An Integral Partner in Flood Control

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), created in 1979, is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security. Its purpose is to “prepare for, protect against, respond to and recover from” disasters that are large enough to strain local and state agencies, such as earthquakes, fires, floods, and other natural and manmade hazards.

The District works closely with FEMA to safeguard Alameda County citizens from potential flooding. For example, the District is currently working with FEMA to evaluate all levees in western Alameda County to ensure they meet new FEMA requirements. The District is also working toward complying with FEMA’s new, more stringent flood control standards.

Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMS)

FEMA maintains Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) that indicate flood zones and floodplain boundaries across the U.S. FEMA recently updated FIRMs with stricter criteria for flood control boundaries.

As a Cooperating Technical Partner, the District has assisted FEMA in the development of the FIRMS in western Alameda County. District staff has, in some instances, re-analyzed FEMA’s studies to more accurately depict hydrologic conditions.

Property owners in high-risk flood areas, such as Special Flood Hazard Areas, are encouraged to carry flood insurance. In fact, FEMA requires property owners with federally secured mortgages within the new flood boundaries to carry flood insurance (effective August 1, 2009).

The District develops flood control projects to help lower the risk of potential flooding to a 100-year flood level (meaning the potential for flooding is 1% in any given 100-year period). When these projects are complete, FEMA changes its FIRMS accordingly so that properties that were once in high-risk areas are reassigned to lower-risk categories.

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

FEMA manages the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP program lets property owners in participating communities, like Alameda County, buy insurance to protect against losses from flooding.

Alameda County can participate in the program because the District has committed to taking additional steps to enforce a floodplain management ordinance that reduces flood risk to new construction in Special Flood Hazard Areas.

Special Flood Hazard Areas are indicated on FIRMs. Property located in a Special Flood Hazard Area has a 26% chance of flooding over a 30-year period, the length of most mortgages.

Owners of property located in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) within unincorporated Alameda County may be eligible for a 15 percent (15%) reduction on the cost of flood insurance because of the District’s participation in FEMA’s Community Rating System Program