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Keeping Up With Elevation Issues

In construction, while large loaders shape the ground underfoot and tall cranes fly supplies overhead, it is easy to be swept away by the massiveness of it all.  Even a modest project, let's say the construction of a house, is an impressive collaboration of man and machine.

But sometimes the most crucial undertakings go unnoticed. For example, the important work performed by civil engineers and surveyors.  These professionals analyze topography and soil to help ensure that a property sheds waters properly. Because flood damage can be costly, it is essential to understand a property's susceptibility to flooding so you can mitigate its potential damage.

Floodplain mapping
Man has a complex relationship with floodwater because it sustains life but it can also take life away.
Historically, floodwaters were often welcome because they provided irrigation and nutrients to adjacent crop fields. But as communities grew and became more complex, the detriments of uncontrolled flooding became greater than the benefits. Because flooding can affect safety, health, and economic wellbeing, flood programs were initiated to offset the harmful effects of flooding.

In 1968, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was created by Congress to mitigate flood loss through community enforced zoning and building ordinances. For example, development of properties in designated floodways, such as near streams, canals, and creeks, is severely restricted and may require that the structure be placed on piles or piers. The use of fill dirt may also be restricted. In some cases, construction may be prohibited altogether. Consequently, you are well served to know about these restrictions before you purchase a property because its development may be cost prohibitive.

Although community participation in the NFIP program is voluntary, only those communities that adopt floodplain management ordinances are eligible for NFIP's federally back insurance protection. Insurance written and serviced by private insurance agencies may also be available under the Write Your Own Program. For more information about NFIP, read the FEMA publication titled Answers to Questions about NFIP.

Level with me
To learn the flood designation of a property, you can view Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) - the geographic drawings that show the type and severity of flooding from sources such as rivers, lakes, and storm surge. Although not all communities have performed detailed studies, most rivers, streams and coastlines, and major metropolitan areas are mapped. These FIRMs are typically available at local governments' building, zoning, or engineering offices. Digital maps are available at FEMA's website.
 
Just as building codes help to ensure that your building meets minimum safety standards, zoning codes that address elevations are equally important because they address the true foundation of your structure. By reviewing FEMA's flood maps, you can get information to help you make sound decisions associated with potential flood hazards.

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