Living in South Florida comes with the risk of flooding, especially for homeowners and property owners in Broward County.
With miles of coastline and low-lying elevations, certain areas are more susceptible to flooding during significant rain events or storms.
To help homeowners understand their flood risk, FEMA designates different flood zones across the county. These zones indicate the likelihood of a property being inundated during a 100-year flood event.
Knowing your property’s flood zone is key to making informed decisions about flood insurance, construction standards, and flood protection measures.
This article will explain Broward County’s various flood zones, how elevation certificates fit in, and what steps you can take to reduce flood damage.
An Overview of Broward County Flood Zones
FEMA creates Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) that outline predicted flood zones for every community.
These maps dictate the minimum building standards and whether flood insurance is mandatory in that zone.
The main flood zones in Broward County include:
- Zone AE – Areas with a 1% annual chance of flooding, also called the 100-year floodplain. This is a high-risk zone where flood insurance is required.
- Zone A – Areas with a 1% annual chance of flooding without specific flood elevations determined. This is a high-risk zone where insurance is required.
- Zone X – Areas with a 0.2% annual chance of flooding, also known as the 500-year floodplain. Flood insurance is not required but recommended.
- Zone X (Shaded) – Areas with a 1% annual chance of flooding in the future. Insurance is not required currently.
- Zone VE – Coastal zones with a 1% annual chance of flooding and additional wave hazards. Insurance is required.
- Zone B, C, D – Areas currently being studied or undetermined risk areas.
Home and business owners can look up their property on FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center to identify their designated flood zone. This information is key to understanding flood risk and insurance requirements.
The Role of Elevation Certificates
A property’s elevation about expected flood levels also determines its overall risk.
Elevation certificates provide documented evidence of a building’s elevation relative to the projected base flood elevation (BFE).
Elevation certificates must be completed and certified by a licensed land surveyor or engineer. They include:
- Elevations for the top of the lowest floor, bottom floor, basement, and critical utility equipment
- The established BFE for that location
- Photographs, diagrams, and geodetic data to support the elevations
Lenders require elevation certificates for homes in high-risk zones before approving a mortgage or refinance. Insurance agents also need certificates to determine accurate flood insurance rates.
Floodplain Development Standards
Broward County and local municipalities enforce strict building codes for construction in mapped floodplains. Requirements include:
- Elevating buildings so the lowest floor is at or above the BFE
- Using flood damage-resistant materials below the BFE
- Installing proper openings to allow for automatic entry and exit of floodwaters
Certificates of Occupancy can only be issued with documentation of compliance. Property owners and contractors are responsible for adhering to the codes for any new construction, renovation, or substantial improvements.
Reducing Flood Damage
While codes protect new buildings, existing structures may still be prone to flooding.
Home and business owners can take proactive measures to reduce flood risk:
- Elevating the building above BFE standards
- Installing watertight shields for doors and windows
- Building floodwalls around the property
- Improving drainage with grading and runoff diversions
- Waterproofing the walls and sealing openings
Electrical panels, HVAC systems, water heaters, and appliances should all be elevated above potential flood levels. Having an emergency plan and flood insurance can also minimize financial losses.
Understanding flood zones, elevation certificates, and community building codes empowers residents and business owners when deciding on property protection.
While costs may be involved with elevating or retrofitting buildings, the potential for damage makes it a wise investment in the long run.
Being informed about local flood risks is the first step. Property owners should use FEMA resources, consult licensed surveyors when needed, and work constructively with local permitting offices on improvement projects.
With smart preparation, the impacts of inevitable flooding in Broward County can be reduced.