• How Changing Flood Zone Maps Can Affect Your Insurance Rates

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    Coastal Engineering Company
    Coastal Engineering Company, Inc. is one of the leading professional engineering firms in the region, providing civil, structural, and marine engineering services, and land surveying services to a wide range of residential, commercial, and institutional clients and governmental agencies.


    A new federal flood insurance law scales back what could have been huge premium increases affecting thousands of Cape Cod homeowners. It reverses much of a previous law aimed at weaning across the country off subsidized rates.

    Had the original law gone into effect this year, many homeowners on the Cape not only would be unable to afford premiums, but also could watch the value of their property plummet since they could not sell it to new buyers.

    The new law will continue to effectively grandfather homeowners benefiting from below-market flood insurance rates and cap premium increases at 18 percent a year. Commercial property would be capped at 25 percent annually.

    Another provision allows home sellers to pass taxpayer-subsidized policies on to buyers instead of requiring purchasers to pay actuarially sound rates immediately, as required by the 2012 law. The specter of higher rates have threatened home sales, as prospective buyers feared facing steep premium increases.

    While the immediate crisis has been averted, homeowners across the Cape still must deal with newly expanded flood-zone maps proposed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

    Also, Congress could again try to increase flood insurance premiums to deal with federal deficits. Meanwhile, premiums still will be rising significantly, if not catastrophically.
    Looking ahead, homeowners can take steps to protect themselves for future eventualities. Among them are:

    • Move utilities such as electric service panels from the basement to the first floor.
    • Fill in basements that are below grade and could be flooded by storm water.
    • Install flow vents to allow flood water to pass through the foundation.
    • Elevate the first floor above potential flood levels.

    Sean M. Riley of Coastal Engineering Company in Orleans, who has helped proeprty owners in flood zones, explains: “It’s a cost-benefit analysis to find out how much you could save in insurance premiums by doing certain things.”

    Riley and others suggest examining proposed new flood maps to determine if specific property is included in the new flood zones. Maps can be found at ms.fema.gov at the Cape Cod Commission website and at most town halls.

    Then consult with a local insurance agent about the cost of National Flood Insurance fort hat property in the flood zone.

    Engineers and surveyors can prepare a Draft Elevation Certificate. It is a draft now because the certificate is based on maps that still are preliminary until formally adopted in mid 2014.

    An elevation certificate shows the difference between the house elevation and the base flood elevation, and thus the flood risk and insurance rating.

    Some individuals have successfully challenged the maps.

    A letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) or Letter of Map Change (LOMC) or Letter of Map Revision based on fill (LOMR-F) can be requested. You can go online at hazards.fema.gov.

    The flood insurance program was created in 1968 by Congress. FEMA is required to produce Flood Insuracne Rate (FIRM) maps, which show areas subject to flooding.

    Special Flood Hazard Areas show locations with a one-percent or greater chance of being inundated by a flood in any given year. “V” zones are subject to wave velocity, and “A” zones are subject to slower moving flood waters.

    FEMA is updating maps throughout the country. For individual towns on the Cape, this process will significantly redraw maps. For instance about 4,000 homes in Dennis are now in a flood zone for the first time, or in a higher risk zone.

    To learn more, you can contact Sean M. Riley at Coastal Engineering. 

    April 30, 2014