Step 2: Adopt higher standards for redevelopment and future development

It’s long been recognized that the development criteria of the National Flood Insurance Program are minimums and those minimums may not be adequate for your community or your home or business. Severe floods have prompted state and local legislatures to enact higher standards, such as prohibiting residences or other buildings from high hazard areas, requiring “freeboard” that is, building more safely by developing with additional elevation or floodproofing beyond federal minimum standards, or a higher level of protection, and zoning areas to limit development to those uses that are compatible with the hazards.

The current standards should be regarded as an absolute minimum which should be exceeded at a time when people have just suffered from the foreseeable forces of Nature. Higher standards are even more important now that we have recognized that the climate is changing and disasters are becoming more frequent and more severe. We should not build to protect our homes, schools, and neighborhoods from the last flood when we know that future floods will likely be higher.

Each community should review safer alternatives and not rely on minimum nation-wide standards to determine what is adequate to protect future development from their local hazards. FEMA, by the way, recognizes that higher standards save money, and has several mechanisms to provide lower insurance premiums for properties and communities that use them.

Another reason for rebuilding to a higher standard is that FEMA often remaps the Special Flood Hazard Area after major storms. Under the recently passed Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, there will be new restrictions on “grandfathering” flood insurance premium rates. If properties are not protected to the new remapped flood level, policy holders may well pay higher premiums, even though they are protected to the “old” base flood level.


  • The National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System provides flood insurance premium credits to communities that adopt higher standards. CRS Activity 430 (Higher Regulatory Standards) has examples and model ordinance language. [Pub the 2006 430 model on the site rather than link to FEMA’s site.]
  • Wes: can you insert resources for regulations for coastal areas and sea level rise?
  • Elevating buildings well above the minimum, base or 100-year flood level, can greatly reduce flood insurance premiums. [check FloodSmart’s website for something appropriate]
  • The Association of State Floodplain Managers’ No Adverse Impact (NAI) program provides guidance and legal rationale for exceeding national minimums.
  • There is a separate NAI reference for coastal communities
The Hurricane Floyd flood was higher than the base or 100-year flood on Conway’s Flood Insurance Rate Map. The City Council amended its ordinance to require that all new and substantially damaged buildings had to be protected to the Floyd flood level.