Flood Insurance FAQs

Flood Insurance FAQ's

What is the National Flood Insurance Program?
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), established with the passage of the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 and subsequently broadened and modified through other legislative measures, is a Federal program that enables property owners to purchase flood insurance and is designed to reduce the escalating costs of property damage caused by floods. The program is based on an agreement between local communities and the Federal Government that if a community will implement programs to reduce future flood risks, the Federal Government will make flood insurance available within the community as a financial protection against flood losses that occur. The NFIP is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Today, more than 18,000 communities participate in the NFIP. 
Why was the NFIP established by Congress in 1968?
For decades, the national response to flood disasters was generally limited to constructing flood-control works such as dams, levees, and seawalls, and providing disaster relief to flood victims. This approach did not reduce losses or discourage unwise development. To compound the problem, the public could not buy flood coverage from insurance companies and building techniques to reduce flood damage were often overlooked. In the face of mounting flood losses and escalating costs to the general taxpayers for disaster relief, the U.S. Congress created the NFIP. Their intent was to reduce future damage and provide property owners with protection from financial losses through an insurance mechanism that allows a premium to be paid for protection by those most in need of this protection. 
What are the benefits of the NFIP?
The NFIP enables property owners in participating communities to insure themselves against flood losses. The NFIP mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements protect the financial interests of the lender, the borrower, and the taxpayer. Insurance coverage reduces reliance on Federal disaster assistance and also reduces the number of income tax write-offs for uninsured loans. By employing wise floodplain management, a participating community can minimize the extent of the area requiring the mandatory purchase of flood insurance and protect its citizens from much of the devastating financial loss resulting from future flood disasters. More careful local management of floodplain development results in construction practices that can reduce flood losses and the high costs associated with flood disasters. 
Why is purchasing flood insurance important to homeowners?
Considering the devastating consequences flooding can have, flood insurance is a wise and important investment. Homeowners insurance does not cover losses caused by flooding, but flood insurance provides coverage even if a disaster is not declared by the President. Even if FEMA determines a structure is not in the designated floodplain, referred to as the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), the structure could be flooded by a flooding event with a greater magnitude than the base flood. Our estimates indicate that structures in designated SFHAs have a one-in-four chance of suffering flood damage during the term of a 30-year mortgage. A structure does not have to be in a high risk area of flooding for flood insurance to be needed; one-third of our claims are for the structures in low-to-moderate risk areas. In addition, when homes are destroyed by floods, not only are the homeowners left without a place to live, but they are still obligated to pay off their mortgages. Flood insurance coverage is beneficial in that it protects the equity built up in a person's property, covers damage from flooding, and helps the insured recover more quickly and completely after a flood disaster. 
When did the City of Burlingame first join the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)? Is the City participating in the Program?
Yes, the City is participating in the program and first joined the NFIP in 1981. 
Why did FEMA produce a flood hazard map for the City of Burlingame?

On an annual basis FEMA determines what communities are most in need of having their flood maps updated. The Flood Insurance Study that produced the current maps confirmed that there are areas of the City subject to depths of flood greater than one foot. The Flood Insurance Rate Maps are intended to alert the local government and the residents to the fact that there is a significant flood hazard in the community as defined by the special flood hazard areas ("AE & AH" zones) on the maps. That information identifies the current flood risk, allow property owners to determine what physical flood protection measures and flood insurance protection should be obtained. Building permits will be issued that follow sound floodplain management practices and assure that new structures are designed to reduce the risk from this known flood hazard. That information also allows the community to determine what flood control projects can be done that will reduce the flood hazard risk and shrink the special flood hazard areas on the flood maps. 
What is the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs)?
It is an area subject to flooding by the 1% annual chance flood. 
What is the approximate depth of flooding in the Special Flood Hazard Areas resulting from the base flood?
Approximate depth of flooding is about 1 to 3 feet. 
Approximately how many insurable structures in the City are in the designated floodplain as shown on the FIRM?
Approximately 334 structures within the City are shown as within the designated floodplain, or Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) on the existing (2012) map. The new FIRM (fall 2017) places an additional 358 structures into the SFHA. 
How do I find out if my property is in the SFHA?
Floodsmart.gov is the official site of the NFIP and you can enter your address to determine if you are in the SFHA or an at risk property. 
Why do I need to purchase insurance if there has never been a flood in the neighborhood?
The Special Flood Hazard Area (Zone AE, AH) shows the probable extent of a major flood event in your area. By definition, that level of flooding is unusual and will not occur on a frequent basis. However it does have a high probability of occurring during the normal lifespan of most buildings. The Special Flood Hazard Area is defined as the area that would be inundated by a flood having a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year. Over a typical 30 year mortgage period that one percent chance per year adds up to a very respectable probability. By comparison, the national averages show that a typical home over that same 30 year period only has a one percent chance of being damaged by fire for the entire 30 years. Yet almost everyone willingly buys fire insurance for protection from that hazard. 

Past experience is one of a number of factors used when determining flood potential. Another factor that will significantly change your flood risk over time is the amount of new development and redevelopment that has occurred in your watershed which will increase the speed and quantity of the storm runoff and greatly increase the extent of flooding. The flood hazard areas were determined using analyses of records of riverflow, storm tides, and rainfall; information obtained through consultation with the community and topographic surveys. The Flood Insurance Study also assumes the free flow of floodwaters through bridge openings and culverts. During an actual flood event, these openings may become plugged and other areas not shown as floodprone may be flooded. 

This Flood Insurance Study represents the best technical information on the current flood risk in your community. 
I am new to the SFHA's, when do I have to get flood insurance?
Property owners in the proposed new map area will have the ability to purchase their insurance at the Preferred Risk rate if secured at least thirty days in advance of publication of the Final Map. FEMA anticipates issuing a Letter of Final Map Revision in the fall of 2017 (exact date to be determined; the map would then become final 6 months later. Those policies will then convert to "Moderate to Low Risk Policies" after one year. The “Moderate to Low" risk category is nonetheless a substantial savings from purchasing insurance subsequent to the Final Map publication. Following the Final Map date those properties not insured will be in the “High Risk” rate category. 

It is recommended owners begin the insurance procurement process 2-3 months prior to ensure your policy is in place prior to finalization of the map. 
How do I purchase a flood insurance policy?
To purchase a flood insurance policy, you may contact your local insurance agent or call the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) toll-free number, 1-800-427-4661, to request the name of an insurance agent in your area who sells flood insurance 
If my agent has questions where should he/she call?
For additional information on flood insurance, please visit the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) website or call our Flood Insurance Information Hotline, toll free, at 1-800-427-4661. 
How are flood insurance premium rates calculated?
A number of factors are considered in determining the premium for flood insurance coverage. They include when the policy is initially purchased; the amount of coverage purchased; location, age, occupancy, and design of the building to be insured; and, for new buildings in the SFHA, elevation of the building in relation to the base flood elevation. 
How much flood insurance do I need? How much does it cost?
Under the mandatory purchase requirement, the minimum amount to be insured is the outstanding balance of the loan, not to exceed the replacement cost of the building/improvements or the maximum available from the National Flood Insurance Program. A lender can, at its option, require greater coverage, and many banks do require that the owner procure the maximum coverage ($250,000/structure/residential) regardless of the amount owed on the loan. Many lenders require replacement cost coverage for structures. 

Flood insurance does not cover the value of the land. The amount you purchase relates to the replacement cost of the building. 

The maximum structural coverage available is $250,000 for residential buildings and $500,000 for commercial buildings. The maximum contents coverage available is $100,000 for residential buildings and $500,000 for commercial buildings. 

Flood insurance can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on when the policy is purchased and the amount of coverage (click here for rate tables ). 
How do I obtain a copy of the flood hazard map for the City of Burlingame?
A copy of the map is available on the City website: http://www.burlingame.org/floodprotection or you can contact the Engineering at 650-558-7230 to request to view the section of the flood map that shows your property/structures.
What processes are available for changing or correcting the information shown on the flood hazard map when large areas of a community are affected?
One way in which FEMA updates flood hazard maps is to conduct a Government-funded detailed reevaluation of flood hazards, referred to as a flood study. The flood study process is very costly and can take up to 5 years to complete. Because of the time and expense involved in conducting a restudy, FEMA bases its decision on whether to conduct a restudy on a benefit-cost analysis. Through this analysis, FEMA weighs the expected benefits to existing and future development against the funds to be expended. In this way, the flood studies that will yield the most benefit are performed first. However, the number of flood studies needed far outweighs the funds available to perform them. 

As an alternative, FEMA established procedures by which an interested community may compile appropriate data and request a map revision. Map revisions are often completed in less than 90 days from the date all data are received. 
Under what circumstances will FEMA waive the review and processing fee for a map change request?
In accordance with Section 72.5 of the NFIP regulations, FEMA does not assess a review and processing fee for LOMA requests; FEMA also does not assess a fee if a map change request: 

  • Corrects a mapping or study analysis error. 
  • Is based on the effects of natural changes within a SFHA. 
  • Is based on the effects of a federally sponsored flood-control project where 50 percent or more of the project's costs are federally funded.
  • Is based on a detailed hydrologic or hydraulic study conducted by a Federal, State, or local agency to replace an approximate study conducted by FEMA and shown on the flood map.
  • Is based on flood hazard information meant to improve upon that shown on the flood map or within the flood study, and does not partially or wholly incorporate manmade modifications within the SFHA.
What can homeowners do if they believe their homes should not be included in an SFHA?
If an individual homeowner has technical information to indicate his or her home has been incorrectly shown as within the SFHA on the FIRM, the homeowner may submit that information to FEMA and request that FEMA remove the flood zone designation from his or her home by issuing a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) or a Letter of Map Revision Based on Fill (LOMR-F). 
What kind of information must be submitted by a homeowner to support having a home removed from the SFHA?
The request must include the surveyed elevation of the lowest grade adjacent to the structure or the lowest enclosed level of the structure and certain other information, as described in the MT-1 forms package entitled "Amendments and Revisions to National Flood Insurance Program Maps." The instructions in the forms package will assist property owners in compiling the information required to support a LOMA or LOMR-F request.
How does FEMA respond to requests to have homes removed from the floodplain?
If, based on its review of the required information, FEMA determines that a home should be removed from the floodplain, FEMA will issue a LOMA or LOMR-F. LOMAs and LOMR-Fs are effective on the date they are issued and have the effect of revising the effective NFIP map without physically revising and reissuing the affected map panel. FEMA usually responds to such requests within 30 days of the date all required information is received. 
What is the difference between LOMAs and LOMR-Fs?
Requests are processed as LOMAs if the home in question is located on natural ground. Requests are processed as LOMR-Fs if the home in question has been elevated by the placement of earthen fill on or after March 30, 1981. 
Why is the burden of proof placed on the community or person that requests a map change?
FEMA exercises great care to ensure that analytical methods employed in its flood studies are scientifically and technically correct, the engineering practices followed meet professional standards, and the results of the flood study are accurate. In making changes to the flood hazard maps, FEMA must adhere to the same rigorous engineering standards applied in preparing the maps and associated flood study reports. Therefore, when requesting changes, community officials and property owners are required to submit adequate supporting data. FEMA would have no justification for changing a flood hazard map without sufficient evidence that the change is appropriate.
Does FEMA charge a fee for reviewing map change requests?
FEMA assesses review and processing fees for most types of map change requests. A standard fee schedule for map change requests was enacted to ensure full reimbursement of all funds expended by FEMA for reviewing and processing these requests. Through the fee schedule, FEMA is redistributing the costs of providing the products more equitably between the flood insurance policyholders and the users of the products who are most likely to benefit from the products. The review and processing fees for map change requests covered by the fee schedule are based on FEMA's actual average review and processing costs for these products. 
Does FEMA have any reference documents that would be useful to homeowners and other interested citizens?

FEMA has published numerous documents that would assist homeowners and other interested citizens in understanding the mapping and insurance requirements of the NFIP. The following are some examples: 

FEMA Form MT-1 , entitled "Amendments and Revisions to National Flood Insurance Program Maps: Application/Certification Forms and Instructions for Letters of Map Amendment, Conditional Letters of Map Amendment, Letters of Map Revision (Based on Fill), and Conditional Letters of Map Revision (Based on Fill)"-This package includes instructive information for property owners who may be interested in requesting that FEMA remove their property from the floodplain shown on the flood map. The application/certification forms included in the package must be completed and submitted to support such requests. 

Process to Revise a Flood Map - This page provides information on the three primary methods by which a community's flood hazard maps are updated. 

Floodsmart.gov - The official site of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

FEMA-258  [Guide to Flood Maps] - This document was designed to assist community officials, property owners, and others in reading and understanding the flood maps.