How to Find Out How High My House Is Above the Flood Level for My Area?

In terms of damages, floods are the number one disaster in the United States.

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To help communities across the U. S. prepare for the risk of floods, FEMA collects hydrologic data to create the flood hazard maps, called Flood Insurance Risk Management Maps (FIRM), which outline your community's different flood risk areas. Communities are classified in categories ranging from severe risk to negligible risk.

Visit FEMA's map service center website. FEMA has digital copies of flood insurance rate maps for many communities across the United States.

Narrow down the area where your property is located by searching by state, county, and community. As you search write down the ID numbers for you area. The state ID will be a two-digit number, the county and community are differentiated by six-digit community identification numbers.

Pull up the community map and locate your property. You will need to use references including lot dimensions to locate your property. If your community does not appear on the flood map, repeat your search, but this time search county-wide. County maps only cover the flood-prone communities, but they make note of the non-flood-prone communities in the footnotes. If you find it difficult to view the map, call the FEMA map service center and order a copy of the map. Alternatively, your local building and zoning office should carry copies of FIRMs.

Read the legend on either your digital or paper map. In comparing your property to the symbols in the legend you can ascertain your property's elevation, its elevation in relation to the base flood, and its flood risk classification.

Things You Will Need

  • Property survey

Tips

  • The maps will resemble engineering maps; there will be no addresses. You will need to extrapolate where your property is on the maps. To help find your property on the map, use references such as streets, how many lots you are away from intersections and the shape of your property. If you know the actual dimensions of your lot you can use the scale on the map to verify you have the correct property. Note that all maps will be slightly different, so read the legend carefully if viewing different maps.
  • Flood maps contain a legend. In the legend you can expect to find information including your flood insurance risk zone and the boundaries of the 100- and 500-year floods. FEMA has map service specialists that you can call if you have difficulty deciphering the maps.

Warning

  • All maps will be classified according to the same flood risk scale, developed by FEMA. This scale is as follows: high-risk areas have at least a 1 percent annual chance of flooding and are indicated on the map by the letter A, moderate-to-low risk areas have a reduced, but not absent risk of flooding and are identified by the letters B, C or X (or a shaded X). In undetermined-risk areas no flood-hazard analysis has been conducted, but a flood risk still exists. These areas are zone D on flood maps.

About the Author

Lea Clark is a geologist who began writing in 2001. She has written countless articles covering everything from mining to environmental remediation.