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What is the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)?

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is a Federal program enabling property owners in participating communities to purchase insurance protection against losses from flooding. This program is designed to provide an insurance alternative to disaster assistance to meet the escalating costs of repairing damage to buildings and their contents caused by floods.

Participation in the NFIP is based on an agreement between local communities and the Federal Government. This agreement states that if a community will adopt and enforce a floodplain management ordinance to reduce future flood risks to new construction in Special Flood Hazard Areas, the Federal Government will make flood insurance available within the community as a financial protection against flood losses.

What does community participation in the National Flood Insurance Program mean and how does that affect a homeowner?

Communities, like the City of Wood River, decide to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Specifically, the City agreed to manage flood hazard areas by adopting minimum regulatory standards may participate in the NFIP.

If a community does not participate in the program, property owners in that jurisdiction are not able to purchase federally backed flood insurance. Also, federal grants, loans, disaster assistance, and Federal mortgage insurance are unavailable for the acquisition or construction of structures located in the floodplain as shown on the NFIP maps.

Similarly, if a community does not participate in the program, property owners are not subject to federal requirements of mandatory flood insurance. However, a lender is still required to inspect any flood maps to determine flood hazard risk and provide notice of such risk. A lender may require a borrower to obtain flood insurance even in the absence of a federally mandatory requirement.

What is a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM)?

A Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) is an insurance and floodplain management map issued by FEMA that identifies areas of 1-percent annual chance flood hazard in a community. In some areas, the map also shows Base Flood Elevations and 0.2-percent annual chance floodplain boundaries and, occasionally, regulatory floodway boundaries.

What is a Base Flood Elevation (BFE)?

A Base Flood Elevation (BFE) is the height of the base flood, usually in feet, in relation to the National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929, the North American Vertical Datum of 1988, or other datum referenced in the Flood Insurance Study report, or average depth of the base flood, usually in feet, above the ground surface.

What is a Flood Insurance Study (FIS)?

A Flood Insurance Study (FIS) is a book that contains information regarding flooding in a community and is developed in conjunction with the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). The FIS, also known as a flood elevation study, frequently contains a narrative of the flood history of a community and discusses the engineering methods used to develop the FIRMs. The study also contains flood profiles for studied flooding sources and can be used to determine Base Flood Elevations for some areas.

Where can I find out more about purchasing flood insurance?

After a community joins the National Flood Insurance Program, a policy may be purchased from any licensed property insurance agent or broker who is in good standing in the State in which the agent is licensed.

How are the rates determined for a flood insurance policy?

A number of factors are considered in determining the premium for flood insurance coverage. They include:

  • the amount of coverage purchased;
  • location;
  • age of the building;
  • building occupancy;
  • design of the building;
  • and, for buildings in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs), elevation of the building in relation to the Base Flood Elevation.

Buildings eligible for special low-cost coverage at a pre-determined, reduced premium rate are single-family and one- to four-family dwellings located in Zones B, C, and X. For these exceptions, certain loss limitations exist.

What elevation is used when rating a structure for a flood insurance policy?

The difference between the lowest floor elevation (including basement) of your structure and the 1-percent annual chance flood elevation is used to determine the insurance rating.

When is mandatory flood insurance required?

The Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 and the National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994 mandate the purchase of flood insurance as a condition of Federal or federally regulated financing for acquisition and/or construction of buildings in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) of any participating community. The purchase of flood insurance on a voluntary basis is frequently prudent, even outside of SFHAs.

These Acts prohibit Federal agency lenders, such as the Small Business Administration (SBA) and United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Housing Service, and Government-Sponsored Enterprises for Housing (such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae) from making, guaranteeing, or purchasing a loan secured by real estate or mobile home(s) in a SFHA, unless flood insurance has been purchased and is maintained during the term of the loan.

I have lived here forever and have never been flooded. Why do I need flood insurance?

The flood hazards shown on National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) maps are based on the best information available at the time the maps were prepared. In many areas, hydraulic and hydrologic studies were conducted to reflect the long-term projection of flood risk. Because of the infrequent occurrence of flood events and the relatively short history of the NFIP, Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) are not based only on past flooding occurrences. The fact that a flood hasn't occurred within memory doesn't mean one won't happen soon.

The 100-year flood is a relatively rare event (1-percent chance in any given year), but structures located in the floodplain have a significant chance (26%) of suffering flood damage during the term of a 30-year mortgage. For these reasons, flood insurance is required as a condition of receiving Federal or federally backed financing.

If I disagree with my lender's determination that I am in a floodplain, what can I do?

In some cases, a lender determines that a property is in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), but the property owner disagrees. The SFHA is also known as the 100-year floodplain. It is more precisely defined as the floodplain associated with a flood that has a 1-percent annual chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year. Therefore the SFHA is not a flood event that happens once in a hundred years, rather a flood event that has a one percent chance of occurring every year. Property owners in this situation have a couple of options. They may apply for a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA), or a Letter of Map Revision - based on Fill (LOMR-F) (if fill placement is the basis of the request). In addition, property owners may apply for a Letter of Determination Review (LODR).

Forms for these purposes can be found on our web site at

The following paragraphs describe first the LOMA or LOMR-F process, followed by the LODR process.

Upon receiving a completed MT-EZ (for LOMAs) or MT-1 (for LOMR-Fs) application, FEMA reviews property-specific information (including surveyed elevation data, typically the elevation of the lowest adjacent grade of the structure in question, provided by a licensed land surveyor Note: the homeowner may be required to hire a land surveyor to perform this elevation survey, if this data is not readily available), and makes a final flood zone determination for the property. Once an application and all necessary data are received, the determination is normally issued within 30 - 60 days. If the LOMA or LOMR-F removes the SFHA designation from the property, it can then be presented to the lender as proof that there is no Federal flood insurance requirement for the property. However, even though a LOMA or LOMR-F may waive the Federal requirement for flood insurance, a lender retains the prerogative to require flood insurance. No fee is charged for the review of a LOMA; however, there is a $425 review fee for a LOMR-F.

In addition, property owners may apply for a Letter of Determination Review (LODR). A LODR is a review of your lender's determination. In other words, the LODR is a process where FEMA reviews the same information your lender used to determine that your structure was located in a SFHA. It is important to note that the LODR process does not consider the elevation of the structure or property above the flood level. Rather, it considers only the location of the structure relative to the special flood hazard area boundary shown on the FIRM. Thus, you should be aware that your lender does not consider the elevation of your property or structure when determining if your property or structure is in or out of the SFHA. FEMA reviews this information and issues its finding of whether the structure is located in the SFHA according to the current NFIP map. The request for such a letter must be jointly requested by the property owner and the lender no later than 45 days following the date the lender notified the borrower that the property is in a special flood hazard area. While this determination cannot consider the elevation of your structure or property, it can be useful if you feel the lender's interpretation of the map is incorrect.

To summarize then, there are obviously some important distinctions between the two processes (LODR vs LOMA / LOMR-F).

1. The determinations are based on different data.

The LODR process does not consider the (vertical) elevation of the structure or property above the flood level. Rather, it considers only the horizontal location of the structure relative to the special flood hazard area boundary shown on the Flood Insurance Rate Map. The LOMA/LOMR-F process uses actual survey elevation data to determine if the property or structure is at or above the elevation of the SFHA .

2. There are different fees involved.

LODR $80
LOMR-F $425

3. The determinations result in different actions.

A LODR does not result in an amendment or revision to the National Flood Insurance Program map. It is only our finding regarding the structure's location with respect to a delineated special flood hazard area.

A LOMA or LOMR-F actually removes the SFHA designation from the property by letter.

Need additional help? call 1-877-FEMA MAP.  

How and when do I get a refund if I do cancel my flood insurance?

If you were required to obtain flood insurance as a condition of a loan and you were later determined to be removed from the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) by a Letter of Map Change (LOMC) (includes Letter of Map Amendment, Letter of Map Revision based on Fill or Letter of Map Revision), you may request a refund. However, the lender is not required to waive your flood insurance requirement; the lender may decide that flood insurance coverage is still required as a condition of the loan.

To receive a refund, submit the LOMC to the lender and ask that the lender waive the insurance requirement. Present the written waiver from the lender, along with a copy of the LOMC, to the insurance agent that sold you the policy and request a refund. Refunds are not available if a claim has been made or is pending against the policy.

I have questions about flood insurance. Who do I call?

Call your local, licensed casualty or property insurance agent, call the National Flood Insurance Hotline at 1-800-427-4661, or see National Flood Insurance.

I want to receive a floodplain map from FEMA. Can I get it online?

You can see some floodplain data in the FEMA Map Service Center on-line at You can call and order all floodplain maps in the U.S. by calling toll-free 1-800-358-9616.

Additional FAQ's about Mapping and Amending and Revising Flood Maps

Need additional help? call 1-877-FEMA MAP.