How do I obtain or review the flood map for my area and how do I read it?

The most widely distributed National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) flood map product is the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). A FIRM offers much useful information and represents the official depiction of flood hazards for a community.

On the FEMA Flood Map Service Center (MSC) you may research, view and download (free) the available inventory of effective NFIP products, including the FIRM, the Flood Insurance Study (FIS) Report that accompanies the FIRM and other mapping products. The “effective date” is the date on which the NFIP map for a community becomes effective and all sanctions of the NFIP apply. Therefore, an “effective FIRM” is the NFIP map issued by FEMA that is in effect as of the date shown in the title block of the map as “Effective Date,” “Revised” or “Map Revised.”

You can also create a customized FIRMette—a paper copy of a user-defined portion of an effective FIRM, produced and saved on your computer. The FIRMette is a full- scale section of a FIRM that you create and formatted to print on most home/ office printers. The FIRMette can be used to help determine the location of a property or structure relative to the Special Flood Hazard Area and includes title block, scale and north arrow. To learn more about FIRMettes and how to create one, view the How to Find Your FIRM and Make a FIRMette Tutorial.

You may also view copies of the effective FIRM and FIS report by visiting the Community Map Repository for your community, which is usually maintained by the community floodplain administrator or officials at the planning and zoning office.

Homeowners are urged to use the How to Read a FIRM Tutorial along with the FIRM for your property to assist you in determining the potential flood risk for your property and whether you should insure your home from flood loss, as well as the How to Read a FIS Tutorial to assist you in understanding the information presented in the FIS report.