When coastal storms, snowmelt, or torrential rains cause water levels in rivers, lakes, and streams to rise and flood communities, the damages can be extensive and extremely costly. To protect themselves from potentially large financial losses, construction companies and developers need to proactively identify the flooding risk on any sites they plan to build on.
Review the Data
The local officials responsible for overseeing a community’s construction activity can provide information regarding the community’s building codes and flood plain management requirements. State and local land use regulations should also be examined.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Map Service Center (https://msc.fema.gov) is the official public source for flood hazard information produced in support of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Most communities have altered their building codes to ensure they comply with NFIP standards so that they can qualify for federal disaster assistance and homeowners, renters, and business owners in the community can purchase flood insurance.
Designed to help communities understand their risk, FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps can be used to identify those areas that FEMA categorizes as high risk or moderate to low risk for flooding. According to FEMA, in high-risk areas, there is at least a one in four chance of flooding over a 30-year mortgage period. Although the risk of flooding is less in moderate- or low-risk areas, such areas submit more than 20% of NFIP claims and receive one third of federal disaster assistance for flooding.
Once contractors review the data for sites they plan to build on, they are in a better position to determine whether the project is worth pursuing.
Note: The federal government recently updated its flood plain maps. As a result, thousands of previously unaffected properties have now been placed inside flood zones. Construction companies with plans to build in communities that the federal government has identified as being prone to flooding need to assess the flood risk and take action to avoid or mitigate the threat.