Concerns are rising nationwide over flood risk and the related costs of flood insurance or repairs to flood-inflicted damage. Along with this growing concern comes the need for resources that can deliver information as to the level of risk we are facing as individuals and communities.

In a search for clarity, citizens and industry professionals alike are being drawn to free online resources, such as publicly available information from FEMA or other official-looking groups or collaborating partners, that are well-meaning but otherwise limited or even flawed. 

The bottom line is that free information, maps and models do not offer or deliver the caliber of data, clarity and protection you get from an official structure-based flood zone determination. While it may be interesting to browse free online flood resource tools, it essentially equates to a waste of time when it comes to taking action and addressing real concerns over flood risk. 

The Pros and Cons of Free Flood Resources

On the upside, the availability and popularity of free online flood resources is indicative of the greater awareness spreading throughout the public as to the pervasiveness of flooding, and its importance as a topic. But, in this way, they are more a symptom of the flood issues we face rather than the cure.

In many cases, individuals perceive these sites as one-stop, official sources of accurate flood risk information associated with a particular property or home. This could not be further from the truth, and these sites feature disclaimers stating as much. This inevitably leads to more confusion and frustration as real-estate purchases, sales or other projects or transactions unfold. Consider these Pro’s and Con’s of Free Flood Resources: 

PROs 

  • Increase awareness of flood risks 
  • Raise awareness of the shortcomings of current regulatory data, mapping and funding
  • Provide broad, generalized and non-consequential information

CONs

  • Is not official documentation required by law on any federally-backed loan
  • Is not reliable for any legal or regulatory use, such as determining flood insurance requirements and policy rates
  • Misleads and deters individuals from securing truly accurate, detailed, official data 
  • Has not gone through official vetting and due process
  • May not be created in conjunction with FEMA maps
  • Provides rough, non-specific maps or no map views at all

With the amount of problems we are facing as a nation with regard to flood, both citizens and industry professionals can not afford to waste their time with generalized, unofficial resources. 

Clarity Is Crucial. Here’s Why…

The following facts lay out an important understanding of flood issues in the US right now:

  • Flooding is the #1 Natural Disaster, affecting all 50 states
  • From 2014 to 2018, policyholders outside of high-risk flood areas filed over 40 percent of all NFIP flood insurance claims and required one-third of federal disaster assistance for flooding
  • FEMA’s NFIP remains the backbone of floodplain management
  • FEMA’s NFIP is over $20 billion in debt and in need of major reform
  • FEMA has addressed this by releasing thousands of new maps, causing a change in flood status to structures nationwide (for better or worse)
  • Further reform is coming, with redesign of the NFIP’s risk rating system, but not until October 2021 unless Congress delays it even further

With this much change and turmoil in the world of flood regulation, engaging with free online resources that deliver no more than a partially educated guess on flood risk is an exercise in futility. 

Here’s How To Get The Clarity Needed Now

For any endeavor that requires confirmation of your true flood status – be it home-ownership, insuring, building, lending, selling or refinancing – the process should always start with securing an official, certified flood zone determination report. 

The same goes for the process of challenging a flood status or pursuing options for mitigation based on securing an elevation certificate or a LOMA (Letter of Map Amendment) to reduce or remove flood insurance costs. It all starts with an accurate, structure-based, official flood zone determination report.

Flood insurance requirements and rates for federally-backed loans are enforced on properties where the structure comes into contact with High-Risk Flood Zones, officially called Special Flood Hazard Areas or SFHA’s. Therefore it’s crucial to have absolute precision when it comes to FEMA mapping data and visuals, to properly detect the locations and boundaries of the zones and the structure.

To achieve this, the most accurate official flood zone determination reports in the industry implement deeper levels of higher-quality data to deliver a crystal-clear look at a property’s official flood status. They also provide expert, comprehensive analysis that can add nuance to a particular property’s flood status and options for potential removal or reduction of flood insurance premiums.

While there is an abundance of free resources that aim to deliver deeper insight on properties’ or communities’ flood risk, these resources are unofficial and unreliable, to their own admittance.  These resources can very well subdue fears and anxieties, while actually leaving individuals blind and vulnerable to true flood risk. 

Whether a property is being purchased with a federally backed loan, private funds or cash, it is crucial for all real estate owners, especially those guided by trusted industry professionals, to be directed to reliable data, certified information and expert support of an official structure-based flood zone determination company.

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