Reading A Flood Insurance Study (FIS)

When considering the purchase of flood insurance, properly evaluating and interpreting the flood insurance study for your home is essential. Flood insurance is required in many areas where the house or home was mortgage or financed by a federally insured a regulated bank or lender. For the most part, this means that if you have a mortgage then you have to have flood insurance in some areas. Insurance is required, by federal law, in areas where there is a 1% or more chance of flooding in any given year. Nevertheless, when reviewing the flood insurance study, there are some areas of particular interest that you should pay attention to:

Things You Will Need

Flood insurance study provided by the insurance company 

Step 1 - Reviewing 100 Year Flood Information

Take the flood insurance study, and look for a section that details 100 year flood information. This section of the study relays information about the possibility of a huge flood that occurs usually once every 100 years or so. This is a flood that is said to have a 1% or more chance of occurring in any given year period, and is the flood statistic that is most often we used by FEMA and insurance agencies for pricing flood insurance. In addition, this is the National Flood Insurance Program test statistic that Congress uses to determine - which areas actually require flood insurance.

Step 2 - Review the Base Flood Information

A base flood line is actually the same thing as the 100 year flood, and is actually the basis on which your flood insurance rates are calculated. Keep in mind that the insurance companies do not set the rates for flood insurance; the Federal Emergency Management Agency is the organization that actually sets the insurance premium rates for flood insurance.

Step 3 - Reviewing Base Flood Elevation Information

The base flood elevation is a number listed as a measurement in feet that depicts the height of the base flood or 100 year flood. Generally this number is gotten from the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVP). It is the most commonly used datum for determining flood insurance rates; however, on rare occasion other datums are used as well. If the in NAVP is not used, make sure that the insurance study provides information for which datum was actually used.

Step 4 - Reviewing Cross-Section Information

By drawing a imaginary, or hypothetical, line based on topical information across the floodplain this creates what is known as cross-sections. Cross-sections are usually the component used to compute flood water flow at any potential flood elevation. You can use the cross-section information to determine the potential for flooding inside your home, by looking at the elevation of your home in relation to the elevation height listed in the cross-section.

Step 5 - Reviewing Cubic Feet Per Second Information

As it relates to floods, the term cubic feet per second is the unit that is used to describe how fast surface water that is flowing - flows through open channels. One cubic feet per second or CFS is about the equivalent of slightly less than 8 gallons of water flowing per second.

Be sure to look at the CFS for your given area, also make sure to evaluate the CFS for a home that you may be thinking of purchasing. CFS levels of 1 to 5 are usually not dangerous levels; however, you should always consider that even one CFS can be devastating for homes that are in low ground or Valley type areas.


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