FEMA Flood Map Regulatory Process: What You Should Know

As a contractor for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), my role is to ensure that communities receive proper due process when FEMA issues a new flood map. For fiscal year 2015, more than 100 new countywide maps were issued effective by the agency. If you are wondering why FEMA is updating your community’s flood map, you should know that in addition to advancements in methodologies, technologies, and information available to map flood hazards, flood risk can change over time. Natural changes in stream channels, erosion, and man-made changes like development can decrease or increase the risk. Flood zones and elevations shown on an effective map are used to determine flood insurance rates and requirements, and provide communities with information to manage development and to make other floodplain management decisions such as:

  • Regulations to prohibit development in high-hazard areas
  • Building codes requiring flood-resistant construction for new buildings in flood-prone areas
  • Acquisition and relocation of buildings in high-hazard areas
  • Modifying or retrofitting existing buildings
  • Installing flood warning systems
  • Controlling stormwater runoff

flood map

How to Purchase Flood Insurance

Through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), property owners in participating communities are able to purchase insurance protection against losses from flooding. Communities must adopt the new flood map to become or remain eligible for participation in the NFIP. However, before a map is legally adopted, there are certain steps that it goes through as part of the process.

Post-Preliminary Due Process

When FEMA releases a new flood map for a community with updated flood hazard information, by law, they must provide the community with a 90-day appeal period. If finalized, these proposed flood hazard determinations will become the basis for the floodplain management measures. The community must adopt or show evidence of having in effect these proposed flood hazard determinations to qualify or remain qualified for participation in the NFIP.

Approximately 30 days after the release of the preliminary flood map, a meeting is held with community officials and residents by FEMA and its contractor staff to discuss the revised flood hazard information presented in the map, ordinance adoption, and address other frequently asked questions and concerns.

Dewberry has conducted 450 risk map community meetings (infographic).

After the meeting, FEMA starts a 90-day appeal period by publishing a notice of the proposed flood hazard determinations in a local newspaper. During this period, any owner or lessee in the community who believes their property rights will be adversely affected by the proposed flood hazard information may appeal. It’s important to note, that only appeals that are supported by scientific or technical data can be considered before FEMA makes its final determination.

Compliance Period

After the 90-day appeal period has ended, and any appeals or comments received have been resolved, FEMA will then notify a community in writing of the official flood map effective date. At this point, FEMA will ask the community to adopt floodplain ordinances or modify existing ordinances that correspond with the new flood map. The map becomes effective six months following notification of the final flood hazard determinations. Communities that fail to enact the necessary floodplain management regulations are suspended from participation in the NFIP. If suspended, the community becomes ineligible for flood insurance through the NFIP, new insurance policies cannot be sold, and existing policies cannot be renewed.

It's FEMA's responsibility to enforce strict standards for developing and updating flood hazard information, and, therefore, the agency believes it's important to consider community feedback before finalizing maps. While local officials are responsible for representing the property owners during the mapping process, it's also in the property owners' best interest to actively engage in the dialogue. We look forward to working with our clients to help them navigate the FEMA flood map regulatory process and secure their access to flood insurance.

For more information about the map update process or the National Flood Insurance Program, please visit their official website at FEMA.gov.


  • Seng Chan
    Seng Chan
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