What is a Flood Zone Determination?

Simply, a Flood Zone Determination states which flood zone applies to a property.  Or put another way, it is ‘determined’ that your property is in a specific flood zone.  The Determinator, which is the company providing the Flood Zone Determination, will use FEMA’s flood maps, the county’s parcel maps, aerial photography, and other maps to figure out which flood zone is applicable to the property.

So, why would you need a Flood Zone Determination?  There are a lot of reasons, but the number one reason is a mortgage lender who is underwriting a new loan, or a refinance, for an insurable structure.  That means if you have a mortgage from a federally-regulated bank, then the bank is required to figure out which flood zone you are in.  If you are in a high-risk flood zone, you are required to pay for flood insurance so the collateral, the mortgaged house, is protected. 

The second most common reason to get a Flood Zone Determination is when your insurance agent creates a flood insurance policy quote for you.  This is usually a separate and independent Flood Zone Determination.  And there are other reasons to get a Flood Zone Determination such as local building code compliance, flood map changes, risk awareness, and business analysis.

There’s an official FEMA form to report the information, which is called the Standard Flood Hazard Determination Form, and the flood zone is not the only information on the form.  The additional information is important because the flood zone is not the only factor in deciding your insurance requirement and the insurance premium.  Here’s the information on the FEMA Standard Flood Hazard Determination Form:

Borrower and Lender information.  This isn’t required on all determinations, so you may not see it on yours.

Location information.  This can be the address, parcel number, latitude and longitude, or lot and block description of the property.

National Flood Insurance Program Community information.  The form will also report the official community name and number and if the community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program and if insurance is available for properties in that community.

Flood Zone.  There are a lot of different flood zones and this box on the form will indicate the zone applicable to the property in the location information.

Special Flood Hazard Area status.  A Special Flood Hazard Area is one of the high-risk flood zones where flood insurance is required.  So, the form will state if the property is in one of these Areas.

FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map information.  This is the FEMA flood map number and date of the map used to determine the flood zone.

Letter of Map Amendment or Letter of Map Revision information.  Sometimes FEMA revises their flood maps without creating a new full-sized map.  This section tells you if that is applicable.

Coastal Barrier Resources System status.  There are protected coastal areas around the Nation and they are tracked by the federal government in the Coastal Barrier Resources System.  You may not be able to get flood insurance in these areas, so this section will let you know if any of these coastal areas are applicable.

Those are the basics, but additional information can be added to a Flood Zone Determination so it becomes more useful.  Here are some of the things you’ll find on a Flood Zone Determination from MassiveCert.

Base Flood Elevation.  This is the elevation of the flood.  How much water gets in your structure affects your premium.  So, the difference between the structure’s elevation and the flood information affects your premium.  You’ll need an Elevation Certificate to get the elevation of your structure though.

Vertical Datum Conversion.  The Base Flood Elevation is attached to a datum, or the reference point from which the elevation was measured.  For the purposes of flood maps, there are essentially two vertical datums for the USA and your structure’s datum and the flood map’s datum could be different.  The elevations have to be converted to the same datum so they can be compared, but the conversion factor varies depending on where in the country the structure is located.  So, we do the math and put the conversion factor on the determination for you.

Newly Mapped Structures.  This is a Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HFIAA) requirement to identify structures where a new FEMA map indicates the structure is in a Special Flood Hazard Area, but it wasn’t in that Area before the new map was created.  You can qualify for special flood insurance rates in these cases and we’ll put that information on the Determination.

Grandfathering.  You can get special flood insurance rates if you have an older home that was built to compliance to the flood map that was current when the home was built.  If you agent asks us to check for that, we’ll add that information to your Determination.

Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.  This Act requires reporting for the specific US Census areas where the structure is located.  MassiveCert places this information on each of our determinations to help lenders comply with the Act, although FEMA does not require it.


So, a Flood Zone Determination will ‘determine’ which flood zone the structure is in.  It is mostly used for lending and insurance requirements.  And there’s a lot of useful information on the Standard Flood Hazard Determination Form other than just the flood zone.


Stay safe.