Part 2
FIRM is an acronym for Flood Insurance Rate Map. In Part 1 we discussed Physical Features, Legends and Benchmarks. Next we will explore 3 more areas to be familiar with: Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA), Base Flood Elevation (BFE), and Community Information.

  • Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA). These areas are at risk of being inundated by the 1% annual flood. These are commonly known as Zones A and AE in non-coastal areas. The SFHA and floodway areas are typically located directly adjacent to where the stream or water body is located and would be the first area that the water would go in the event of a flood.
  • Base Flood Elevation (BFE). The BFE is the number assigned by FEMA which establishes the elevation where a property becomes at risk of flooding. The elevation establishes the number of feet above sea level that a property needs to be at in order to be “safe” from flooding. If your property is located above the BFE, you’re less likely to flood. If your property is located below the BFE, you’re more likely to flood. The BFE is directly related to the location of the water source and where the water would go in the event of a flood.
  • Community Information. Participation in FEMA is optional. A community, city, municipality, county, etc. choose to either participate or not participate in FEMA. Those who choose to participate are eligible for participation in Flood Insurance and can receive assistance in the event of a flood. Those communities who “opt out” are not eligible for Flood Insurance.

To summarize, a FIRM is created from data obtained from engineering studies called Flood Insurance Studies (FISs). The FISs determines the SFHA. Let it be known that a 100 year flood is not a flood that occurs every 100 years! Regardless of “what year you are in”, you have a 1% chance of being flooded. The 100 year flood is the basis for insurance requirements nationwide. Click Here to Learn How to Read a FIRM Map

Interested in learning more? This is a great tutorial offered by FEMA further elaborating on how to read and interpret a FIRM.