The following list contains frequently asked flood related questions. We ask that you
take a moment to review them in an attempt to help protect your family and your
home. These are questions every homeowner should know the answer to:
1. Chatham County's Local Flood Hazard
Areas of Chatham County that are located within low-lying coastal plains are susceptible to flooding from rivers and canals. Stormwater runoff is hampered by flat terrain, low elevations and tidal influence. These are major natural factors, common to coastal regions, which cause the County as a whole to be at risk for flooding during long periods of moderate rainfall followed or during high volume, short duration rainfall events. We are subject to flooding from hurricanes, too. Flooding during major storms and hurricanes dates as far back as 1811 and as recent as 2007.
2. What You Can Do To Protect Your Property and Be Safe
Know your flood hazard. Check with the Chatham County Department of Engineering at 652-7800 to find out what flood zone you are in and what the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) is for your lot. Note that flood zone determination letters and elevation certificates are submitted upon request at no charge. Requests are to be made in writing and can be faxed to Chatham County at 652-7818 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the property mailing address and Parcel Identification Number (PIN) if you have it. Elevation certificates are available on-line and can be accessed by visiting Engineering.ChathamCounty.org. Check with Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) at 201-4500 to find out about the flood warning system and hurricane evacuation routes. You can also view COMCAST Channel 16 and refer to the phone book to gain additional information including evacuation routes and the location of emergency shelters. There are specific measures you can take too, such as learning how to turn off gas and electricity to your house (and do so) if flooding is imminent. DO NOT attempt to walk, drive, or swim through moving water or flooded areas. Just 6 inches of fast moving water can knock persons off their feet, and less than 2 feet of swiftly moving water can sweep away heavy cars and trucks. Remember: Turn Around Don't Drown! Drowning is the number one cause of flood-related deaths, followed by electrocution. Contact Michael Blakely, the County Floodplain Administrator/Community Rating System Program Manager in the Chatham County Department of Engineering at 124 Bull St., Rm. 430, by calling 652-7814 or via email at email@example.com. He can provide you with free publications on how to protect yourself and your dwelling. Additional information can be found at fema.gov, floodsmart.gov, and chathamcounty.org
3. Flood Insurance
Chatham County participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). By doing so, local insurance agents can sell a Flood Insurance policy, which is separate from regular property insurance, at subsidized rates set by the Federal Government. The Federal Government passed a law making it mandatory for owners to obtain a Flood Insurance policy if the structure is in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and the loan is Federally backed. Flood Insurance can cover the structure alone or cover a combination of the structure and building contents. Renters can buy content's coverage, even if the owner does not have structural coverage. Increase Cost of Compliance (ICC) assists in bringing a non-compliant structure up to the NFIP standards if the building is substantially damaged or repetitively flooded. Preferred Risk Policy flood insurance is also available for structures outside the 100 year floodplain (Zone X). There is normally a 30-day waiting period before flood insurance goes into effect.
YOUR HOMEOWNERS' INSURANCE POLICY DOES NOT PROTECT YOU FROM FLOOD DAMAGE. With Chatham County subscribing to the Community Rating System (CRS) program and having a highly rated management program, business and residences in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) receive a 20% discount on their flood insurance premiums. Unincorporated Chatham County saved 12,136 flood insurance policy holders in the SFHA a total of $2,455,756 on premiums last year, or an average of $202 per policy.
4. Property Protection
In order to protect your property, electrical panel boxes, heat pumps, washers and dryers and water heaters should be elevated or relocated to areas less likely to be subjected to flood waters. Elevate and anchor fuel tanks. Raising the furniture and other valuables on blocks also will offer protection. If you have a basement, take preventive measures from flooding due to sewer backup or sump pump failure by having a back water valve installed. Know what options there are to retrofit your house. Retrofitting means to alter the building to eliminate or reduce flood damage. There are several options to consider: elevation, flood barriers, dry floodproofing, and wet floodproofing. There are several references in the public libraries on retrofitting and additional documents pertaining to floodplain management topics. It's a good idea to keep materials around like sandbags, plywood, lumber, and plastic sheeting. These materials can help minimize the damage caused not only by flood waters, but damage by hurricane force winds too. Staff from the Departments of Engineering and Public Works is prepared to make site visits, upon request, to assist property owners with flooding, drainage and sewer problems, and to address any site-specific flooding concerns within our community. This service is provided at no charge. For additional information on flooding, flood insurance, flood zones, retrofitting, how to pick a contractor, benchmark locations, historical FIRM, or elevation certificates, call Michael Blakely 652-7814 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copies of elevation certificates for buildings in Unincorporated Chatham County can be obtained from Mr. Michael Blakely, and retrofitting suggestions can be obtained by contacting the Chatham County Building Safety and Regulatory Services at 201-4300.
Additional flood protection information can be found on the FEMA Web site by clicking on the following links:
Above the Flood: Elevating Your Floodprone House, FEMA-347 (2000)
Answers to Questions About the National Flood Insurance Program, F-084 (2011)
Coastal Construction Manual, FEMA-P-55 (2011)
Elevated Residential Structures, FEMA-54 (1984)
Protecting Manufactured Homes from Floods and Other Hazards, FEMA P-85 (2009)
Mitigation of Flood and Erosion Damage to Residential Buildings in Coastal Areas, FEMA-257 (1994)
Protecting Building Utilities From Flood Damage, FEMA-P-348 (1999)
Protecting Floodplain Resources, FEMA-268 (1996)
Reducing Damage from Localized Flooding, FEMA 511 (2005)
5. Natural and Beneficial Functions of Flood Plains
Natural floodplains include marsh areas and low lying areas along canals. Open parks such as Henderson and Wilmington Island Golf Courses also have natural floodplains. Natural floodplains reduce damage by allowing flood waters to spread out over large areas, aiding absorption into the ground, reducing flow rates and acting as a flood storage area to reduce downstream peaks. We must all do our part to keep floodplain and floodplain waters free of contaminants such as oil, paint, anti-freeze and pesticides. These chemicals pollute the marsh waters, decreasing the water quality that local wildlife depend upon. Local barrier islands, such as Little Tybee, Ossabaw, Cabbage and Wassaw Islands, serve as a natural protective barrier to incoming hurricane forces such as wave attack, and reduce tidal and wind energies. These islands are natural aquatic habitats, wetlands, marshes and estuaries.
6. Flood Warning System
In Chatham County, CEMA manages the flood warning system. Once CEMA receives a potential dangerous warning, sirens are activated. The sirens can give as little as fifteen minutes warning time. When you hear the sirens, information can be heard on the television or on the radio at WCHY (94.1) for what to do. Information can be heard on the NOAA weather radio broadcast at frequency 162.40. Local evacuation routes can be found in the phone book. River gage data can be obtained by clicking on the following three web links:
Tide at Ft. Pulaski
For additional information, contact CEMA at 201-4500 or visit the website at chathamemergency.org.
7. Permit Requirements
Chatham County's Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance (FDPO) require that all construction, additions, conversions and/or development located in areas of special flood hazard comply with certain minimum standards intended to minimize damage from floods. For example, houses and certain other structures are required to be built one foot above the 100 year base flood elevation (BFE). The FDPO also requires building permits be obtained from the Chatham County Department of Building Safety & Regulatory Services prior to construction. The FDPO and the County Stormwwater Management Ordinances have restrictions on the placement of fill in areas of special flood hazard. Chatham County's Land Disturbing Activities Ordinance (LDA) requires permits for certain land disturbing activities and requires soil erosion control--best management practices for construction even if an LDA permit is not required. To obtain a building permit, contact your building official. The Chatham County Department of Building Safety and Regulatory Services are located at 1117 Eisenhower Dr., Savannah, GA and can be reached by calling 201-4300. If you see someone working without a building permit or if you have any other questions or concerns about permits, please do not hesitate to call the number listed above.
8. Substantial Improvement Requirements
Any substantially improved or substantially damaged home or structure must be brought up to the NFIP and County's FDPO requirements. This is known as the 50% Rule, which states if the lowest finished floor of an existing house is below the base flood elevation (BFE) plus one foot and the cost of repairs or renovations exceed the structure's Fair Market Value by more than 50%, therefore the lowest finished floor elevation must be raised or elevated to at least the BFE plus a one foot free board. In the VE, the bottom of the lowest horizontal member must be brought up to or exceed the BFE plus one foot free board. Also note that additional Chatham County floodplain requirements may apply.
9. Drainage System Maintenance
Never sweep or blow yard waste into the street or storm water system. This blocks the pipes and prevents water from draining. If your property is adjacent to a drainage ditch, keep the banks clear of brush and debris. Dumping in open ditches and streams is prohibited by Chatham County. To report a violation, please contact the Chatham County Public Works Dept. at 652-6840.
10. Unincorporated Chatham County Flood Prone Areas
Review the following map to determine if you are in a low, moderate or high flood risk area. Properties located in low and moderate (Flood Zone X and X-500) flood zones are not required by FEMA to carry a flood insurance policy. However, if is recommended that all Chatham County residents have protection from flood damages. Your homeowner's policy does not provide coverage from rising flood waters. Properties located in the high flood risk zone (AE and VE flood zones) are required to carry a flood insurance policy if there is a federally backed mortgage on the property. If you need assistance in making this determination, please contact the Chatham County Department of Engineering at 652-7800. Call this office to see if you are in a flood prone area. You can also review the flood zone map at sagis.org. Chatham County residents should visit engineering.chathamcounty.org for additional information. If you need a Flood Zone Determination Letter, please see #2 above.
11. Is there a fee or charge to obtain answers to the information listed below?
General flood related questions, even specific questions about your home or
neighborhood, can be addressed without a fee. Unincorporated Chatham County residents should contact their local Floodplain Administrator at (912) 652-7814 or by sending an email with your question or concern to email@example.com. Within the email, be sure to include the property address that you are inquiring about.
12. How do I determine what jurisdiction within Chatham County I live in?
To determine which municipality you live in, refer to your Chatham County Tax Bill and check your PIN (Parcel Identification Number). The first digit of the PIN designates your municipality. See number 13 following.
13. What are the jurisdictions within Chatham County?
Chatham County’s jurisdictions or municipalities include: 1- Unincorporated Chatham County; 2-City of Savannah; 3-City of Thunderbolt; 4-City of Tybee Island; 5-City of Pooler; 6-City of Garden City; 7-City of Pt. Wentworth; and 8- City of Bloomingdale.
14. What is a PIN Number?
A PIN number is assigned by the Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) to uniquely and accurately identify each piece of property within Chatham County.
15. Where can I find my PIN Number?
Your PIN number can be found on your Tax Bill and on the Chatham County Board of Assessors Property Record Card. Property Record Cards can be assessed by visiting Chathamcounty.org and clicking on Departments, then Board of Assessors.
16. What impacts can home renovation projects and home improvement projects have on my
Proposed home renovation and home improvement projects can profoundly change the facade of a home and impact flood insurance cost. Be sure to first check with your local Building Permitting Department and/or your Floodplain Administrator within your jurisdiction.
17. What are flood zones?
Flood zones are land areas identified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and include the following: X zone = low flood risk, X-500 = moderate flood risk and AE and VE zones = high flood risk. Therefore, we all live in a flood zone. Homeowners in high flood risk areas are required to carry flood insurance if they have a federally backed loan associated with their property.
18. How are flood zones determined?
Flood zones are determined by FEMA who compiles the results of extensive flood studies, and publishes "Flood Insurance Rate Maps" (FIRM). These maps, organized by community (city, town or subsection thereof), indicate those areas which may anticipate flooding conditions and delineate them according to frequency and severity of flooding.
19. Do flood zones ever change?
Flood zones change periodically when the flood risk within an area change. Water flow and drainage patterns can alter dramatically because of land use and community development or because of natural forces such as changing weather patterns, surface erosion, subsidence, wildfires or sea-level rise. To reflect the most current flood risks, FEMA is using the latest data-gathering and mapping technology to update and issue new FIRMs nationwide.
20. How do I find out if there has been flooding in my subdivision?
The flood history of your subdivision or neighborhood can be determined by contacting your local Floodplain Administrator.
21. How do I know if I need flood insurance?
ALL Chatham County residents need a flood insurance policy regardless of the flood zone you live in. Flood insurance is mandatory is your home is located in the high risk flood zones (A, AE or VE flood zones).
22. How do I determine how much flood insurance I should get?
To determine how much flood insurance is right for you, visit FEMA’s website https://www.floodsmart.gov/junior2018, refer to The Cost of Flooding and then click on “Get Started.” Also visit http://www.knowyourzone.org/#knowyourzone to gain information to determine your flood zone.
23. How do I get a flood insurance policy?
You can obtain a flood insurance quote by contacting your insurance agent or by calling FEMA at 1-888-379-9531.
24. Is flood insurance expensive?
Flood insurance is not expensive. It is however essential that you visit with your insurance agent to determine exact costs. If you'd like to receive a general idea of how much your premium will cost or find an agent serving your area, visit FloodSmart.gov / Flood Risk Profile.
25. Do I need a flood insurance policy if my house is located in an area where FEMA does not
require a flood policy?
All of Chatham County is a coastal community making it susceptible to hurricanes and tropical storms. With its relatively flat terrain and low-lying elevations, flooding conditions are prevalent in our area. Every property owner and renters should obtain and maintain a flood insurance policy to protect their possessions.
26. How do I know if flood insurance is mandatory for me?
Under federal law, the purchase of flood insurance is mandatory for all federal or federally related financial assistance for the acquisition and/or construction of buildings in high-risk flood areas (Special Flood Hazard Areas or SFHAs). Or A, AE and VE flood zones.
27. What happens if flood insurance is mandatory and I choose not to pay it?
When flood insurance is mandatory, it is escrowed with your mortgage payment. Therefore, your flood policy is paid with your mortgage payment monthly.
28. Is there a deductible?
Yes – typically the homeowner chooses how much from set amounts. Building and contents policies have separate deductibles for each. This means that if you’re building and contents are both damaged due to a flood event, both deductibles are applied.
29. What is covered with a flood insurance policy?
Flood insurance policies cover physical damage to your property and possessions. You can review a list of covered items by visiting www.FloodSmart.gov/how/what-is-covered; search Summary of Coverage (PDF 108K). There you will find a general guide to what is and isn't covered to help you better understand your policy and coverage.
30. How are flood insurance rates determined?
A number of factors are considered when determining your flood insurance premium. These factors include but are not limited to: the amount and type of coverage being purchased, location and flood zone, and the design and age of your structure. For homes in high-risk areas (e.g., Special Flood Hazard Areas or A, AE, VE Zones) built after the first Flood Insurance Rate Maps were drawn for that community, the elevation of the building in relation to the base flood elevation is also required.
31. What is an elevation certificate?
The Elevation Certificate is an important administrative tool used by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to properly rate homes for flood insurance policies. It is required to properly rate flood insurance for post-FIRM buildings or pre-FIRM buildings based upon the determined flood hazard area.
32. Why do I need an elevation certificate?
Each Elevation Certificate contains detailed and specific information about your home. It references the finished floor elevations, Base Flood Elevations, number and type of hydrostatic vents, building type, if there is a crawl space and flood zone designation to name a few. Each of these items can have a profound impact on your flood insurance quote.
33. What is FEMA’s definition of a flood?
FEMA defines a flood or flooding as a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of normally dry land area from (a) the overflow of inland or tidal waters; or (b) the unusual and rapid accumulation of runoff of surface waters from any source. In short, when storm water accumulate outside your home and enters it, you will experience flooding.
34. How can I find out how deep the flood waters will be around my home and in my
When evaluating flooding depths, two concepts must be considered. Storm surge flood depths result from hurricane force winds that drive the surf landward. For this type flooding, contact Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) at (912) 201-4500. A 100-year storm refers to rainfall totals that have a one percent probability of occurring at that location in that year. For this type flooding depth, contact your local Floodplain Administrator.
35. Is my community doing anything to help prevent flooding of my home and in my
Chatham County and its various municipalities perform a variety of programs that offer flood protection to its residents. Some of the programs include public education, canal and ditch maintenance, stormwater management, early storm and flood warning, building construction regulations, floodplain management planning and flood insurance promotion. Flood prevention tips are also offered to homeowners to help protect their property.
36. Is my community doing anything to help lower the cost of flood insurance that directly
impacts my policy?
Unincorporated Chatham County participates in FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS). The CRS Program operates at a higher standard than the NFIP Program. Chatham County voluntarily participated in CRS, thus affording residents living is areas where flood insurance is mandatory (A, AE and VE flood zones) a 25% discount off the flood policy. According to FEMA, that’s $263 per policy holder. Since flood insurance policies within these areas are escrowed, there is a direct reduction in the monthly mortgage payment. Residents living in X and X-500 flood zoned receive a 10% discount off their flood policy with their annual payment.
37. Can any of the above information be found on the WEB?
Information about flood insurance and Chatham County’s flood program can be found by visiting Chathamcounty.org and clicking on Flood Zone Information tab.
38. What is SAGIS?
SAGIS (Savannah Area Geographic Information System) is focused on providing access to geospatial data in a standardized format to all interested parties. The SAGIS mission is to consolidate geospatial information into one central location, providing a one stop access to information. SAGIS can be accessed by visiting www.sagis.org. You may also visit http://www.georgiadfirm.com to look up your address for flood zone information.
39. Is there a charge to use SAGIS?
There is no fee to access the SAGIS web site.
40. What if I don’t have access to a computer?
If you do not have access to the internet and would like to obtain flood zone information, simply call your local Floodplain Administrator. See below for names and phone numbers.
41. What is the difference between a Flood watch and Flood warning?
Flood watch is when conditions are in place for a flood event but location and magnitude are still uncertain. Flood warning is when a flood is imminent or occurring. Take immediate action to protect lives/property.
42. What else can I do to prevent my house from flooding?
Besides flood insurance, you should protect your structure by ordinary means. For example, do not sweep or blow yard leaves, pine needles, grass clippings or soil into the storm system. This clogs up the pipes and prevents water from draining. If you see someone dumping trash or debris in the canals, please report it to Chatham County’s Department of Public Works at (912) 652-6840 or on the online on the Chatham County Connection App.