Navigating the Community Status Book
Did you know you can find out about community participation in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for towns and cities in any state, county or territory of the United States? You can find the program entry date, whether a town has been suspended or voluntarily withdrawn from the NFIP, and other detailed information on the NFIP Community Status Book page.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the NFIP provide the Community Status Book to assist a broad variety of audiences with information about the status of any community’s enrollment in the NFIP. Agents and lenders may need to know when the newest map was adopted in a community, or whether a town is presently participating in the NFIP. State and local community floodplain personnel may use the book to determine a community’s NFIP status or a flood map date.
Rating a Policy – Program Type
When rating a policy, an agent first needs to determine if the community is in the NFIP emergency program or the regular program. The NFIP emergency program offers much lower coverage and less mapping information than the NFIP regular program. Communities sometimes join the NFIP as an emergency program community, then move to the regular program once codes and maps are created and adopted. Today, many communities join the NFIP already prepared with maps and ordinances and enter the regular program immediately. If the community is presently in the emergency program, there would be an “(E)” in the “Regular-Emergency Date” column. Today, there are very few communities participating in the Emergency Program.
What Do You See When You Look at the Community Status Book?
Reading from left to right, you will see the community and county identifying information near the left. The Community Identification Number (CID), tribal community or county name are included. Counties may be listed in the community column because county-wide FIRMs are official sources of flood risk data for the entire geographic area of a county, including the incorporated communities within the county. A county-wide FIRM supersedes all previous versions of the FIRM for the communities covered.
Next comes mapping information. The date of the initial Flood Hazards Boundary Map (FHBM) is the initial flood hazard identification generally used for emergency program communities; the date of the initial Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) is generally used for regular program communities. Some regular program communities may use a map originally published as an FHBM; if so, a letter will accompany the map in conjunction with conversion to the regular program, stating that the map is to be considered a FIRM.
The current effective map date shows the most recent FIRM update. You can also find this date when looking at the FIRM online on the Map Service Center website (the link can be found at the end of this article). If there are no high risk areas (referred to as Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA)) in this community, there may be a Non-Special Flood Hazard Area (NSFHA) listing noted after the FIRM. This date can be very important when rating a policy. For instance, it can help an agent determine whether the building is pre- or post-FIRM and whether the property owner is required to produce an elevation certificate to document that it meets local building requirements.
This is followed by the regular and emergency program entry date. The regular program date will usually coincide with the initial FIRM date because it shows when a community joined the regular program.
As noted above, if the community is still in the emergency program there will be an “(E)” after this entry, to distinguish
it from most of the other entries which are regular program communities. If so, there will probably be no date in the FIRM column.
The final column will indicate whether there are tribal communities located in the area; if so, there may be requirements that allow these sovereign nations different requirements.
Agents and lenders may recognize many of these designations and dates because much of this information is
included on the Elevation Certificate (EC), the Flood Insurance Application and/or the Standard Flood Hazard Determination Form (SFHDF).
At the end of the list of participating communities, you will find a summary of information, including the number of emergency program communities and the total number included.
Communities Not in the NFIP
The list does not end there. At the end of each state listing – usually the last page, there will be a much shorter list of communities in that state that are not in the NFIP. This list includes a “Sanction Date” column. A community may have been suspended from the NFIP for failure to enforce their floodplain-related building codes, or it may have withdrawn from the program. If a community has withdrawn from the NFIP, residents may be affected in ways beyond the non-availability of flood insurance.
If FEMA has identified a community as “flood-prone” and it has not joined the NFIP within one year of being notified of this, it will be sanctioned. This means that Federal agencies cannot provide financial assistance for buildings in these areas. Some forms of disaster assistance may also no longer be available.
This “non-participating” list can be useful for lenders because no new NFIP flood insurance policies can be written in non-participating communities. This prohibition can affect how a lender and their regulators proceed with a loan since they are responsible for making insurance related decisions for their loans. FEMA does not regulate the lending community so, lenders need to know how their bank and regulator handle these communities and their insurance requirements.
This section is also followed by a summary noting the number of suspended and withdrawn communities in that state, and offers totals listing the number of communities that have flood hazards, but have chosen not to participate in the NFIP.
At the end of each community book, there is a legend of symbols used throughout. Also, note the date of each book update, located at the bottom right of each page.
Understanding the Community Status Book can go a long way toward understanding how safe your community is, if flood insurance requirements apply in that area, and how to rate an insurance policy for your clients.
For more information:
The NFIP Community Status Book
The FEMA Forms page (included on this page are the Elevation Certificate (EC), the Standard Flood Hazard Determination form (SFHDF) and several Letter of Map Change (LOMC) forms)
The NFIP Flood Insurance Manual
FEMA Map Service Center