether a building has been substantially damaged.

When a community participates in the NFIP, they adopt and enforce a floodplain management ordinance that minimizes future flood risks to new or existing construction. The ordinance requires that communities adhere to certain building requirements or set standards for construction in flood-prone areas. Currently 365 Alabama communities (counties and incorporated municipalities) participate in the NFIP.

Obtaining a development (building) permit is especially important for those with a building located within the high-risk Special Flood Hazard Area (sometimes referred to as the “100-year floodplain”). Floodplain development permits cannot be waived, and local governments cannot reduce or ignore the floodplain requirement. Permits are required for work such as removal or replacement of the roof, walls, siding, wallboard, plaster, insulation, paneling, cabinets, flooring, electrical system, plumbing, heating or air conditioning. Repair projects must meet the community building codes, flood-damage prevention ordinances, and other applicable local, state, and federal codes.

Permits protect the residents, their families, communities, and buildings by ensuring all proposed work complies with current codes, standards, flood ordinances and construction techniques. Permits can provide a permanent record of compliance with elevation, and/or retrofitting requirements, which is useful information when selling your structure and necessary for the flood insurance rating.

Local permit offices can provide suggestions or literature on how to better protect your home or business from future disaster-related damages. Local permit offices can provide consumers with information on selecting licensed contractors and advice on protecting themselves from unscrupulous contractors. Residents are asked to start construction and repair only after they have received a valid permit from their local building department.

Communities that agree to manage flood hazard areas by adopting minimum standards can participate in the NFIP. The standards are contained in Section 60.3 of the NFIP regulations. Communities that participate but fail to enforce these standards may be subject to the sanctions outlined in Section 202(a) of the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973. Section 202(a) makes flood insurance, federal grants and loans, federal disaster assistance, and federal mortgage insurance unavailable for the acquisition or construction of structures located in the floodplain.

Property acquisition or buyouts, a cooperative effort between FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and the State, is a way of reducing risk of future disasters.

The Facts on Buyouts:

* Homeowners don’t apply to FEMA for a buyout. Buyouts are not part of the disaster application process and are not part of disaster assistance.
* An HMGP application is prepared by local officials, with input from the community and those homeowners with destroyed or severely damaged properties. The local officials will have been notified by the State of what the State’s priorities are or other special restrictions decided upon by State officials.
* The State receives and reviews the application and submits those deemed appropriate to FEMA for approval. FEMA reviews the applications to ensure they follow the rules, are environmentally sound, and are a cost-effective use of funds.
* Once FEMA gives its approval, the State begins the acquisition process. The communities actually conduct the purchase and title transfer. Then the buildings are removed or destroyed by the community, and the land is cleared.

Property owners living in communities participating in the NFIP can purchase flood insurance from any state-licensed property and casualty insurance agent who sells homeowners or business policies.

For additional information on the NFIP, call 800-427-4661 or go online at

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.