Coastal Flood Hazards: New York / New Jersey

Coastal Flood Hazards: New York City/New Jersey

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

This document contains Frequently Asked Questions regarding flood map updates, how to prepare for flood hazards, and how each community member can become involved in the mapping process.


What role can my office play in keeping my constituents safe from flood hazards?

Keeping constituents informed of flood hazards and flood map updates is vital for the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) success. Congressional leaders and their staff are in a great position to keep their Districts and States up to speed on flood hazards and new maps. Relaying this information to local officials, residents, and business owners is a valuable way of making sure the people located in high risk flood zones take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their property. This includes developing an emergency plan should flooding occur, researching ways to floodproof an existing structure or construct new structures that are flood safe, and purchasing flood insurance.  

How can my office participate in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood mapping process?

A goal of FEMA’s Region II office is to keep Congressional leaders apprised of flood map related activities as they occur. Information for ongoing map updates can be accessed from and by contacting the FEMA Region II Office of External Affairs at Congressional leaders can then distribute flood risk information to local government officials and residents of their communities to ensure that people involved at every level have consistent, precise information regarding flood hazards, the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), and the Flood Insurance Study (FIS) report.

Whom can my office contact with questions related to FEMA flood maps and the NFIP?

Please contact for addition information and questions related to updated flood maps and the NFIP.

What actions can I take to stay safe from flood risk?

Understand your flood risk – people who live and work in coastal areas should take the necessary steps to learn about the flood hazards near their homes and places of business, and to protect themselves from loss by purchasing an NFIP flood insurance policy. Property owners can take additional steps to reduce risk by floodproofing their homes and moving valuable items to higher floors. Be sure to consult with your community officials for information on areas with a known flood risk and check out your community’s current FIRM through the FEMA Map Service Center website ( or your community’s local map repository.  More information on FIRMs is available at

Be prepared – make sure you have an emergency plan for your family and be aware of local evacuation procedures.  For more information on preparing a plan, visit the Flooding homepage at, FEMA’s disaster preparedness website.  New York residents may visit the New York City Office of Emergency Management’s Ready New York page at

Safeguard your financial future by purchasing flood insurance, if you haven’t already.  Most homeowners insurance policies and many business owner policies do not cover damage from flooding.  To learn more, visit FloodSmart at

Why is FEMA updating the flood hazard information on the FIRM for my community?

Flood risk can change over time.  Natural changes in stream channels, beach erosion, and manmade changes, such as development and construction of bridges or sea walls, may decrease or increase the likelihood of flooding in a given area.  Additionally, many FIRMs were developed in the late 1970s and 1980s.  There have been great advancements in the methodologies, technologies, and information available to identify and map flood risk since then.  The New York/New Jersey coastline is one of the most highly populated and developed in the Nation; much development has occurred since the area was last mapped.  This new study will use the most current and accepted techniques for modeling storm surge and coastal flood risk, and when completed, will represent the most comprehensive analysis of coastal flood risks to date in the area.

What is the flood hazard information on the FIRMs used for?

The flood zone designations on FIRMs are used to determine flood insurance rates and requirements.  Community officials also use the FIRMs to manage development and to make other floodplain management decisions. More precise, up-to-date maps of flood risk can also help property owners make decisions on steps they can take to protect their families, neighbors, and property from flooding.
Are coastal areas subject to additional flood hazards in comparison to inland areas?

Living near water comes with inherent risk of flooding.  Coastal areas have an additional vulnerability from storm surge and an increased probability of storm impacts.  Specifically, structures in V Zones are subject to hazards associated with wave action, in addition to the hazards posed by rising floodwaters. More detailed descriptions of all FEMA flood zones can be found on FEMA’s Flood Zones webpage located at

Who is responsible for developing the new FIRMs?

FEMA, in collaboration with State and local entities and technical experts from private-sector contractors and research institutions, is developing the new FIRMs.  FEMA applies rigorous standards to ensure that FIRMs represent the best available flood hazard data and engages local experts in the process on a regular basis.

How can I get the current effective FIRM for my community?

You can view and order a copy of the current effective FIRM for your community through the FEMA Map Service Center located at  Your local community map repository, which is usually part of the planning and zoning office, should also have copies of the FIRM.

Will I be able to view the preliminary FIRM before it becomes effective?

Yes.  The preliminary FIRM and accompanying Flood Insurance Study report will be available both online at, and through your community’s local map repository (often, the planning or zoning office).

What do the flood zone designations on FIRMs mean?

Zones shown on the FIRM with low and moderate risk are labeled B, C, X, or an X with shading.  High-risk zones, or Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs), are labeled A, AE, AO, or AH.  SFHAs have at least a 1-percent chance of flooding every year, and flood insurance is mandatory for properties within them.  Coastal high hazard areas (Zones V or VE) are SFHAs where computed wave heights are 3 feet or more; these areas are subject to more stringent building requirements and different flood insurance rates than other zones shown on the FIRM because these areas are exposed to a higher level of risk than other SFHAs.  FEMA is also mapping the Limit of Moderate Wave Action (LiMWA) on the updated FIRMs for New York City and coastal New Jersey. The LiMWA represents the inland limit of the area affected by waves greater than 1.5 feet. .More detailed descriptions of all FEMA flood zones can be found on FEMA’s Flood Zones webpage located at

If the previous FIRM showed that my property was in a low- or moderate-risk zone, but the new one shows it in a high-risk zone, what effect will that have?

If your home or business is shown to be in a high-risk zone, or SFHA, on the new map, you will be required to purchase flood insurance if you have a mortgage from a federally regulated lender. Over the life of a 30 year mortgage, the chance of a flood damaging your house is nearly three times greater than the risk of a fire.

Even if you don’t have a mortgage, it is still recommended that you purchase flood insurance to cover personal property. Most homeowners, renters, and commercial insurance policies do not provide coverage for damage due to flooding. You can also reduce risk in your home by moving high-value objects and irreplaceable items such as family photos to the higher floor in your home.

If the previous FIRM showed that my property was in a high-risk zone, but the new one shows it in a low- or moderate-risk zone, what effect will that have?

When the zone designation for a residence or other insurable structure changes from a high-risk SFHA to a moderate- or low-risk zone, the requirement to purchase flood insurance will no longer apply. However, FEMA strongly encourages purchasing flood insurance because, although the risk may be lower, it is not eliminated. Properties outside SFHAs may be eligible for a Preferred Risk Policy (PRP), which is the lowest cost NFIP policy. Premiums range from $129 to $408 for a PRP that provides both building and contents coverage. The cost to renters for a PRP that covers contents ranges from $49 to $238. For more information on flood insurance, visit or call 1 888-379-9531 toll-free.

How much does flood insurance cost?

While the average cost of NFIP flood insurance in New York and New Jersey is $850 per year, property owners may qualify for a Preferred Risk Policy (PRP) that covers both the structure and its contents for as little as $129 per year. PRP coverage for renters starts at $49 a year.

The NFIP also has grandfathering rules that provide cost savings to policyholders whose structures were built in compliance with the FIRM in effect at the time of construction, or who have had continuous flood insurance coverage.  For more information on grandfathering, visit (   

There may be other ways to save on flood insurance – if your home is elevated, for example, lower rates may apply.  Higher deductibles can also be used to lower premiums. Remember that the cost of properly protecting your house and contents from flood damage is far less than the cost of repairing flood damage or replacing the contents. To locate an insurance agent who is knowledgeable about flood insurance, visit or call 1-888-379-9531 toll-free.

As a renter, can I still purchase flood insurance?

Yes. You can purchase a policy to protect the contents of your dwelling. Coverage for renters starts at $49 a year. To locate an agent, visit or call 1-888-379-9531 toll-free.

What do I do if I believe the FIRM is showing my home or business in a high-risk area in error?

The flood risk zone designations on new maps are based on the best data available to Federal, State, and local engineers and officials when the areas on the maps were studied. Every effort is made to ensure that the maps reflect the most precise and reliable flood risk information for all properties. However, some areas of high ground are occasionally shown in SFHAs.

FEMA makes determinations about whether individual structures or lots should be included in an SFHA based on information submitted by the property owner through the Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) process (more information is available at Before requesting a LOMA, you may wish to talk with a Map Specialist by calling 1-877-FEMA MAP.


What is the role of the community in floodplain management?

Floodplain management consists of corrective and preventative measures that reduce the risk of flood damage. Measures generally include, but are not limited to, zoning, subdivision, or building requirements; special-purpose floodplain ordinances; mitigation and emergency preparedness plans; and flood-control works. More information on floodplain management and the requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program can be found on FEMA’s NFIP Floodplain Management page at

When a community decides to participate in the NFIP, the community must adopt and enforce minimum floodplain management standards. NFIP floodplain management requirements are designed to prevent new development from increasing flood risk and to protect new and existing buildings from anticipated flood events. Community officials also have an important role in understanding what flood risks exist in their community and serve as the primary providers of information to residents regarding flood risk.

FEMA relies on community officials to be the first line of flood hazard information for their residents. For ideas on how your community can provide critical flood hazard information to your constituents, please visit

What is the role of the community in the FIRM update process?

The community plays an important role throughout the FIRM update process. FEMA meets with local officials to refine the scope of the mapping project and to ensure any existing information available through the community is included in the new FIRM and FIS report. When the preliminary FIRM is released, communities have the right and the responsibility to provide constructive technical feedback to ensure that the FIRM is an accurate representation of current community conditions. Communities also need to communicate information regarding the map changes to residents.

What happens after the preliminary FIRMs are issued?  

Following issuance of the preliminary FIRM, a community coordination meeting will be held by FEMA to explain changes to the FIRM, answer questions, and obtain feedback from communities and the public.   The times and dates of all meetings will be posted on the FEMA website at

After the public meeting, a 90-day appeal period will be provided, during which the community and others may appeal the proposed flood hazard information by submitting scientific or technical data that proves the flood hazard information is shown in error on the preliminary FIRM.  

At the end of the 90-day appeal period or once all appeals are resolved, whichever is later, FEMA will issue a Letter of Final Determination (LFD) which establishes that the flood hazard information is final. The LFD initiates the 6-month compliance period during which the community must adopt or amend its floodplain management regulations to reflect the updated flood hazard information shown on the FIRM.

The FIRM will become effective following the 6-month compliance period. At that time, flood insurance will be required for properties now within the Special Flood Hazard Area (area at risk of the 1 percent-annual-chance flood) shown on the FIRM. The final FIRM will be available at your community’s local map repository and online through FEMA’s Map Service Center at For additional information on the appeal period, visit FEMA’s Flood Hazard Determinations webpage at

When will the preliminary FIRMs become effective?

On average, a FIRM becomes effective 18 to 24 months after the preliminary FIRM has been released.  

Is there any way to obtain a community-wide discount on the cost of flood insurance premiums?

Yes. All communities in the NFIP adopt and enforce minimum standards for managing construction and development in their Special Flood Hazard Areas. When communities join the NFIP’s Community Rating System (CRS), their policyholders receive a discount on flood insurance premiums when additional floodplain management activities are performed that result in a higher level of safety and protection for their citizens. The CRS recognizes communities for their additional efforts to (1) reduce flood damage to insurable property; (2) strengthen and support the insurance aspects of the NFIP; and (3) encourage a comprehensive approach to floodplain management. For information about joining the CRS, visit the FEMA CRS Resource Center at

Who should I talk to if I have questions about the FIRM update process?

Please e-mail, or call the FEMA Map Information eXchange (FMIX) at 1-877-336-2627.