Storm Recovery Tips, Info & FAQs
Tips, Information and Frequently Asked Question Regarding FEMA and other Storm Recovery Issues
Has the state released Post-SAndy Flood Elevation Standards.
Yes.As New Jersey begins to rebuild from Hurricane Sandy, there is a critical need for clear and accurate information that will help the public make good decisions about reconstructing damaged structures. On Jan. 24, the state adopted emergency amendments to New Jersey Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules. The amendments set minimum elevation standards for reconstruction of structures in flood zones.
The Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Community Affairs have developed a list of Frequently Asked Questions d the public better understand the benefits of elevating, guidelines explaining who the rule affects, and tips for getting started.
The FAQs may be found under Featured Topics on the DEP's home page or by clicking: www.state.nj.us/dep/special/hurricane-sandy/docs/abefs-faq-20130204.pdf
The Governor's Office news release announcing the emergency rule is available at: www.nj.gov/dep/newsrel/2013/13_0006.htm
The rule may be accessed through the press release or by clicking: http://www.nj.gov/dep/docs/20130124flood-hazard-emergency-rule.pdf
What is FEMA?
FEMA stands for Federal Emergency Management Agency. This is a branch of the Federal Government of the United States.
What is NFIP?
NFIP stands for the National Flood Insurance Program. This is a type of insurance that is regulated though FEMA but can be offered by individual private insurance company. Many people have their flood insurance provided through the same company that provides their homeowners insurance.
Is Flood Insurance Required?
Flood insurance is not required by law. However banks and other lenders typically require such insurance as a condition of obtaining and retaining financing. If a property is owned free and clear of any debt then flood insurance is not required, although it is strongly suggested that it be retained as long as there is a risk of flooding and flood damage.
What does Flood Insurance Cover?
Flood insurance covers the repair or replacement costs for damages to your home as a result of a flood. Contents of the home, such as personal belongings are not covered unless a homeowner specifically adds on “Contents Coverage,” and there will be additional cost for the policy for this coverage. Accessory structures, pools, cars are not covered by flood insurance.
How Are Flood Insurance Rates Determined?
Flood insurance costs depend on multiple factors including the type of flood zone the property is in. The Base Flood Elevation in the area your property is in and the actual first floor elevation, relative to the Base Flood Elevation, of your home. These factors combined with the amount of coverage you have, which is often determined by the value of the home, combine to establish the rate you will ultimately pay.
What is a Base Flood Elevation?
Base Flood Elevation is the level or elevation above normal sea level that flood water can be expected to reach during a 1% or 100 year storm event.
I have Heard About ABFE or Advisory Base Flood Elevations, What is That and How Will it Affect Me?
FEMA has been working to develop new updated data that may result in a change to the previous Base Flood Elevations, possibly making them higher than they are now. They are referred to as “Advisory” at this time because they have not been formally adopted by the Federal Government. However they were released sooner than originally planned due to the occurrence of Sandy and the need for many to re-build or repair their homes. The ABFE’s will dictate how high the first floor of a new or substantially repaired home must be above sea level. The new ABFE’s will also be the basis for how flood insurance rates are determined.
Typically the higher the first floor, the lower the rate. The first floor will be required to be at least one foot above the ABFE. This space between the first floor and the Base Flood Elevation is known as “Freeboard.” It is possible that the state may require even more than 1 foot of Freeboard.
I have heard about ICC Coverage, What is That?
ICC stands for Increased Cost of Compliance. This is a portion of some flood insurance policies that can be used towards achieving compliance with current flood hazard regulations. This coverage is triggered once it has been determined that a home is either destroyed or “Substantially Damaged.” You should look at the declaration page of your flood insurance policy to see if ICC coverage is listed you can also contact your insurance company to verify if you have this coverage.
ICC coverage can be used for the following:
- Elevation. This raises your home or business to or above the base flood elevation level.
- Relocation. This moves your home or business out of harm's way.
- Demolition. This tears down and removes flood-damaged buildings.
- Flood proofing. This option is available primarily for non-residential buildings. It involves making a building watertight through a combination of adjustments or additions of features to the building that reduces the potential for flood damage.
ICC coverage can also be used for a combination of the above items.
How is the Determination of “Substantially Damaged” Made?
After your home has been inspected by a flood insurance adjuster you will receive a claim estimate. The time it takes to receive this estimate can vary and is controlled primarily by your insurance company. Once you receive that estimate you will need to get contractors estimates for all of the repairs specified. This information is then to be provided to the local Construction Official. The Construction Official will then make the determination. If it is determined that the total cost for repairs exceeds 50% of the pre-storm market value of your home, you will be determined to have been substantially damaged. This now triggers your ability to file an ICC claim, if you have such coverage. Typically coverage is up to $30,000.00 for such work.
If I have to elevate my house, what are my options?
If it turns out that your house is damaged in any way by the flood/superstorm it is strongly recommended that you meet with the local Construction Official before doing any major repairs to the home. Depending upon your situation you may be required to elevate the home and there are many issues concerning this and how viable an option it is for your particular situation.
We do not want to see major repair work done on a home only to later find out you need to elevate the structure. Depending upon the flood zone your property is in, there may be very different techniques required for elevation and foundation design, and costs can vary greatly.
I have heard about a “Step” Program offering $10,000.00 Grants, What is this?STEP stands for Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power. The purpose of this programs it to get people back into homes that need a small amount of work to be done to make the house habitable. This can include Temporary Power, new furnace or water heater, exterior repairs like for broken doors and windows, damaged siding, replacement of ramps or other items needed for handicap accessibility. The idea is that people in this situation will then not need temporary housing that is needed by people with more substantial damage. This program is not intended for use on substantially damaged homes. Up to $10,000 can be provided, depending upon the amount of work needed. Towns must opt-in to this program and must establish a project plan for implementation. Funds must also be budgeted and committed by the local municipality. Towns may then apply to FEMA for reimbursement of a percentage of the costs. At this point the program is not in place in most communities since there are so few applicants able to qualify.
I have heard that is some cases the Federal Government may provide grants for the purchase or elevating of houses. How does that work and can I apply?
This type of assistance falls under the category of “Hazard Mitigation Grants.” Although it is often not explained well in the media, it is a program that involves a lengthy application process between local governments and the State. It also typically involves a local match of 25% which must be borne by the taxpayers of the community. First an allocation of federal disaster relief funds must be set aside by congress. This has not occurred yet. Then the state in consultation with local communities develops strategies for how best to use mitigation funds. Some common options are, purchase of properties/homes, elevating of homes, flood protection projects, increased code enforcement efforts, etc. Once it is determined how the mitigation funds will be used, project plans must be put into place. If funds are to be used on private properties, then an application procedure must be established. Funding levels must then be compared to the total need. For example if it was decided to use such funds to provide grants to help people elevate homes, it is unlikely there would be enough allocated by FEMA to cover the total cost of elevating all structures that need it. Therefore the grants would have to be matched by the homeowner.
These types of hazard mitigation projects can take a year or more to get off the ground. It is also important to note that these funds cannot be used to reimburse people for work already completed.