What is a FIRM and what is it used for?

A Flood Insurance Rate Map or FIRM is a flood map created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and used by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for floodplain management, mitigation and insurance purposes.  This is also the official map of the community which delineates both the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) and the risk premium zones applicable to the community.

A FIRM will generally show:

  • Roads and map landmarks
  • A community's base flood elevation
  • Flood Zones
  • Floodplain boundaries

The FIRM map can give property owners an indication of what flood zone they are in.  However, maps are constantly being updated so contacting your community's floodplain administration staff to get an accurate flood zone determination would be advisable.

How can I view the new flood maps for my neighborhood?

Use the following online tools to see the flood maps for your neighborhood:

Contact the Stormwater Management Division at 817-459-6550 and ask about floodplain information to receive more information concerning the flood maps for your neighborhood and your flood risk.

What do I need to know about flood insurance requirements?

While your homeowner's insurance policy may cover fire, tornado or even earthquake damage, most exclude damage caused by flooding. If you have a mortgage or secured loan from a federally regulated or insured lender and the primary structure on the parcel is within the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA, FEMA floodplain, or 100-year floodplain), then by Federal law your lender must require you to carry flood insurance.

Most lenders will review FEMA floodplain maps for each of their loans when a loan is initiated, transferred or when updated FEMA maps become effective. They will send a letter to all properties in the SFHA (or close to it) to notify them that they must purchase flood insurance within 45 days. If a policy is not purchased within this time period, the lender will “force place” a flood insurance policy, which is normally more expensive and may have limited coverage for flood damages. For example, these policies generally do not cover personal items or owner liability.

Force place example FAQ: https://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumer/forced-placed.htm

Where do I go to purchase a flood insurance policy?

The City of Arlington participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and flood insurance is available for all property owners and renters. Contact your insurance agent to ask about purchasing a flood insurance policy. If your insurance agent does not sell flood insurance policies, you may also contact one of the agents listed by searching the “Agent Finder” section of FEMA's Flood Insurance website: https://www.floodsmart.gov/how/how-do-i-buy-flood-insurance. You can also call NFIP Flood Service Center at 1-800-638-6620 to find an insurance agent.

What can I do if I believe I have been inadvertently included in the floodplain?

You may be eligible for a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA). Traditionally, a LOMA involves hiring a surveyor to verify the lowest ground touching the structure, deck or stairs is above the base flood elevation (BFE). A LOMA is a letter from FEMA confirming that a portion of the map is incorrect.

Under the right circumstances, two other types of streamlined methods could be pursued in lieu of a field survey:

  • Letter of Map Amendment - Out as Shown (LOMA-OAS) would be used when a flood map overlaid on top of an aerial photo plainly shows that a structure is completely out of the floodplain.
  • A Letter of Map Amendment using updated elevation data - Would be used when LIDAR-derived contour elevations can verify that a structure is above the base flood elevation. Where conflicts between the floodplain boundaries and actual field conditions exist, elevations are always the governing factor.

For those that would qualify for either of these two streamlined methods described above, Stormwater Management can assist in obtaining a map that can be used in lieu of a field survey. Contact Stormwater Management at 817-459-6550 and ask about floodplain information to receive more information about pursuing a LOMA for your property.

How does being in a floodplain affect what I am able to do with my property?

Any new construction, addition or substantial improvement must be built in conformance with the Flood Damage Prevention Chapter of the Arlington City Code. A floodplain development permit may be required for work on your property or on the structure. If a structure was legally constructed before the date of the first FEMA floodplain map that shows the structure in a 100-year floodplain, it is considered a non-conforming structure. The owner can continue to use that structure and it is not a violation. The building is “grandfathered” and does not have to be altered to meet the Flood Damage Prevention ordinance requirements unless certain changes are made to the building.

The property owner is not required to bring the structure into compliance with the current Flood Damage Prevention Chapter unless the building is “substantially damaged” or “substantially improved” to 25% of the structures market value. Routine maintenance and repair can be done (e.g., painting roofing, siding, doors, windows), but extensive additions might be considered a substantial improvement and require bringing the entire structure into compliance - typically through elevation or relocation.

Contact the One Start Development Center at 817-459-6502 for questions about floodplain development permits, zoning and building code