What Is Flood Zone AH?

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Cara Carlone
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According to a 2021 Pew research study, a flooding event takes place 8 out of every 10 days in the United States. This near-daily occurrence can be more damaging to those living in areas designated with the letters AH on a flood map since they are at a higher risk of flooding. But what exactly does this mean?

Throughout my career in the insurance industry, I have encountered many homeowners who don’t know that your standard home insurance policy won’t protect you against flood.  If you live in an area with a high probability of flooding, there are some things you should know regarding protecting your property. Keep reading to learn more.

Key Takeaways

  • Flood zone AH is a high-risk area with a 26% chance of flooding over a 30 year period

  • Homeowners who live in this area are required to purchase flood insurance if they have a federally backed mortgage

  • Flood insurance is offered through the NFIP or by private insurers and there are pros and cons of each

  • Homeowners can determine their flood zone by inputting their address on FEMA’s flood map

What Is Flood Zone AH?

Flood zone AH is a designated area that has a 1% chance of flooding annually with flood depths between 1-3 feet. These zones have a 26% chance of experiencing a flood over the course of a 30-year mortgage. As such, homeowners in an AH flood zone are required to carry flood insurance by their mortgage lender.

Note: Flood insurance policies typically have waiting periods, which means coverage will not go into effect immediately. If you are purchasing a home, it is recommended to obtain a policy as soon as possible so coverage is in place at the time of closing. You can also look into some private insurers who may not require a waiting period.

Per the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), an inch of water can cause up to $25,000 worth of damage. For homes in zone AH, damage from flooding can be financially devastating not only to the structure but to personal property and vehicles as well. Flood insurance is a must in these areas.

Note: If you live in a flood zone and own a car, carrying comprehensive coverage is recommended. Comprehensive will protect your car from flood damage, subject to your deductible.

Base Flood Elevation in Flood Zone AH

Base Flood Elevation (BFE) refers to the level that water has the potential to reach during a flood in any given location. This number is calculated from historical weather data, the topography of the area, and the best science available. While it is a baseline, it is certainly not a guarantee and a flood’s height can be higher or lower than predicted by the BFE.

There are sections of flood zone AH that have a BFE. But having this information is important for homeowners as they can use it to better protect their homes from floods. For example, keeping electrical, heating, or plumbing systems above the BFE, or building any new structures above the BFE.

NFIP vs Private Flood Insurance For Flood Zone AH

If you live in an AH flood zone, you should obtain flood insurance, either through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or a private insurer. While both can help you repair damage after a flood, there are pros and cons to each as well.

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides flood insurance through a federal program called the National Flood Insurance Program or NFIP. This program provides two types of coverage for homeowners; one that protects your home and one that protects your personal property. Unlike a standard home insurance policy, the structure and personal property coverage are purchased separately.

Each coverage part has a separate deductible, and reimburses you for damage caused by flooding up to a certain limit. Homeowners can purchase up to $250,000 in coverage for their home, and up to $100,000 for their property. Higher limits can be purchased for multi-family properties.

One of the biggest benefits of the NFIP is its availability. The program is available to all homeowners who live in high-risk flood zones and cannot be non-renewed for filing too many claims. The same cannot be said for private flood programs.

The downsides to the NFIP are its lack of coverage options, its price, and longer waiting periods. Private flood programs tend to be less expensive and offer higher coverage limits. The NFIP also has a 30-day waiting period before coverage goes into effect.

Private Flood Insurance

Unlike the NFIP which is managed through the federal government, private flood insurance is offered through private insurance companies. A few insurance companies that offer flood insurance are Kin, Wright, Chubb, and Allstate.

Private insurance is typically less expensive than the NFIP and offers more coverage. However, because it’s run by private companies, they can decline to offer you coverage or non-renew your policy at the end of your policy term. Private insurers may also have higher deductibles than the NFIP.

Tip: Another option for those who need flood insurance is to purchase a policy through the NFIP and obtain a supplemental policy through a private insurer. This allows homeowners to increase the amount of coverage afforded by the NFIP, especially if a private insurer will not offer a policy.

Do Homes In Flood Zone AH Require Flood Insurance?

Homes in flood zone AH have a high probability of flooding over the course of a 30-year mortgage. Homeowners with a federally backed mortgage and who live in a flood zone must purchase flood insurance. However, even if flood insurance is not mandated by your mortgage company, it is a good idea to purchase since standard homeowners insurance will not cover these types of losses.

Is My Home In Flood Zone AH?

To determine if their home is in a flood zone, homeowners can search their address on FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center. This tool pins an address over FEMA’s flood map so you see how prone your area is to flooding. These maps are routinely maintained and updated by computer models, local engineers, and surveyors to get the most accurate data.

Cost Of Flood Insurance In Zone AH

According to FEMA, flood insurance costs $888 on average per year. However, this cost will vary depending on where in the US you live, as well as the flood zone within that area. Obviously, the higher the flood risk, the more you will pay in premium.

Flood Zone Average Annual Premium
A $2,841
AE $1,025
AH $1,706
AO $641
D $582
V $2,272
VE $823
X $768

Tips for Homeowners in Flood Zone AH

25% of all flooding claims come from homeowners who live in low or moderate-risk areas. Whether you live in a flood zone or not, there are simple steps that you can take to prevent or minimize the effects of flooding.

  • Ensure Proper Drainage- Clear gutters and downspouts of any debris so they can drain properly. You should also move your downspouts to direct the flow of water away from your home.
  • Install a Sump Pump- Sump pumps are an efficient way to pump groundwater away from your home, which can help keep your basement free of water. You should also ensure your pump has a battery back-up in case the power goes out.
  • Elevate Utilities- Relocate major systems such as electrical boxes, HVAC equipment, and heating systems to a higher elevation. If you live in a flood zone with a BFE, aim for 1 foot above that number to be extra cautious.
  • Protect Belongings- Any property that is expensive or difficult to replace should be kept at higher levels of the home or at least off the floor. Consider moving belongings such as electronics, rugs, or jewelry if the risk of flooding is imminent.
  • Use Flood Resistant Materials- As you make updates to your home, consider using flood resistant materials to keep the flood risk low. For example, wooden windows or doors could be replaced with metal, or carpets could be replaced with ceramic or tile flooring.

Different Flood Zones

In addition to flood zone AH, the other flood zones are as follows:

  • A or V- Zones designated with the letters A or V are considered high risk flooding areas. This means there is a 1 in 4 chance of flooding within a span of 30 years. Flood insurance is often required for homeowners who live in these areas.
  • B, C, or X- Zones that start with letters B, C or X are considered low to moderate-risk flooding areas. This doesn’t mean flooding won’t occur, but the risk is lower. Flood insurance is not required in these areas, but is always a good idea.
  • D- Zones that start with the letter D are areas where the flood risk is undetermined. Flooding may be possible in these areas but it may be unstudied or undetermined.

FAQs

What is flood zone AH in Texas?

In Texas, a flood zone AH is defined as a high-risk flood area with a 1% chance of flooding annually, with depths of 1-3 feet.  There is a 26% chance of flood over a 30 year period. The average cost of flood insurance for Texas homeowners in zone AH is $1,115 annually.

What is flood zone AH in Florida?

Flood zone AH in Florida is a high-risk area with a 1% chance of annual flooding, with average depths of 1-3 feet. There is a 26% chance of flooding over a 30 year period, which is why homeowners in this area with federally backed mortgages are required to purchase flood insurance. The average cost of flood insurance in zones AH in Florida is $530 a year.

What do the letters AH stand for?

A flood zone that starts with an “A” indicates the area is a high-risk flood location. The second letter denotes the type of flood risk. Each flood zone has different definitions, depending on the risk involved. For example, flooding in AH zones are usually from a pond, whereas flooding in AO are from rivers and streams.

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