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Understanding Flood Zones

V Zones
According to FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program, any building located in an A or V zone is considered to be in a Special Flood Hazard Area, and is lower than the Base Flood Elevation. V zones are the most hazardous of the Special Flood Hazard Areas. V zones generally include the first row of beachfront properties. The hazards in these areas are increased because of wave velocity – hence the V designation. Flood insurance is mandatory in V zone areas.

Living In a V Zone
If your home is in a “V” zone (this includes VE and V-1-V-30), adhere to the following recommendations:

  • The bottom of the lowest horizontal structural member of the lowest floor elevation must be at or above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE).
  • Enclosed areas below the lowest floor cannot be used for living space.
  • The building must be elevated on piles, piers, posts or column foundation.
  • Electrical, heating ventilation, plumbing, air conditioning equipment and other service facilities must be elevated to or above the BFE.

A Zones

Finding Flood Maps

Flood maps are usually kept on file at your local county courthouse, municipal office or library. Once you have located the maps for your area, be sure to record the panel number on each map should you need to obtain additional information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

FEMA provides copies of flood maps for a nominal fee. To obtain a copy of the current flood map for a specific community, community status book and the Flood Insurance Manual, you can call FEMA’s Map Service Center toll free at 1-800-358-9616 or write:

Map Service Center (MSC)
PO Box 1038
Jessup, MD 20794-1038

A zones – the next most volatile of the Special Flood Hazard Areas – are subject to rising waters and are usually near a lake, river, stream or other body of water. Flood insurance is mandatory in all A zones because of the high potential of flooding. A-zone maps also include AE, AH, AO, AR, and A99 designations, all having the same rates. The different A zones are named depending on the way in which they might be flooded.

Living in an A Zone
If your home is in an A zone (includes AE, A1-A30, AH, AO, AR) follow these important recommendations:

  • The lowest floor elevation must be at or above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE).
  • Enclosed areas below the lowest floor cannot be used for living space.
  • Electrical, heating, ventilation, plumbing, air conditioning equipment and other service facilities must be elevated to or above the BFE.

Other Zones
X zones are minimal-risk areas where flood insurance is not mandatory. D zones are areas that have not been studied, but where flooding is possible. Flood insurance is available in participating communities.

Finding Your Zone Information
There are several ways to find out which zone applies to you. You can go to your town hall or city hall, where employees responsible for issuing building permits in your area have access to flood zone maps. If you are buying a home, your Realtor and your insurance agent should be able to help you. Also, you can order a flood map from the FEMA’s Map Service Center for a nominal charge by calling (800) 358-9616 or by visiting the FEMA Web site.

Credit: Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc.