Since the creation of the National Flood Insurance Programs in the late 1960’s, we have developed better tools and maps to determine an individual’s flood risk. The downside of these maps are that they are limited to riverine and/or coastal flooding, which may not give the true risk of flooding based on more localized systems (i.e. roadside ditches, smaller streams, and underground storm sewers). Many communities have taken it upon themselves to better identity these additional risks; however, for many in the general public we are still limited to the FEMA published flood maps.
For many finding out they are in a flood zone occurs after they flood or right after they decide to purchase their home. The good news is there are ways individuals can research their FEMA flood status online.
Going Straight to the Source
FEMA makes all effective flood maps known as FIRMS (Flood Insurance Rate Maps) available for public viewing and downloading for free. All FEMA related data is located at the Map Service Center. If you are using Google Chrome, you might get an error message. If so, use Internet Explorer.
Once at the FEMA Map Service Center, you can search by address.
After you hit enter, the search should like something like this.
Once you find your location, you will need to read the map to determine what special flood hazard area you are in. If you are looking at the “Dynamic Map” (one similar to the one above), here is the legend:
Sometimes the maps have been officially changed; however, these changes are not graphically shown on the FIRMs or dynamic map. You can view these changes by clicking on the “Changes to this Firm” on the map service website. More information will be added to this site on map changes, but in the meantime, learn more about the types of changes at https://www.fema.gov/letter-map-change.
To learn more about FIRMs and FEMA Flood Data, see the video below by the Kentucky Association of Mitigation Managers (KAMM).
Some local communities (Cities, Counties, Etc.) have created websites and other resources to view the specific communities flood risk. In addition to the FEMA Map Service Center, you can visit your local City or County Website. Here are some of the ones in the Greater Houston Area.
Brazoria County Information Tool (Includes Floodplain and Other County Related Data)
Waller County Information Tool (Includes Floodplain and Other County Related Data)
Future Map Changes
Map changes can reflect current risks and impact flood insurance coverage and costs of your policy. To find out if your community is undergoing a map change, you can contact your local community or FEMA to learn more.