Shawnee County Flood Map Modernization

Detailed Thorough Precise.

Questions and Answers
Question 1: Why is Shawnee County getting new flood hazard maps?

Flood hazard maps, also known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), are important tools in the effort to protect lives and properties in Shawnee County. They indicate the risk for flooding throughout the entire geographic area of the county. However, the current maps are out of date. Over time, water flow and drainage patterns have changed dramatically due to surface erosion, land use and natural forces. The likelihood of riverine flooding in certain areas has changed along with these factors.

New digital mapping techniques will provide more detailed, reliable and current data on Shawnee County’s flood hazards. The result: a better picture of the areas most likely to experience flooding and a better foundation from which to make key decisions.

Question 2: Who is responsible for modernizing the maps?

Currently, there is a nationwide collaborative effort across all levels of government to update the nation’s flood hazard data and provide it in a detailed, digital format, in accordance with a multi-year plan created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Shawnee County’s map modernization project represents the entire geographic area of the county, including both incorporated and unincorporated areas, is a joint effort with FEMA, the Kansas Department of Agricultural, Division of Water Resources, and, local governments.

Question 3: What is a Flood Hazard Map?

Flood hazard maps, also called Flood Insurance Rate Maps or FIRMs are used to determine the flood risk to your home or business. A FIRM illustrates the extent of flood hazards in a community by depicting flood risk zones and the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs), and is used with the Flood Insurance Study (FIS) report to determine the floodplain development regulations that apply in each flood risk zone and who must buy flood insurance. The low-and moderate-risk zones are represented on the maps by the letter “X” or an “X” that is shaded. The high-risk zones will be labeled with designations such as A, AE, AO or AH.

Question 4: What is a Flood Insurance Study report?

When detailed study methods are used to determine Base Flood Elevations (BFEs), a FIS report is generated. A FIS is a narrative report of the community’s flood hazards that contains prior flooding information, descriptions of the flooding sources, information on flood protection measures, and a description of the hydrologic and hydraulic methods used in the study.

Question 5: What are the benefits of the new flood hazard maps?

The Map Modernization Project will benefit numerous groups of people in different ways:

  • Community planners and local officials will gain a greater understanding of the flood hazards and risk that affect Shawnee County communities and can therefore improve local planning activities.
  • Builders and developers will have access to more detailed information for making decisions on where to build and how construction can affect local flood hazard areas.
  • Insurance agents and companies, and lending institutions will have easy on-line access to updates and upcoming changes in order to serve their customers and community more efficiently.
  • Home and business owners will have the ability to make better financial decisions about protecting their properties.
Question 6: What is a floodplain and how do I determine if my property is located in this area?

A floodplain is a land area that is at risk of being covered by water from any source. FEMA’s flood maps represent floodplains as areas where there is a 1% annual chance of flood waters (commonly known as the 100-year flood) reaching or exceeding the level indicated on the map. These are high-risk areas (also known as Special Flood Hazard Areas or SFHAs) and the flood zones are labeled on the flood map beginning with the letter “A” (i.e. A, AO, AE, etc.). This risk for flooding continues to exist outside of the floodplains and is represented on the new flood maps as moderate-risk zones (shaded X) and low-risk zones (X). About 26% of all flood claims come from these moderated and low risk zones.

To view the new preliminary Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs) and locate your property, visit the Flood Map page.

Question 7: How will the new flood hazard maps affect me?

Neighborhoods and businesses across Shawnee County will be affected differently by these map changes. There will be some properties that aren’t affected—their flood risk remains the same. Other properties will now be mapped into a higher-risk area and or show a new Base Flood Elevation (BFE). Some properties will be mapped into a lower-risk area than before. However, the flood risk for these properties is only reduced, not removed, and flood insurance is still recommended. Contact your insurance agent for more details about your flood insurance options.

Question 8: What will happen if I move from a low– or moderate-risk area to a high-risk area?

If the new maps-once adopted-indicate the building on your property is now at a higher risk for flooding, you will be required to purchase a flood insurance policy if you carry a mortgage from a federally regulated or insured lender. If you do not have a mortgage, it is still recommended that you purchase flood insurance. Over the life of a 30-year loan, there is about a 3 times greater chance of having a flood in your home than having a fire. Most homeowners insurance policies do not provide coverage for damage due to flooding.

If your building is redrawn into a high-risk area, there are lower-cost options available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) grandfathering rule.

Question 9: I have lived for many years and have never seen a flood, how can you say I am now in the floodplain?

The best available science and engineering tools are being used to determine the 100-year (1% annual chance) floodplain. Your property has probably been in the floodplain for a while, with a higher risk for flooding; but, now we have the technology to more accurately depict these areas.

With that said, it is still possible for a person to live in the floodplain their entire life and never see a flood event. It’s also possible to have more than one major flood in just a few years or even in the same year. The event to which Shawnee County communities are required to regulate is called the 1% annual chance flood event, or the 100-year flood. This is not a flood that occurs once every 100 years, but rather is an event that has a 1% chance of reaching or exceeding the elevation at the floodplain boundary in any given year. If you did live in one spot for 100 years, then you would likely (with a 64% chance) witness a 100-year flood or larger.

Question 10: What will happen if I move from a high-risk to a low– or moderate-risk area?

When a building moves to a low– or moderate-risk area, there is no longer a federally mandated requirement to purchase flood insurance. However, the risk has only been reduced, not removed. Flood insurance is still recommended.

Upon the adoption of the new maps, you may be eligible for a lower-cost Preferred Risk Policy (PRP). Through your insurance agent, it is simple to submit a PRP application and insured-signed conversion form to avoid any gaps in your flood coverage.

Question 11: What is the Grandfathering Rule and how can it help me?

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has grandfathering rules to recognize policy holders who have built in compliance with the flood map in place at the time of construction or who maintain continuous coverage. These rules allow such policy holders to benefit in the premium rating for their building. However, property owners should always use the new map if it will provide a more favorable premium.

Renewal of An Existing Policy

When determining the premium you will pay for flood insurance, an insurance agent will rate your flood insurance policy based on the flood map that is in effect on the date you purchase your policy. Flood insurance policies may then be renewed and still be rated based on the flood map in effect when the policy was initially rated as long as the flood insurance coverage is continuous and the building has not been altered in a manner that would remove this benefit. For example, if the building on the property is now in an X zone, you could purchase the policy before the flood maps are adopted and keep the lower rate associated with the X zone even after the new flood maps become effective. You may even qualify for the lower-cost Preferred Risk Policy (PRP) for the first year, which provides both building and contents coverage at significant savings. To help maintain this grandfathering benefit for the next owner, you may transfer the policy to them at the time of sale.

Built in Compliance

The NFIP will honor a grandfather rule for buildings constructed after the first flood map for the community become effective if:

  1. The building was built in compliance with the flood map in effect at the time of construction; and,
  2. If the building has not been substantially damaged or altered.

Under this grandfather rule, the property owner must provide proper documentation to the insurance company.

  1. If you wish to keep the zone designation in effect when the structure was built, you must provide a copy of the flood map effective at the time of construction showing where the structure is located or present a letter from a community official verifying this information.
  2. In general, for a building constructed in high-risk zones after the community’s first flood map was adopted, your rates are based upon the difference between the flood map’s Base Flood Elevation (BFE) and your building’s elevation. If there is a change in the BFE and keeping the BFE that existed when the structure was first built gives you a better rate, you must provide the agent with an elevation certificate and a copy of the flood map effective at the time of construction. A letter from a community official verifying this information is also acceptable.
Question 12: What are my options if I disagree with the maps?

Every effort has been made to ensure that the maps reflect the most accurate and reliable information about the flood risk for all properties. However, re-examining and updating flood hazard information for the entire county has been a several year process, and you may feel that you have more accurate data about your property now that the preliminary maps have been released.

To ensure that resident’s and business owner’s questions or concerns about the new map designations are addressed, a 90-Day Public Comment Period (known as the Appeal Period) will be initiated by FEMA. During this period, citizens will have the opportunity to submit technical and/or scientific data to support a claim that their property has been improperly placed in a high-risk area or shows an incorrect flood elevation. If you have better information, such as an elevation certificate, topographic map or detailed hydraulic or hydrologic data, then you may be able to appeal the flood risk indicated by the new maps.

Question 13: When do the new flood maps become effective?

The maps officially released to county and community officials in September 2009 were preliminary. The process that leads to final adoption can take a year or more to complete.

The next step is the 90-Day Public Comment Period which will begin March 3, 2010. FEMA will then review and resolve any appeals that are submitted and create the final flood maps. Once the maps are finalized, FEMA will notify the County and participating communities with a Letter of Final Determination that the new Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs) will be effective in six months. This letter states that the county and communities must pass ordinances to adopt these new maps during that six-month period. If they don’t, they face suspension from the National Flood Insurance Program, and flood insurance and disaster assistance for floods will no longer be available. The maps will become effective on September 29, 2011.

Question 14: Is community participation in the NFIP mandatory?

Community participation in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is voluntary (although some states require NFIP participation as part of their floodplain management program). Each identified flood-prone community must assess its flood hazard and determine whether flood insurance and floodplain management would benefit the community’s residents and economy.

A community’s participation status can significantly affect current and future homeowners or property located in Special Flood Hazard Area. The decision should be made with full awareness of the consequences of each action.