National Flood Safety Awareness Week


During National Flood Safety Awareness Week, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is offering resources to prepare, respond and recover from a flood. While elevating your property is the most effectice solution to protect your home or business from flood damage, IBHS has outlined additional ways to reduce your risks below. Find more flood resources at




Reducing the Risks of Flood Damage

You Can Go Home Again


Evaluating Flood Risk

Is your property in a designated flood zone?

  • Many properties are within a flood zone, but the risk varies based on your location and the building’s finished floor elevation (FFE).

  • Floods maps are often redrawn by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reflect new information. You may be among those now considered to be in a newly defined flood zone.

  • Obtain the FEMA flood map for your location, see “Determine your Flood Zone
    • C (unshaded) and X (unshaded), as defined by FEMA are areas of minimal flood hazard, usually depicted on FIRMs as above the 500-year flood level.
      • These zones are considered to be outside of flood prone areas. However, one-third of flooding occurs outside flood zones, according to the National Flood Insurance Program.
    • Zone C (unshaded) may have ponding and local drainage problems that don’t warrant a detailed study or designation as base floodplain.
    • Zone X (unshaded) is the area determined to be outside the 500-year flood level and protected by levee from the 100-year flood level.

If you are located in a flood-prone area:

If you aren’t sure:

  • Check with your city or county building authority, your insurance agent, or your mortgage lender to see what flood risk exists.

  • Floods maps are often redrawn by FEMA to reflect new information and recommendations. Consult your city or county building department to determine how the redrawing affects your property. You may be among those now considered to be in a newly defined flood zone.

What is your building’s Base Flood Elevation (BFE)?

  • The BFE is the elevation at which your building has a 1 percent chance of flooding annually.

  • Refer to city or county building department records or your own property survey to determine if the elevation of your building’s lowest floor is below a published BFE for your site.

  • If needed, hire a licensed surveyor to determine the elevation of your building’s lowest floor relative to a published BFE for the site.

Is your property in a Special Flood Hazard Area?

  • Your city or county building authority should be able to identify the zone you live in and allow you to plan accordingly.

Understanding flood zones and risks

If your property is in Flood Zone A:

  • The lowest floor of your home or business is likely below the base flood elevation unless it is sufficiently elevated above grade.

  • Your property is in proximity to a body of water that is subject to rising levels due to heavy rainfall or other factors.

If your property is in Flood Zone V, which typically applies to beachfront buildings:

  • These buildings are vulnerable to not only rising waters, but also wind-driven waves.

Do you have a basement?

  • Basement flooding can be a problem in some buildings, and there are steps to take to minimize potential damage. See the project Reduce Basement Flood Risks for more information.

Determine estimated flood depth for your property

  • Compare the estimated flood water heights with your building’s lowest finished floor elevation.

  • The term 100 year flood event actually means a 1 percent chance of the area flooding annually.

  • The BFE for a property, also known as the 100 year flood event, is the elevation at which your building has a 1 percent chance of flooding annually.

  • The BFE is included in the zone designations shown below.

  • A detailed description of each flood zone is also available at the FEMA Map Service Center.

The following is a summary of the flood zones:

  • Zone AE – The base floodplain where base flood elevations are provided. AE Zones are now used on new format FIRMs instead of A1-A30 Zones.

  • Zone A1-30 – These are known as numbered A Zones (e.g., A7 or A14). This is the base floodplain where the FIRM shows a BFE (old format).

  • Zone AH – Base flood elevations derived from detailed analyses are shown at selected intervals within these zones.

  • Zone AO – Average flood depths derived from detailed analyses are shown within these zones.

  • Zones VE, V1-30 – Coastal areas with a 1% or greater chance of flooding and an additional hazard associated with storm waves. Base flood elevations derived from detailed analyses are shown at selected intervals within these zones.

The BFE is not shown for flood-prone areas such as:

  • Zone A – Areas with a 1% annual chance of flooding. Because detailed analyses are not performed for such areas; no depths or base flood elevations are shown within these zones.

  • Zone AR – Areas with a temporarily increased flood risk due to the building or restoration of a flood control system (such as a levee or a dam). Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements will apply, but rates will not exceed the rates for unnumbered A zones if the structure is built or restored in compliance with Zone AR floodplain management regulations.

  • Zone V – Coastal areas with a 1% or greater chance of flooding and an additional hazard associated with storm waves. No base flood elevations are shown within these zones.

  • B (shaded) and X (shaded) – Area of moderate flood hazard, usually the area between the limits of the 100-year and 500-year floods. B Zones are also used to designate base floodplains of lesser hazards, such as areas protected by levees from 100-year flood, or shallow flooding areas with average depths of less than one foot or drainage areas less than one-square-mile.

What is your building’s Finished Floor Elevation (FFE)?

To obtain your FFE, you have the following options:

  • The FFE can be obtained from the original AS-BUILT drawings.

  • If the AS-BUILT drawings are not available, contact the builder / architect to obtain the drawings.

  • Contact the city or county building department for the records on your property.

  • Hire a licensed surveyor to determine the elevation of your building’s lowest floor.

Compare the BFE / 100 year with the FFE

  • If the estimated BFE is greater than the FFE.

  • Your facility has a risk of more than 1% per year that it will be inundated by flood waters.

  • Even a small amount of flood water in a building can cause extensive damage.

Compare the 500 year with the FFE

  • If the estimated 500 year (0.2 % annual probability flood height) is greater than the FFE.

  • Flood protection should be considered.

Special Flood Hazard Considerations

Although buildings may be located outside of flood-prone areas such as C and X unshaded, they may still be vulnerable to some form of flooding because:

  • FEMA flood maps may be outdated due to construction and build up of the area.

  • Heavy rains and downpours, combined with surface and storm water runoff may create localized flooding and ponding.

  • Poor, clogged, or insufficient drainage systems can also lead to localized flooding.

  • Terrain sloping (topography) can create areas of localized flooding.

Local Area Flood Protection (LAFP)

  • LAFP includes various waterway systems that can control the amount of flow of water to adjust and maintain water levels in lakes, reservoirs, preservation areas, rivers, canals, etc.

  • LAFP can consist of levees, dams, dikes, flood gates, etc.

  • LAFP can be made of earth or man made products.

Is there a levee nearby?

  • Is it part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Levee Inspection Program?

  • Is it part of the National Levee Database?

  • Obtain this information from the US Army Corps of Engineers.


Determine Your Flood Zone Designation


If you are a part of the National Insurance Flood Program, updating your private property insurance flood coverage, or just want a better understanding of your flood exposure, obtaining the most up to date flood map for your area is the place to start. It is important to note that there are many times when a building can experience flood damage even if it is not located within a designated flood prone area. Along with a copy of the flood map, it is best to get an understanding of the surrounding area to fully understand your risk.Community Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) are available through the FEMA Map Service Center’s website.

Notes about using the FEMA website: Make sure your brower’s “Pop Up Blocker” is turned off. Also, the windows / screens will “time out” and create an error that will prevent you from proceeding. If that happens, you will have to re-enter information.


Searching by address

Product (Map) Search by Address:

  • To the left of the page is a box titled “Product Search by Maps.”

  • Leave the top box 1 with the existing entry of “Flood Maps.”

  • Enter the Address in box 2.

  • Click on “Search by Street Address.”

  • The next screen “Map Search Results” will include three options.

  • Click on “View”A new window will pop up titled “Intranex Viewer.”

  • Use the “Zoom” and “Pan” buttons on the left of the page to assist in finding your location on the map.

  • Once you find your location, you can create a FIRMette.

Notes about using the FEMA website: Sometimes it can be difficult to determine your particular location on the FIRM due to lack of road names. Pull up your favorite online map service and compare the two maps. Keep in mind the FIRM screen will time out.


A FIRMette is a customized map showing your location and flood risk.

Creating a FIRMette is the last step in determining your flood zone risk. If you followed the steps above, you should now be familiar with the FEMA Product (Map) Search by Address. To illustrate what a finished FIRMette looks like, IBHS engineers created the sample shown here that illustrates a finished product showing the IBHS headquarters in Tampa, Florida.

Create a FIRMette showing your own location using the FEMA Map Service Center software:

  • On the left side of the “Intranex Viewer” click on “Make a FIRMette.”

  • A pink box with green border will appear in the left corner of the map.

  • Click and hold the pink box and drag it over the area where your facility is located on the map.

  • On the left side of the page, under Step 3.

  • Create FIRMette, click on “Adobe PDF.”

  • If you are not satisfied with your map, click the “Back” button on the left side of the page.

  • If you are satisfied with your map, click on “Save your FIRMette” on the left side of the page.

  • A small pop up window asking if you want to open or save the document, click on “Open.”

  • Review the pdf for the proper location and note that the title block includes the map number and date.

  • If satisfied then save the document.


Prepare, Respond, Recover

Prepare – When flooding is imminent:

  • Clear drains, gutters and downspouts of debris.

  • Roll up area rugs and carpeting, where possible, and store these on higher floors or elevations. This will reduce the chances of rugs getting wet and growing mold.

  • Move furniture and electronics off the floor, particularly in basements and first floor levels.

  • Anchor fuel tanks. An unanchored tank can be torn free by floodwaters, and the broken supply line can cause contamination or, if outdoors, can be swept downstream and damage other property.

  • Prepare an evacuation kit with important papers, insurance documents, medications and other things you may need if you are forced to be away from your home or business for several days.

  • Inspect sump pumps and drains to ensure proper operation. If a sump pump has a battery backup, make sure the batteries are fresh or replace the batteries.

  • Shut off electrical service at the main breaker if the electrical system and outlets will be under water.

  • Place all appliances, including stove, washer and dryer on masonry blocks or concrete at least 12 inches above the projected flood elevation.

Respond – If time allows:

  • Hire a licensed electrician to raise electric components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers and wiring) at least 12 inches above the expected flood levels for your area.

  • If flood waters enter the sewer system, sewage can back up and enter your home. To prevent this, hire a licensed plumber to install an interior or exterior backflow valve. Check with your building department for permit requirements.

  • Make sure your yard’s grading (slope) directs water away from the building.

  • Have the installation of your furnace, water heater and other permanently equipment modified so that they are elevated above the expected flood levels for your area.

Recover – After a flood:

  • As soon as it is safe to do so, disconnect all electronics/electrical equipment and move it to a dry location.

  • Remove as much standing water as possible from inside the building.

  • Remove water-damaged materials immediately.

  • Ventilate with fans or use dehumidifiers to dry out the house.

  • Acting quickly can increase the chance of salvaging usable materials, reduce the amount of rust, rot and mold that might develop, and limit the likelihood of structural problems.


Reduce Basement Flood Risks

Answer the following questions to help determine your level of basement flood risks:

  • Does the basement flood every year at approximately the same time?
  • Does the basement flood during random intervals?
  • Where is the basement flooding?
    • Is it at the top of the basement wall?
    • At the bottom of the wall?
    • Through a floor drain?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, refer to the specific guidance below about location and retrofit options to minimize or eliminate the risk of water entering your basement. Some guidance may require a plumbing or construction professional to complete the project.

Flooding Solutions

Inspect the location where water is entering and consider these solutions:

  • Extend and re-direct the downspouts.
  • Reshape the landscaping around the foundation of the building.
  • Caulk any cracks on the interior of the wall around where the water is entering.
  • If the entire wall is damp or water is entering through multiple wall surfaces, this may be a sign of a faulty or missing exterior water proofing membrane. Consider hiring a licensed contractor to install a waterproofing membrane.
  • For an unfinished basement, consider applying an internal sealant that can be painted on interior surface of basement walls. Frequently, these products require constant maintenance or they will stop working.
  • If water is entering near the top of the wall in one location, an improperly sloped landscape angled toward the building could be the cause.

Other location-based solutions

  • If the water appears to be entering the building near the foundation or through a floor drain:
    • Install a “French Drainage” system around the perimeter of the building or at least in areas subject to frequent flooding.
    • Consider hiring a licensed contractor to install the French Drain.
    • Ensure that the drain has a method for diverting the water away from the foundation. The drain should empty into the primary storm drainage system, a retention pond or other appropriate location.


Using Sump Pumps

  • Install a sump pump with a battery backup system:
    • This may require demolition of a portion of the basement floor to install the pump.
    • To be effective, the sump pump needs to be away from the basement walls and have positive drainage away from the building.
  • Sump pumps should be tested at least once a year, preferably in the early spring, prior to the “wet season.”
    • Test the system if a storm is approaching, and make sure the sump pit does not contain any debris that will clog the sump’s inlet pipe.
    • Ensure the outlet pipe is clear and the water flows freely to the designated area.
  • If the sump does not operate properly, check the power source for the pump.
    • If you cannot determine the problem yourself, contact a professional to diagnose the problem.


Using Generators Safely


  • Portable generators are less expensive to purchase and install than permanent (standby) generators. Without a supplemental fuel supply, they have a relatively short run-time and may need to be refueled several times a day during a prolonged power outage.

  • Most portable generators are designed to work with a few appliances or pieces of electrical equipment that may be plugged directly into the generator without the use of a generator transfer switch.

  • This type of generator could be especially useful, but it isn’t recommended if you are operating sensitive equipment or have numerous large appliances or business machines.

  • When using a portable generator, you also will have to purchase an electric power cord to feed the electrical equipment.

  • This should be a heavy duty outdoor-rated extension cord sized for the total electrical load (voltage and amps) you may need.

  • Choose a cord that exceeds the total expected load in order to prevent excessive heat buildup and degradation of the power cord.

  • Ensure that the cord has three prongs and has no splits, cuts or holes in the external insulation covering.

  • An overloaded power cord can potentially start a fire.


  • Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from engine exhaust is a common and serious danger that can result in death if generators are used improperly, in particular, if the fuel is not burned completely.

  • Because CO is invisible and odorless, business and/or building owners should install a CO detector to warn of rising CO levels, and test it monthly.

  • Never use generators indoors or outside near windows, vents, or air intakes that could allow CO to come indoors.

  • Maintain plenty of air flow space around the generator.

  • When using an emergency electric power generator, get fresh air immediately if you begin to feel flu like symptoms, sick, dizzy or light headed.

  • Carefully follow all instructions on properly “grounding” the generator.

  • Keep the generator dry. If needed, operate portable generators under an open canopy type structure. Short circuits may occur in wet conditions resulting in the generator catching fire.


  • Store fuel in an approved storage container or holding tank designed for such use, and only use fuel that is recommended in the owner’s manual. Never store fuel indoors.

  • Do not keep fuel near the electric generator while the electric generator is in use, as it could start a fire.

  • Never refuel while the generator is running, and always keep a fully charged fire extinguisher located nearby.

  • Keep cords out of the way to avoid injury, but in plain view to allow for visual inspections of any damage, such as fraying or cuts, that could result in a fire.

Avoid back feeding

  • Do not “back feed” power into your electrical system by plugging the generator into a wall outlet. Back feeding will put you and potentially others, including utility line workers, at serious risk because the utility transformer can increase the low voltage from the generator to thousands of volts. Some states have laws that make the generator owner responsible for taking steps to make sure that the generator’s electricity cannot feed back into the power lines, and for notifying the local utility of the location of any commercial, industrial, or residential generator.

  • The exterior portions of a generator, even those operated for only a short period of time, can become hot. Avoid touching the generator without protective gear and keep debris clear to avoid a fire.

Find Additional Guidance for Using Commercial Generators.

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