Defining Flood Risks

Flooding can happen anywhere, but certain areas are especially prone to serious flooding. FEMA has been defining flood risks to help communities understand their risk, flood maps (Flood Insurance Rate Maps, FIRMs) have been created to show the locations of high-risk, moderate-to-low risk and undetermined-risk areas. Here are the definitions for each:

High-Risk Areas (Special Flood Hazard Area or SFHA)

In high-risk areas, there is at least a 1 in 4 chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage. All home and business owners in these areas with mortgages from federally regulated or insured lenders are required to buy flood insurance. They are shown on the flood maps as zones labeled with the letters A or V.

Moderate-To-Low Risk Areas (Non-Special Flood Hazard Area or NSFA)

In moderate-to-low risk areas, the risk of being flooded is reduced but not completely removed. These areas submit over 20% of NFIP claims and receive one-third of disaster assistance for flooding. Flood insurance isn't federally required in moderate-to-low areas, but it is recommended for all property owners and renters. They are shown on flood maps as zones labeled with the letters B, C or X (or a shaded X).

Undetermined-Risk Areas

No flood-hazard analysis has been conducted in these areas, but a flood risk still exists. Flood insurance rates reflect the uncertainty of the flood risk. These areas are labeled with the letter D on the flood maps.