Association News

Plain Truth About Flood Plains: Everything you need to know about flood insurance

October 12, 2009
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/ Text Size+ While alerting people who could be at flood risk is a good idea, without an accurate map, it is an exercise in frustration for those who aren't really in danger. For those people, the only way out of the flood zone--and the costly insurance--is through a surveyor.

story by Colby Dunn | infographics by George Alread Dan Vaughn lives on a hill above a pond. He has re-financed his home three times and never knew he lived in a flood zone, as designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. So he was a little surprised when a letter arrived on his doorstep from his mortgage company, demanding that he purchase flood insurance.

"Initially, we thought 'Ok, well that's not a big deal,'" said Vaughn. "What we found out was that flood insurance, for our house, would cost twice as much as our homeowner's insurance. It would go from $1,000 a year up to $3,000 a year."

When he heard those numbers, Vaughn went into action, trying to find out how his house, which he says is in no danger whatsoever of flooding, could possibly have been listed in a flood zone.

What he found was a FEMA flood insurance rate map (FIRM), which defines the flood zones for the county, restricting where buildings can be erected and often tipping off mortgage companies to who may be in danger of flooding, and therefore in need of flood insurance.

"It's basically a security measure for FEMA," said Danielle Peck, assistant planner for Morgan County. "A lot of times people don't even know they're in a flood plain until they try to re-mortgage."

While alerting people who could be at flood risk may seem like a good idea, Vaughn says that, without an accurate map, it is an exercise in frustration for those who aren't really in danger.

"It's a very inaccurate and not a very useful map," he said. "I spent over $1,000 to hire a surveyor to prove to them [that I'm not in a flood zone]."

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