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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We have divided the FAQs into three sections:

  • Mississippi Coastal Flood Study FAQs
    • Why is my community and other Mississippi’s coastal communities getting new flood hazard maps?
    • Who is responsible for modernizing the maps?
    • When do the new maps become effective?
    • How will the new flood hazard map for my community affect me?
    • How does the study analysis performed to establish Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) for the new map differ from the study analysis used to determine the Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFEs) for the Hurricane Katrina Flood Recovery Maps?

  • Flood Insurance FAQs
    • What will happen if the new flood hazard map shows my home in a high-risk flood hazard area rather than a low- or moderate-risk area as shown on the previous flood hazard map?
    • What will happen if the new map shows my home in a low- or moderate-risk area rather than a high-risk area as shown on the previous flood hazard map?
    • How might the new flood hazard map affect me financially?
    • What is “grandfathering” and how can it help me?
  • General Flood Hazard Mapping FAQs
    • How are the flood hazard maps used?
    • What are the benefits of the new flood hazard maps?
    •  What do I do if I believe the map showing my home or business in a high-risk area is an error. What do I do if I believe the BFE shown on the map is too high?

Mississippi Coastal Flood Study FAQs

Why are my community and other Mississippi coastal communities getting new flood hazard maps?

Flood hazard maps, also known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) or Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs), are important tools in protecting lives and property in the coastal communities of Mississippi.  They indicate the risk for flooding throughout the coastal area.  However, the previously effective maps—the FIRMs—had become out of date.  Some formerly rural areas were never mapped in sufficient detail, and other areas have not been re-mapped in more than 25 years. Over time, water flow and drainage patterns had changed dramatically due to surface erosion, land use, and natural forces.  The likelihood of inland, riverine, and coastal flooding in some areas had changed, as shown by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Therefore, a restudy and re-mapping project was undertaken as part of the ongoing nationwide collaborative effort to update flood hazard and risk data nationwide.  Through this effort, called “Flood Map Modernization,” FEMA develops and distributes the data in a digital format in accordance with a multiyear plan.  The digital format addresses local communities’ and various stakeholders’ desire for more timely updates of flood hazard maps and easier access to flood hazard data.

The new engineering and digital mapping techniques used for coastal Mississippi provide more detailed, reliable, and current data on the coastal communities’ flood hazards and risks.  The result: a better picture of the areas most likely to be affected by flooding and a better foundation from which to make key decisions.  To learn more about the restudy and remapping effort in Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties, you may want to view the videos produced by the Project Team.

Who is responsible for modernizing the maps?

The modernized maps for Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties are the result of a joint effort of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) who worked in cooperation with local associations and technical experts from private-sector and research institutions.  Community officials from the three coastal counties have also been involved in the mapping process.  Before Hurricane Katrina, MDEQ, MEMA, and FEMA requested historical flood data pertaining to previous flooding incidents from all local coastal communities in Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties to incorporate into the inland and coastal studies.

When do the new maps become effective?

The DFIRM and accompanying FIS report for Jackson County, Mississippi and Incorporated Areas became effective on March 16, 2009. The DFIRM and FIS report for Harrison County, Mississippi and Incorporated Areas became effective on June 16, 2009. The DFIRM and FIS report for Hancock County, Mississippi and Incorporated Areas will become effective on October 16, 2009.  For an updated timeline of the mapping process milestones for the three counties, please visit the Calendar/Schedule pages. 

How will the new flood hazard map for my community affect me?

Neighborhoods across Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties will be affected differently by these map changes. Some properties will not be affected – their risk remains the same.  Other properties are shown in high-risk areas known as Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHAs) where new or modified Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) may have been shown.  Some properties are now mapped in low- or moderate-risk areas where previously they were shown in SFHAs.  The BFE is the height to which floodwaters have a 1‑percent chance of reaching or exceeding in any given year.

How does the study analysis performed to establish Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) for the new maps differ from the study analysis used to determine the Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFEs) for the Hurricane Katrina Flood Recovery Maps?

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and at the request of State and local officials, FEMA initiated a project to provide high-resolution maps that showed flood impacts from the storm for portions of Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties.  The Katrina Recovery Maps were developed to help the officials, as well as homeowners, identify existing and increased flood hazards caused by Hurricane Katrina and other storms that have struck this region in the last 25 years.  They were also created to provide information on where and how to build to avoid future flood damages as community officials and residents started recovery and redevelopment efforts.

Though the data used to develop the ABFEs has been incorporated, the new DFIRMs will be based on a more in-depth, larger-scale study.  The new maps will be more precise due to advanced engineering studies, mapping technologies, and improved data quality.  The DFIRMs will replace the out-of-date FIRMs and the Katrina Recovery Maps that were issued in November 2005.

Flood Insurance FAQs

What will happen if the new flood hazard map shows my house in a high-risk flood hazard area rather than a low- or moderate-risk area as shown on the previous flood hazard map?

If the new maps—once adopted—indicate your house 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 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, the chance of having a flood that damages your house is nearly three times greater than having a fire. Most homeowners insurance policies do not provide coverage for damage due to flooding.  If your house is shown in a high-risk area on the new map, there are lower-cost flood insurance options available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) “grandfathering” rule. An explanation of the grandfathering rule and other information is accessible through the FEMA Library to help you determine if you qualify; you should also verify your findings with your insurance agent.

What will happen if the new map shows my home in a low- or moderate-risk area rather than a high-risk area as shown on the previous flood hazard map?

When the zone designation for a residence or other insurable structure changes from a high-risk SFHA (Zone A or Zone E) to a moderate-risk Zone B or Zone X (shaded) or to a low-risk Zone C or Zone X (unshaded), the federally mandated requirement to purchase flood insurance no longer applies.  However, the risk has only been reduced, not removed. FEMA still recommends the purchase of flood insurance.  

Upon adoption of the new map, you may be eligible to convert your existing Standard Flood Insurance Policy to 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. PRP brochures are available for homeowners/renters and for business owners.

How might the new flood hazard map affect me financially?

If your house is shown in a high-risk SFHA when the new map is officially adopted and becomes effective, and you have a mortgage with a federally regulated lender, you will be required to purchase flood insurance if you do not already have a policy. If your house is shown in a low- or moderate-risk area, you are not required by the Federal Government to purchase or maintain insurance, but are strongly encouraged to do so. Also, your lender does retain the prerogative to require flood insurance for houses located outside the mapped SFHA. Please remember that the cost of properly protecting your house and contents from flood damage is far less than the cost to repair or replace them after a flood has occurred.

Through the NFIP, coverage can often be obtained at significant savings.  The average cost for a flood insurance policy is around $500 per year. Further, homeowners may qualify for a PRP that covers both a structure and its contents for as little as $112 per year.  Coverage for renters starts at just $39 a year.  Talk to your insurance agent to determine the appropriate level of protection you need and the money-saving options available.

What is “grandfathering” and how can it help me?

The NFIP has “grandfathering” rules to recognize policyholders who have built in compliance with the flood map in effect at the time of construction or who maintain continuous coverage.  These rules allow such policyholders to benefit in the premium rating for their building. However, property owners should always use the new map if it will provide them 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 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 grandfather buildings constructed after the first flood map for the community became effective if:

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

When grandfathering a property, the owner must provide proper documentation to the insurance company.

  • 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.
  • In general, for buildings 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 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

General Flood Hazard Mapping FAQs

How are the flood hazard maps used?

Flood hazard maps are used to determine the flood risk to your home or business. The low- and moderate-risk zones are represented on the maps by the letters “B”, “C”, “X” or an “X” that is shaded. The inland high-risk zones are labeled with designations such as “A”, “AE”, “AO” or “AH”. Coastal high-risk zones that have additional risk from storm surge are labeled “V” or “VE”.  These high-risk zones represent areas that have a 1-percent chance of flooding each year.

What are the benefits of the new flood hazard maps?

The new flood hazard maps and data will be beneficial in the following ways:

  • Community planners and local officials will have a better understanding of the flood hazards and risks that affect their community and can consequently 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, insurance companies, real estate agents and lending institutions will have easy online access to updates and upcoming changes, allowing them to serve their customers and community more effectively.
  • Home and business owners will be able to make better financial decisions about protecting their properties.

What do I do if I believe the map showing my home or business in a high-risk area is an error? What do I do if I believe the BFE on the map is too high?

The flood hazard area delineations and flood insurance risk zone designations on the new map are based on the best data available to Federal, State, and local engineers and officials at the time when areas within a community are studied.  Every effort is made to ensure that the maps reflect the most accurate and reliable flood risk information for all properties.  However, in spite of this process, you may still feel that you have more accurate data about the flood risk to your home or business. 

To solicit questions or concerns from community officials and residents about the new map delineations and designations, FEMA and State representatives held public meetings and provided a 90-day appeal and comment period. During the meetings and subsequent appeal period, community officials, you, and other property owners had the opportunity to submit technical and/or scientific data to support claims that your property and other areas within your community had been improperly shown as being in a high-risk area. All scientific and technical data submitted during the 90-day appeal period were reviewed and appropriate revisions to the flood hazard map were made before the flood hazard map was finalized and published. The final flood hazard maps for Harrison County and Jackson County are complete and have been adopted by the communities in each county. The final flood hazard map for Hancock County will become effective in October.

Although the maps are considered final, you may still request that FEMA revise the information for specific areas. If you have better information such as a completed Elevation Certificate, topographic map/data, or detailed hydraulic or hydrologic data, then you may be able to have the flood hazard and risk information shown on the new flood hazard map and accompanying report changed. For further details on the map change requirements, we encourage you to visit the map change options page. You may also discuss your options with a Map Specialist.