This post is part of a series on the new FEMA Flood Maps, which go into effect March 16, 2016. To learn more about the changes, visit the FEMA Flood Maps Service Centervisit the City of Boston’s Flood Hazard Areas webpage, or attend the community open house event hosted by FEMA and the City of Boston on January 12th, 2016.

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We sat down with the City of Boston’s Floodplain Manager Charlie Moffat to discuss the updated Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). Because the Floodplain Manager is responsible for effective management of floodplain resources and flood mitigation, we thought her insights might be useful to explain the changes happening to flood maps in Boston now.

We know the FEMA flood maps are changing for the City of Boston. What does that mean exactly?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been revising flood maps to reflect current flood risks. Over the past few years, this has been happening in coastal areas nationwide. Boston’s new maps will provide us with the information needed to reduce flood risk to new and existing development, implement health and safety requirements through codes and regulations, and for emergency management planning. Additionally, updated flood maps are required in order to receive federal disaster assistance in the case of a flood emergency.

There’s a lot of acronyms floating around when we talk about the new maps. Which ones are most important and what do they mean?

FIRM stands for Flood Insurance Rate Maps. These are the official maps on which FEMA has determined floodplains. Areas are categorized as high-risk if there is a 1 percent or higher annual chance of flooding being equalled or exceeded in any given year. These areas are also called Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). Homeowners' insurance does not cover flood damage. If you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) or high-risk area and have a federally-backed mortgage, your mortgage lender requires you to have flood insurance. Low to moderate risk areas have a lesser chance of flooding, but flooding is still a danger. In fact, low to moderate risk areas submit more than 20 percent of National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) claims and receive one-third of disaster assistance for flooding.

How do I get flood insurance? And are there discounts to acquiring the new flood insurance?

Looking into getting flood insurance can be daunting, but floodsmart.gov has information about how to help people get flood insurance. It will walk you through the process. They provide information about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as well as the Preferred Risk Policy for people who were recently mapped into high risk areas. One important thing to look at is the Grandfathering Provision, which allows people to purchase insurance at their current risk and keep that rate regardless of future changes to their property’s risk. In order to be grandfathered in for Boston’s new flood zone, you should purchase your flood insurance as soon as possible.

For more questions on the NFIP and flood insurance, read FEMA’s helpful FAQ’s here.

How do I know if I am in a high-risk area?

In order to see if you are in a high risk area, you can view the FEMA flood maps at the FEMA Flood Map Service Center. You will need to locate your property and see if it falls within the A or V zones, as those are the high-risk areas. However, in order to find out for sure, you will need to speak with your insurance agent or bank.

Click here to visit the FEMA Flood Map Service Center

We also created this helpful step-by-step guide to reading the FEMA Flood Maps. Click here to learn more.

If you have more questions or are having difficulty reading the maps, you can:

  • Come to the community open house event on January 12, 2016 from 4-7pm at the Boston Teacher’s Union Banquet Hall at 180 Mt. Vernon St. Dorchester, MA 02125 (RSVP here)

  • Contact the FEMA Map Specialist help hotline at 877-336-2627

  • Visit floodsmart.gov or fema.gov

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