Assessing Your Personal Risk


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Do You Live In a High Flood Risk Area?

There are several ways of assessing your flood risk.

If you live in a mandatory evacuation area and/or are required to have flood insurance, you can be virtually certain you live in a high flood risk area. These areas are referred to as "Special Flood Hazard Areas."

A second way of assessing your risk is to refer to a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) to determine the flood zone designation for the area in which your property resides. Flood zone designations are available for most, but not all areas. FIRM maps are available for public viewing at Palm Beach County's Main Library, at most building departments, or at the Division of Emergency Management. Contact information is provided in other sections of this website. Assuming your area does appear on a FIRM map... zones designated as "A" or "V" are defined as higher risk areas. Other zone designations still may be subject to flooding, but less frequently and with less severity. (Flood zone designations, along with explanations, can be found in the "Do-It-Yourself" Assessment Tools section)

Coastal area residents should refer to a Storm Surge Map to determine their potential flood risk from tropical storms. These maps, prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, show peak surge inundation associated with Category 1, 3, and 5 hurricanes.

You can also check whether an Elevation Certificate for your property is on file with your insurance agency, lending institution or local building department. This document will tell you the elevation of the lowest level of your structure relative to the base flood elevation. (More detailed information on elevation certificates can be found in the "Where Can I Get Professional Flood Information?" section)

If you are new to an area or are considering the purchase of a home... in addition to checking the above sources, check with others living in the area to determine if there has been any history of flooding. Marshy vegetation like ferns and water seeking trees like cypress and melaleuca could be clues to a potential problem. Be sensitive to the elevations of surrounding homes, road crowns, etc. and to recent development projects that might create future runoff problems for you. Of course, be aware of the capacities of storm drainage systems in the area.

Professional Information & Assistance Sources

If you need official assessments of your flood risk, seek the assistance of licensed professionals. Your local building department/permitting office can reference elevation certificates, Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMS), surge maps, and other engineering and survey documents in assessing your risk. Of course you can always purchase the services of a professional engineer for an independent survey.

Do-It-Yourself Assessment Tools

As a convenience to users of this site, we have included access to two "Do-It-Yourself" tools which provide quick, unofficial, and reasonably accurate determinations of inland flooding and surge risks. Users are cautioned to use official information sources when important decisions are required.

The first tool is a Flood Zone Determination System. You can look up your flood zone by either entering your "Name" or entering your "Street address or nearest intersection". Click the method you wish to use in the "Search By" box. We recommend you first try using the name search. Follow the instructions in the box and click search. When using the Street search option, be careful to enter the prefix and postfix, street number, street name and the type designation separately in their respective boxes. Combining them will invalidate the search.

The second tool, for coastal residents, is referred to as Palm Beach County Evacuation Tool . By entering a street address the system will tell you if a property resides in a surge prone area, and, if so, what category of storm will cause flooding. As with the flood zone determination system, the data used to determine surge areas are currently being updated. Using more precise elevation data, some changes might occur in the near future.

FEMA Flood Zone Designations & Explanations

Annual Probability of Flooding of 1% or greater
ASubject to 100-year flood. Base flood elevation undetermined.
AE or A1-A30Both AE and A1-A30 represent areas subject to 100-year flood with base flood elevation determined.
AHSubject to 100-year shallow flooding (usually areas of ponding) with average depth of 1-3 feet. Base flood elevation determined.
AOSubject to 100-year shallow flooding (usually sheet flow on sloping terrain) with average depth of 1-3 feet. Base flood elevation undetermined.
A99Subject to 100-year flood, with federal flood protection system (levee/dam) under construction. Base flood elevation undetermined.
VSubject to 100-year flood and additional velocity hazard (wave action). Base flood elevation undetermined.
VE or V1-V30Both VE and V1-V30 represent areas subject to 100-year flood and additional velocity hazard (wave action). Base flood elevation determined.
In SFHAAreas in a "Special Flood Hazard Area" (or 100-year flood plain). Subject to 1% annual chance flooding. No distinctions have been made between the different flood hazard zones that may be included within the SFHA.
Flood Prone AreaAn area designated as a "Flood Prone Area" on a map prepared by USGS and the Federal Insurance Administration. This area has been delineated based on available information on past floods. This is an area inundated by 1% annual chance flooding for which no base flood elevations have been determined.
Annual Probability of Flooding of 0.2% to 1%
B or X500Both B and X500 represent areas between the limits of the 100-year and 500-year flood; or certain areas subject to 100-year flood with average depths less than 1 foot or where the contributing drainage area is less than 1 square mile; or areas protected by levees from the 100-year flood.
Annual Probability of Flooding of Less than 0.2%
C or XBoth C and X represent areas outside the 500-year flood plain with less than 0.2% annual probability of flooding.
Annual Probability of Flooding of Less than 1%
No SFHAAreas outside a "Special Flood Hazard Area" (or 100-year flood plain). Can include areas inundated by 0.2% annual chance flooding; areas inundated by 1% annual chance flooding with average depths of less than 1 foot or with drainage areas less than 1 square mile; areas protected by levees from 1% annual chance flooding; or areas outside the 1% and 0.2% annual chance floodplains.
DUnstudied areas. Flood hazards are undetermined.