Ask the Architect

Do we need flood insurance?


Q. We’re trying to figure out if we are in a flood zone. We weren’t flooded, nor do we have flood insurance, but the water stopped only a block away. How do we find out if we’re in a flood zone, whether we were supposed to have flood insurance and whether we will need to lift our house? If we need to, how high do we raise it?

A. If you were in a flood zone, you insurance company might have told you, but after speaking with owners of flood-damaged homes, I’m getting the impression that the Federal Emergency Management Agency didn’t contact people about flood insurance just because they were in a flood zone. Some were contacted; others say they weren’t. To find out, either contact your local building department or go online to The site moves very slowly. Eventually a map can be enlarged for more detail. Many people, viewing this map, are confused by how to read it. Building officials know how, and can help you. The zone letters aren’t as important as the numbers are, unless you’re in zone X. Zone X means your home isn’t in an area designated as a flood zone.

Determining whether you need flood insurance from the map is only part of the answer. Also contact your home insurance company, although you may need to prepare for the answer you may have been hoping to avoid. Some companies are asking for flood coverage even for homeowners near a flood zone but not in one.

Years ago, a friend made a wise suggestion that the best insurance, if you can afford it, is to insure yourself (which most of us can never afford, of course) along with your bank-required insurance payment. He also didn’t do it, although if you can set aside money with self-discipline, you can avoid the disaster now besetting so many who are discovering that they paid into a system that will not pay them back for the crisis they expected to be covered for.

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