An Overview of Flood Mapping and Flood Hazard Determinations

Flood hazard determinations are a requirement for most of the mortgages taken out in the United States. Every mortgage that is backed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, the federal underwriters of mortgages, is required to have a flood zone determination as part of the application process. If the structures, not the land, used as collateral for the mortgage is determined to be within a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) then flood insurance is required to be purchased.

Flood Zones and Special Flood Hazard Areas are based on FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The maps are created by modeling the flooding chances of large areas by mapping them with LIDAR to obtain elevations and topography. This data is then analyzed and areas prone to flooding based on the modeling are determined and published on the FIRM panels for a given area.

The system used by the banks to obtain flood hazard determinations has been shown to be inaccurate in as many as 50% of the determinations issued. Because of the massive volume of determinations that must be generated across the country, banks use large determination companies to obtain the necessary determinations for the mortgages they write. These large determination companies use the addresses of the properties and plug them into computer algorithms that then deliver a determination, often instantaneously, based on the address and the underlying mapping algorithm. No person ever actually looks at a flood map to determine the exact location of the structure in relation to the proximity of the SFHA.

This creates a tremendous amount of errors within the determinations issued. A property near a creek, river, or body of water is often included within the SFHA but the structure may not be within the SFHA. Most mapping algorithms would automatically return a requirement to purchase flood insurance because of the proximity of the water body, even though the structure is clearly outside the SFHA when you review the FIRM Panel for that property.

This scenario, and similar situations, is exactly why Accurate Flood Zone was created. We want to give the property owner the opportunity to have their own Flood Hazard Determination done. The difference with us is that we have a trained flood mapping specialist manually review each property and structure to ensure that the correct determination is made. We do not use computer algorithms and automatic mapping to ever create a determination.

Our determinations are then delivered to the client on the Standard Flood Hazard Determination Form (SFHDF) along with an explanation containing an overlay of an aerial photograph of their property on the current FIRM Panel. This allows the client, and ultimately the lender, to clearly see the location of the structure in relation to the SFHA. By presenting this information and the SFHDF to the lender they can get the requirement for flood insurance waived.

Our goal is to help residential, commercial, and multi-family clients eliminate the need for unnecessary flood insurance to save them money and raise the value of their assets by providing Accurate Flood Zone information to them. Please visit to obtain your flood hazard determination and possibly start saving money today.

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