The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has a tool that makes it easy to see if your address is in a flood zone. The Flood Map Service Center shows information like flood zones, floodways, and your home’s risk level.
There’s also topographical and infrastructural information about features like levees, coastal barriers, and the base flood line. At first, the map may not make much sense, but it’s easier to read than it seems.
How to use the FEMA flood map
The map shows overlays of specific floodplains and the risk around your property. You might say labels such as, “Area of Minimal Flood Hazard,” or “0.2 PCT Annual Chance of Flood Hazard.”
Fortunately, you don’t have to figure out what that means on your own. FEMA provides a glossary to help you decode some of the more confusing terms.
When you examine the flood map, some of the labels may seem dated. These dates just refer to when the map was officially adopted by your area. You can toggle these dates on and off or check out the Dynamic Map to see updated versions.
Understanding flood zones
Flood zones are labeled alphabetically (Zone A, Zone B, etc.). These labels are primarily used by insurers to help determine flood risk and set flood insurance rates and terms. Here’s a quick rundown of what the most common flood zones mean for you and your house.
- Zone A: This is the most common flood zone, and there are five types of Zone A floodplains. If you live in a Zone A flood zone, it means you’re in a special flood hazard area that’s not coastal. The type of Zone A that applies to your home will impact your flood insurance premium.
- Zone B: Homes in Zone B face a moderate flood hazard risk.
- Zone C: Homes in Zone C face a minimal flood hazard risk.
- Zone D: This zone indicates a possible risk of flooding, but the hazard level is undetermined.
- Zone V: This is a special flood hazard area with high risk for floods in coastal areas.
- Zone X: On newer flood insurance rate maps, Zones B and C are identified as Zone X.