by Gordon Jeremiah Berry
FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency that oversees all forms of natural disasters that occur within the United States. FEMA distributes flood maps to a wide range of users, private citizens, insurance agents, real estate brokers, community officials, lending institutions, and federal agencies.
How they come up with the analysis of flood zone maps is through areas that have been most affected over decades. However, most of these maps are over 20 years old, and updating them would take time, coordinated cooperation, and it will also be very expensive. Such maps attempt to figure and factor in how often a flood will occur and what the percentage of flooding within certain areas will take place. For example, what is referred to as a 100 year flood, this would mean that a particular area has a 26 percent chance of a flood occurring during a 30-year period. Most home mortgages are for over a 30-year time frame.
If flood insurance, home owners insurance, and property taxes often estimate(s) a premium based on the FEMA assessment map, then chances are they are going by a very outdated map. However, this sometimes allows residents affected by such areas, as able to try to challenge each estimate, especially the local property taxes. This would of course require each individual home owner to do a lot of homework and make many phone calls to both their state and local governments to find answers to the area(s) they may live.
One can submit to change a flood zone map, by an Online Letter of a Map Change, through their website fema.gov/change-flood-zone-designation-online-letter-map-change. There it lists How to Request a Change to Your Flood Zone Designation. There is an LOMC Application—an LOMC Application is an internet-based tool that allows applications to easily request an Amendment or Revision to a flood map. There is also a term called ELOMA, that’s a web-based application that provides licensed land surveyors and professional engineers and other FEMA approved certified professionals with a system to submit LOMA requests that are not considered to be within a coastal zone.
FEMA has regional offices as well as what is called a FEMA LOMC Clearinghouse where you can request for a Flood Insurance Rate Map or (FIRM) as well as requests for conditional and final revisions. The address is LOMC Clearinghouse 7390 Coca Cola Dr., Suite 204 Hanover, MD 21076 or the toll free number is 1 -877 – 336 – 2637, ask to speak with a “FEMA Flood Map Specialist” or email the map specialist at FEMAMapSpecialist@riskmapcds.com and if you are able to get them to release the proposed maps or updated maps, property owners must remember two things: one, the maps are not final, and second, the clock begins ticking immediately. The community must notify property owners of the proposed maps in a local newspaper and following the second notification, there is a 90 day appeal period stats.
Property owners who may be impacted by the proposed maps should first inquire into whether the community plans to hire an engineering consultant and an attorney to help review and appeal the maps. It may be possible the appeal might produce favorable mapping results for the community, but not for a property owner’s individual property.
Pursuant to federal regulations, the community must provide detailed evidence “that the elevations proposed by FEMA are scientifically or technically inaccurate.” The burden of gathering such scientific evidence falls on the property owners.
If a community files an appeal within the 90 day window, it will enter into a period of negotiation with FEMA. If a middle ground cannot be reached, the matter may then be resolved through either an Administrative Hearing or through a process initiated by the U.S. Congress called the Scientific Resolution Panel or (SRP). It takes about 45 to 120 days in whole for the written opinion to the Administrator reaches its final determination.
There are famous cases available for research, such as the case in New Orleans where the mayor of that city fought to try to guarantee the accuracy of these flood maps so that the actual risk was appropriately calculated. FEMA in turn, released the finalized flood maps for New Orleans.
Owning a home and property can be overwhelming at times. But with the right amount of homework, research, and community involvement the anxieties can easy go from extremely overwhelming to reasonably manageable.
About the Author
Gordon Jeremiah Berry, is an avid reader and intense researcher. Mr. Berry looks for the deeper meaning behind all things. His favorite saying is “Love must always win out!”