A new federal flood map of Glynn County may lower insurance premiums next year, but not the risk of flooding, experts warned Wednesday.

The updated Flood Insurance Rate Map, drawn by the Federal Emergency Management Agency will take effect Jan. 5, and reclassify many area homes from zones of high flooding likelihood to more moderate categories, according to insurance specialists and county officials at a Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce meeting Wednesday.

That might sound like good news, but Deborah McCracken of the insurance firm Assurant Flood Solutions said homeowners should not be lulled into a false sense of security.

“These maps will give some (insurance) rate relief, but not from the risk of flooding,” McCracken said. “You may hear your neighbors says their house isn’t in a flood zone, but guess what? It is.”

WHAT IS A FLOOD ZONE?

Most flood zones are areas that have a one percent chance each year of being inundated by water, either from flash flooding or, on the coast, hurricane storm surge.

The one percent chance is often called a “100-year flood,” because it is likely to occur at least once a century. Residents should not translate this to mean flooding can only happen once every 100 years.

Jay Wiggins, head of Glynn County emergency management, said Wednesday the entire county is susceptible to flooding. A category 5 hurricane, like the one that recently struck Puerto Rico, could flood the entire county, he cautioned.

“We are a community that is prone to flooding,” he said. “We have seen it in the past, and we will see more in the future.”

HOW ARE FLOOD ZONES CATEGORIZED?

There are several designations for flood zones. Broadly speaking, they are divided into two categories: special and nonspecial.

Within the special category, homes can be in A or V flood zones. In these zones, mortgage lenders almost always require homeowners to purchase flood insurance.

These zones are determined by the structure’s height relation to the base flood elevation, which is shown on the Flood Insurance Rate Map. The base flood elevation is the level to which water is expected to rise during a 100-year flood, and is used to calculate flood insurance premiums. Zones A and V are different, however. Many subcategories of Zone A have a number attached. For example, a home in Zone A4 could experience 4 feet of flooding inside the first livable level.

Zone V — which stands for velocity — is different, and subject to wave action, such as storm surge. Structures in this zone may be subject to more strenuous standards, such as more wind and wave resistant construction.

Most homeowners in Glynn County will see a 2- to 4-foot drop in the base flood elevation with the new maps coming in 2018, McCracken said. That does not mean a flood is impossible.

Another category, Zone X, is less likely to flood and does not require flood insurance, although property owners can still purchase it. If a property changes from Zone A or V to Zone X, the owner may purchase a Preferred Risk Policy, which still offers protection, but at a lower cost. A Preferred Risk Policy covering $250,000 of structure and $100,000 of contents can cost as little as $500.

HOW DO I FIND OUT MY FLOOD ZONE?

The current and upcoming Flood Insurance Rate Maps can be found at glynncounty.org/1658/Web-Flood-Map. In the maps, users may type an address and a small box will pop up showing the address and it’s flood zone categorization.

WHAT IF I LIVE IN AN OLDER HOUSE NOT BUILT TO FLOOD ZONE SPECIFICATIONS?

Houses built in Glynn County before April 15, 1985, and in Brunswick before June 1, 1985, are considered pre-Flood Insurance Rate Map. This means they were constructed prior to a thorough mapping of flood hazards and elevations, and usually before comprehensive flood-mitigating building codes.

These pre-mapping homes can qualify for subsidized flood insurance rates. An insurance agent may ask for an elevation certificate, which verifies the building’s elevation compared to the estimated height of floodwaters. Generally, a property developer can provide the certificate, or it may be available at the Glynn County Building Permit Office, or city of Brunswick Building Permit Office.

Elevation certificates are required for homes built in special zones (Zones A and V) after the maps were created in 1985. With the new flood map in 2018, property owners may need a new certificate of elevation. These certificates must be prepared and certified by a licensed land surveyor.

Note that pre-mapping insurance rates only qualify for homes that have not been more than 50 percent renovated.

WITH THE NEW FLOOD MAP, I AM NOT REQUIRED TO HAVE FLOOD INSURANCE. SHOULD I CANCEL IT?

McCracken urged residents not to cancel their flood insurance policies.

“After (hurricanes) Matthew and Irma, I would not advise people to cancel,” she said. “If you remember with Matthew, the worst flooding came in inland North Carolina because of rainfall. I would only cancel my policy if I knew I could afford to pay everything out of pocket.”

If there is a change in your flood zone, you may receive a refund of part of your premium, McCracken said.

She reminds people that 25 percent of flood insurance claims come from property owners in low-risk zones.

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION?

Read about the National Flood Insurance Program at fema.gov/nfip or disasterassistance.gov for more information, or speak with your insurance agent.

There will be a public meeting to explain the new flood map at 6 p.m. today at the College of Coastal Georgia conference center on Mariner Way near the Fourth Street entrance.

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