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Be prepared for flood zone change

Updated: 
July 17, 2017 - 12:05am

The County of Hawaii has revised the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) that go into effect Sept. 29. The county adopted these new maps so they can be eligible for federal disaster aid in the event of a federally declared natural disaster.

In addition, FIRM will be used for flood insurance, land use, development, and regulatory purposes. The current maps have been in place since 1982, and a seven-year process was undertaken to create the new maps with updated information on flood hazard risk zones. The new maps are digitized. The old maps exist only on paper with the County of Hawaii.

These changes will affect many property owners, especially if you live near a stream or on the coast. There are several areas previously zoned as low risk that are now going to change to high risk. If you live in a zone that is changing from low risk to high risk you will be required to get flood insurance if you have a federally backed mortgage. The county is not notifying individual property owners of these changes in flood zone designations. The understanding is if you do not secure flood insurance before the maps are adopted and your zone has changed to high risk, you will be required to purchase flood insurance and the premium will be at full price. The FEMA representative said if you purchase flood insurance before the maps go into effect you can be grandfathered in and eligible for lower rates through government subsidized programs that were developed to reduce the hardship on property owners.

There are additional important points to learn more about. It appears if you maintain continuous flood insurance coverage, and secure the subsidized flood insurance before the new maps are adopted, the lower cost flood insurance can be transferred with the sale of your property. Flood insurance runs with the property, not with the individual homeowner.

Because the flood insurance runs with the property, the value of securing the subsidized flood insurance can be passed on to future buyers. For example, if you don’t currently carry a mortgage but think you may sell in the future, it may be worth considering purchasing flood insurance before Sept. 29 so that you can pass this value on when you sell your home.

Resources to learn more:

You can see what the new maps will be by going to: http://gis.hawaiinfip.org/FHAT/

You can only purchase flood insurance through an insurance agent; you cannot buy it directly from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If your insurance agent does not sell flood insurance, you can contact the NFIP Referral Call Center at (888) 379-9531 to request an agent referral.

County of Hawaii Floodplain Manager Bryce Harada at 961-8327 or http://dlnreng.hawaii.gov/nfip/

Alethea Lai is a resident of Waimea

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