Thursday, December 20, 2012

Public Meetings Will Explain New Flood Insurance Options Available to Washington County Property Owners

Washington County flood insurance questions will be addressed at five public meetings in Waterbury, Barre City, Northfield, Marshfield, and Montpelier.  The meetings will focus on newly revised flood hazard maps and the insurance options available for structures that may be affected by the updated designations.  Structures that have been identified for the first time as being at a high risk of damage by flooding may benefit by getting flood insurance now before the official map changes go into effect. 

The Washington County Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map (DFIRM) will take effect on March 19, 2013.  In some places the boundaries of the flood hazard area have changed.  Where the flood hazard area is more extensive, flood insurance is available for residential structures as a low cost “Preferred Risk Policy” (PRP).  After the map change the PRP can be renewed twice before the insurance increases step-wise to the full cost.

The Washington County DFIRM data can be viewed online at the VT ANR Natural Resource Atlas: If your home is in the flood hazard area (Zone A or AE) for the first time then you may want to consider taking advantage of the Preferred Risk Policy (PRP) option before the March 19 2013 deadline.  More information is available at other posts on this blog:

Meetings to discuss insurance options are now scheduled for:

Tuesday January 8, 7 pm at Thatcher Brook Primary School, Waterbury
Thursday January 17, 7 pm Alumni Hall, Barre City
Tuesday January 22, 7 pm, Brown Public Library, Northfield
Thursday January 31, 7 pm, Old Schoolhouse Common, Marshfield
Tuesday February 5, 6 pm Memorial Room, City Hall, Montpelier

In Vermont in a high risk flood hazard area an average flood insurance policy currently costs around $1,400 per year for $170,000 in coverage.  Under the new DFIRM it is estimated that around 200 structures will be identified for the first time as being in the high risk zone.  Approximately 500 structures will no longer fall into a high risk area.  Flood insurance is available to any structure in a community that participates in the National Flood Insurance Program.  For more information on flood insurance contact the agent that manages your homeowner’s insurance or visit

Friday, December 14, 2012

Washington County – Do new maps show your Home in a Flood Hazard Area for the First Time?

The Washington County Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map (DFIRM) will become effective on March 19, 2013.   This is an important time to look at your flood insurance needs.

If your structure is in the Special Flood Hazard Area for the first time (please see the earlier blog post “Washington County - New Flood Map Effective March 2013” ) then you should get flood insurance well before the map change to benefit from a more gradual change in insurance costs.

As a structure that is now in a Zone X (outside the Special Flood Hazard Area) your structure will probably qualify for the most favorable terms of a Preferred Risk Policy.  A Preferred Risk Policy is intended to cover the structure and contents from damage from overland flooding in areas that are not high risk areas.

The Preferred Risk Policy can be renewed on an annual basis twice after the effective date for the new Washington County DFIRM.  At the end of that period the actuarial rate of flood insurance for the structure will be determined and the cost of insurance will increase step-wise until the premium is at full actuarial rates for the correct risk zone.

In 2012 the Biggert-Waters Act made a number of changes to the National Flood Insurance Program.  Most of the changes are intended to eliminate subsides so as to cover the actual operating costs of the NFIP, and therefore flood insurance premiums are expected to increase.  The implementation of the B-W12 legislation is being phased in over the next few years.

During this period of map change there is still an opportunity to take advantage of the Preferred Risk Policy and PRP Extension.   To secure the PRP it would be best to have the insurance agent deposit the payment at least 30 days before the effective date of the new map.  Since the date of the new map in Washington County is March 19, 2013 - a PRP policy should be secured by early February.

 Existing Letters of Map Change

If your home or site has a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) you should check on what the effect of the new map will be.  Most LOMAs will continue to be valid; however other LOMAs will be affected by the new data and will no longer be valid.   Every municipality in Washington County has been provided with a Summary of Map Actions (SOMA) to identify how the new DFIRM will act on existing Letters of Map Change. 

Copies of LOMCs since 1997 are available online at the FEMA Map Service Center.

If your structure is currently out- by-letter but will be identified as in the Special Flood Hazard Area when maps become official in March,you should take advantage of the PRP option, too.

Contact your community Zoning Administrator for more information on the effect of the map, or, contact VT DEC with your LOMC Case Id number or street address.

Do you need Flood Insurance?

Perhaps, and it may be critical.  The Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map provides key information about exposure of locations to damage from inundation.  However flooding and flooding-related erosion damage occurs in many areas that are not well studied or mapped.

Your homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover damage caused by the overland flow of water.  Damage from this kind of impact is only covered by flood insurance.  Wet basements impacted by groundwater levels can be carried as a special rider on your homeowner’s policy.  Ask your insurance agent about these.

Aside from the legal requirements regarding mortgages and flood insurance, flood damage can and does occur more widely.  Damage from flooding can occur outside of the Special Flood Hazard Area when there are larger floods than the size that is mapped.  Overland flow can occur in Zone X for many reasons including local watershed changes, storm water management problems, failure of culverts, dams, ice jamming, and simple unstudied risk. 

Over 500 structures in Washington County will no longer be mapped as in a Special Flood Hazard Area after March 2013.  Flood insurance is still available to any structure in Washington County, however structures located in a Zone X will benefit from lower available flood insurance premiums. Confirm the flood zone of your home on the new Washington County DFIRM and then contact your insurance agent for more information. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Washington County - New Flood Map Effective March 2013

If your home or structure is in or near a flood hazard area, it is at risk of damage from flooding.  The most up to date maps of  inundation risk in Washington County can now be viewed on the Vermont Natural Resource Atlas.

In Washington County, the extent of the mapped flood hazard area has changed in some locations, and some areas have been newly identified as exposed to flooding.  A structure that has been identified as being in a Special Flood Hazard Area (Zone A, AE, or AO) for the first time may benefit by buying flood insurance now before the map change on March 19, 2013.   Flood insurance may currently be available as a low cost Preferred Risk Policy and later increase to full actuarial cost (please see the blog postWashington County – Home Identified as in Flood Hazard Area for the First Time?).

Federal law requires lenders to be sure that mortgages on structures in the flood hazard area are insured for their known flood risk.  Currently an average flood insurance policy in a flood hazard area in Vermont has a premium of around $1,400 per year for $170,000 in value. 

On the Vermont Natural Resources Atlas, the current Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map (DFIRM) data is posted for Chittenden, Rutland, Windham, and Windsor Counties as well as several municipalities (Hardwick, Jay, Montgomery, Stowe, and Wolcott).  The Atlas also has Preliminary DFIRM data for Bennington County (9/24/11) and Washington County (final as of 9/19/2012).

Current and Non-DFIRM Data
In most parts of Vermont the extent of the mapped flood hazard areas can be identified by going to the FEMA Map Service Center. The FEMA Map Service Center hosts current and historical Flood Insurance Rate Maps.  Most of the maps are not officially digital and are shown against white paper backgrounds. 

To make a “FIRMette” map from the FEMA Map Service Center follow these instructions. 

What Flood Zone is Your Home In?
If your structure is clearly in the flood hazard area on the new/upcoming Washington County DFIRM map – but is not currently in the mapped hazard zone – you may benefit from buying flood insurance now before the map change.    The Special Flood Hazard Area on the new DFIRM is labeled as Zone A, AE, or AO.   Areas shown as Zone X are not in the Special Flood Hazard Area (these areas may have unstudied and unmapped flood risks).

To confirm that your structure is currently out will require measuring the distance from a local landmark (such as an intersection you can find on the FIRMette) to the lowest and most exposed corner of the structure nearest the mapped flood hazard.  Plot this location on the FIRMette to find out whether any part of the structure is in the current mapped flood hazard area (expiring in March).

Flood insurance can be secured from the agent that handles your homeowners insurance.  

In Washington County, informational meetings regarding flood insurance are currently being scheduled.  Watch this space for updates.

For more information on the maps and map change contact VTDEC