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FEMA Considers Changing Local Flood Maps and Risk Zones

If you do not currently have flood insurance, you may soon be required to purchase it.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced that is changing its flood maps and risk zones throughout South Florida.

The current maps, which determine whether flood insurance is optional or mandatory, were adopted three years ago.

“We see remapping typically every three years,” says Fielding Mcelory with Bullen Insurance Group.

A preliminary FEMA report indicates that thousands of Palm Beach County homeowners may soon go from “low risk” to “high risk,” which would make it mandatory for them to get coverage.

“People, if they have a flood policy today, we can grandfather their older BFE, base flood elevation,” explains Patricia Latshaw, Senior Vice President of Compliance at Wright Flood. “So if they’ve had continuous coverage through the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program), or they built in compliance, we want to give them that better rate because they did what they were supposed to when they initially built the building. So they shouldn’t be penalized for that.”

FEMA plans to hold open house meetings on February 4 and 5 at the Mary V. McDonald-Wilson Center off Australian Avenue in West Palm Beach.

Homeowners who do not have a mortgage are not required to get flood insurance.

“If they do have a flood, their homeowner’s policy is not going to cover flood or storm surge,” Mcelory adds.

There will be a 90-day appeal period after next week’s public meetings. FEMA will then make final decisions, although experts say the new guidelines could take up to a year to be put into effect.