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What You and Your Clients Should Know
As a result of the Mississippi Coastal Mapping Project, Preliminary versions of the Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs) for Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties have been completed and were presented to community officials and the general public during meetings in November and December 2007. The Preliminary versions of the DFIRMs and the associated Flood Insurance Study (FIS) reports are available for you to view through a portion of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Web site dedicated to the Mississippi Map Modernization Initiative. You may also access the maps through the Preliminary DFIRMs page on this Web site.
These new maps present up-to-date and more accurate flood hazard and risk information. Like other National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) products, they are a vital resource for real estate, insurance, and lending industry professionals who are active along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The project is a collaborative effort among the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, county and local governments, and technical experts from the private sector and research institutions. The project was undertaken as part of the FEMA Flood Map Modernization effort.
The DFIRMs and FIS reports—whether they are the Preliminary versions or the subsequent Revised Preliminary and final effective versions of the DFIRMs—provide more detailed, reliable, and current flood hazard and risk data in digital format. Knowing a more up-to-date picture of a community’s flood risk will allow community officials and citizens to make more informed decisions on where to build and to what height above the ground new building should be constructed to minimize losses.
The flood hazard and risk information presented on the the DFIRMs is different from the hazard and risk information shown on the previously effective Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for the individual communities as a result of an in-depth, large-scale study that re-examined the flood hazards in the three coastal counties. For some mapped areas, the risk may be higher than some homeowners or business owners thought; for other mapped areas, the risk may be lower.
Although the information presented on the DFIRMs and in the FIS reports is more accurate, the Project Team recognizes that some community officials and property owners may not agree with all of the information presented. To explain the choices that exist for those who disagree with the information presented, we have created a map change options page.
How You and Your Clients Should Use the New Flood Maps
Insurance Agents and Companies
As the DFIRMs become effective, flood insurance requirements for some of your clients will change. However, options exist that will allow property owners to save money while still protecting their property. Therefore, it is important for insurance professionals to know when the changes are taking place and when they become effective. They should be prepared to discuss options with their clients based on whether their clients already have flood insurance policies; whether the new DFIRMs show their property in a high-risk Special Flood Hazard Area, a moderate-risk area, or a low-risk area; whether the new zone designation for the property is the same as the old zone designation; and whether the Base Flood Elevation for the property has changed.
In addition to ensuring that borrowers receive notification of current flood zone information, lenders will want to make them aware of any upcoming changes in flood risk status. Loan applicants should also be informed of any flood insurance requirements currently associated with the property. As the DFIRMs become effective, flood insurance requirements may change for borrowers. Both the lenders and the borrowers need to be aware of when the DFIRMs will become final, and what the potential effects will be on the requirements for flood insurance. Knowing this in advance will help make for a smoother closing and, with the assistance of an insurance agent or company, will help assure that the borrower’s property is properly insured based on the known flood risk.
Real Estate Agents and Brokers
Home sellers and their agents should always make it a point to disclose to a prospective buyer if the property is now, or will be, shown in a high-risk Special Flood Hazard Area on the map. To help determine the flood risk to a property, you can locate the property on the Preliminary version of the appropriate DFIRM panel. Preliminary, Revised Preliminary, and final effective versions of each DFIRM are or will be available at the Community Map Repository in each community. To locate the Community Map Repository, you should visit the Community Information page for Hancock County, Harrison County, or Jackson County.
Home buyers and their agents also need to be aware of any upcoming changes in flood risk status and the flood insurance requirements associated with a property. As the DFIRMs become effective, flood insurance requirements may change. However, many property owners can save some money if they purchase their insurance policies before the DFIRM effective date. Additionally, current owners can transfer the policy to new owners at the time of purchase. This process is known as “grandfathering.” On the "NFIP Publications" page on the FEMA Web site, FEMA has provided an Information Sheet on grandfathering that you can download.
Where to View or Download Maps and Reports
You may view or download current effective FIRMs or DFIRMs and associated FIS reports or order printed paper copies of the previously effective FIRMs or DFIRMs and FIS reports from the FEMA Map Service Center Web site. You may also contact the Map Service Center by telephone, toll free, at 1-800-358-9616.
You may order paper copies of the effective maps and reports from the Map Service Center only until September 30, 2009. Effective on October 1, 2009, the Map Service Center will only distribute digital versions of the maps and FIS reports To learn more about this change in FEMA policy, please visit the “Moving From Paper to Digital Flood Hazard Information” page on the FEMA Web site.
Flood Insurance Requirements and Options
As the DFIRMs become effective, flood insurance requirements may change. However, options exist that will allow property owners to save money while still protecting their property. The following chart provides examples how. By sharing these options with their clients, insurance, real estate, and lending professionals can help them be better prepared and make more informed decisions.
The Resources page contains Fact Sheets, brochures, and other helpful documents. We will update this inventory of resources regularly, so please check back often for the latest materials. Three specific Fact Sheets that you may find useful are:
If you need more information or have a question, several options are available:
If you still do not find the information you need, you can also contact one of the Map Specialists listed on the Ask the Experts page, including the project call center set up in the Long-Term Recovery Office in Biloxi. You can call a Customer Service Representative, toll free, in the call center from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday, at 1-866-816-2804.
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