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Orange County – Participation in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and Community Rating System – Services Offered by Orange County

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Orange County has been a member of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) since approximately 1976.  In 1968 Congress created the NFIP to help provide a means for property owners to financially protect themselves from the possible damage of structures resulting from flood events. The program is intended to supplement typical homeowner insurance policies, which do not cover damage to structures resulting from a flood.  The NFIP offers flood insurance to homeowners, renters, and business owners if their community participates, specifically through the adoption and enforcement of regulations designed to mitigate/reduce flood risk, in the program.

Part of the ‘regulations’ at our disposal are Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) denoting those areas of the County that are susceptible to flooding.  The County utilizes these maps to verify the anticipated ‘elevation’ of flood waters during a storm event and works with property owners to ensure structures are not located in areas where flooding is a possibility.  Through the enforcement of our flood damage prevention regulations, the County requires incorporation of design standards (i.e. elevation of structures and utilities, installation of flood vents, prohibition of specific activities, etc.) all in an effort to reduce the risk of loss during a flood. 

As part of this initiative the County chose to voluntarily participate in the Community Rating System (CRS) program in an effort to assist local residents secure affordable flood insurance. CRS is a voluntary, incentive based program, which is part of NFIP that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management activities exceeding minimum, established, development standards.  It is through the adoption and enforcement of these ‘heightened’ development restrictions that local property owners receive a savings on their flood insurance premiums.

As part of our participation within the CRS program, the County is required to demonstrate those program activities we are engaging in to satisfy CRS requirements.  These ‘activities’ include:
  1. Maintaining databases within identified flood prone areas,
  2. Restricting and/or prohibiting development within identified flood prone areas,
  3. Public outreach and education through annual mailings, the holding of information sessions for local resident to discuss floodplain regulations, and the offering of mapping services (i.e. creating maps denoting areas of property encumbered by flood plain) to local residents and property owners,
  4. The maintenance of elevation certificates for flood prone property, and
  5. Requiring the incorporation of flood hazard mitigation techniques when developing property.
On December 13, 2011 the NFIP, on the behalf of FEMA, awarded Orange County a CRS score of eight (8) resulting in a discount of approximately 10 percent (10%) on flood insurance premium rates. Property owners receive this discount due to the County’s efforts in achieving the three central goals of the CRS program, including:
  • Reduce flood losses,
  • Facilitate accurate insurance rating, and
  • Promote the awareness of flood insurance

The County is committed to bolster our flood hazard mitigation program in a continuing effort to ensure affordable flood insurance for local residents.  While we are unable to guarantee further reductions in insurance rates, we will continue our efforts to ensure preservation of the existing CRS rating and the aforementioned discount.

To review our 2014-15 CRS re-certification package please click here.

Copies of our 2016 outreach letters can be viewed using the following links:
  • Letter to property owners with flood insurance (click here)
  • Letter to property owners as well as insurance agents, lending institutions, surveyors, real estate agents, and developers describing the flood hazard mitigation services offered by Orange County (click here)
Floodplain Management/Protection
This link provides an overview of the services the Orange County Planning Department provides local
residents/property owners, developers, real estate agents, surveyors, and all other interested parties assistance, with respect to existing flood regulations including:
  • Administrative procedures regarding the application of flood damage prevention regulations,
  • Application forms,
  • Elevation Certificate Archives,
  • Copies of the Orange County Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) dealing with flood regulations, and
  • Frequently asked questions regarding the flood regulations and flood insurance.
DSCTopics you should know and understand Additional Resources
  1. For more information on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and facts on flood insurance please visit: https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/. For quick answers to frequently asked questions please visit: https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/faqs.jsp.
  2. For more information on FEMA programs and activities please visit: http://www.fema.gov/.
  3. The County Interactive Geographic Image System (GIS) can also provide basic maps
    denoting the location of floodplain on properties within the County.  To access the County GIS Interactive Mapping System please visit: http://server2.co.orange.nc.us/OrangeNCGIS/default.aspx.
  4. Additional flood map information for properties in Orange County is available by visiting the North Carolina Flood Risk Information System (FRIS) webpage at: http://fris.nc.gov/fris/Home.aspx?ST=NC.
  5. For up to date warnings, safety, and evacuation information associated with a storm event please visit the Orange County Emergency Services webpage at: http://www.orangecountync.gov/departments/emergency_services/index.php.     
  6. For more information on the installation of flood vents on a residential structure please click here.
  7. For more information on reducing flood risk to residential buildings that cannot be elevated please click here.
  8. For more information on retrofitting existing residences to address potential flood damage please click here.
  9. For more information on protecting manufactured homes please click here.
  10. For more information on flood proofing non-residential structures please click here.
  11. Real estate agents can click here for more information on flood insurance.
Other links for information
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has established its own homepage at fema.gov, and the Cooperating Technical Partner, The State of North Carolina has its own website at ncfloodmaps.com.
  • Hurricane Preparedness Information
  • Local Flood Hazards - After a particularly severe hurricane or nor’easter has passed through the Piedmont region, we have experienced heavy flooding along our streams and rivers.  Often debris becomes trapped under bridges and culverts.  This blockage backs floodwaters up even more, often up to four feet or more deep.  Over the past thirty years we have experienced six major hurricanes:
    1. Diane in 1984,
    2. Gloria in 1985,
    3. Bertha in 1996
    4. Fran in 1996,
    5. Bonnie in 1998, and
    6. Floyd in 1999.
Of these Fran was the worst with estimated flood levels somewhere between a 100- and a 500-year flood along several streams.  Floods are dangerous.  Even though they seem to be moving slowly, moving water as shallow as two feet can knock a grown man off his feet and float a car.

If you live along or near the Eno River, the Little River, Morgan Creek or New Hope Creek, you may have experienced these high water times.  To find out if your property is subject to flooding, please visit the County Interactive GIS Homepage.

Flood Preparedness and Safety
You should prepare an emergency checklist to address simple steps that can be taken to mitigate the impacts of a flood on your property.  These ‘steps’ include:
  • Shutting off the gas and electricity to any structure that has a history of being flooded. 
  • Moving valuable contents out of ‘harms way’.
There are also some basic safety tips you should keep in mind during flood conditions:
  1. Prepare, in advance, a survival kit with bottled water, food, and medical supplies (i.e. prescription medication, basic first-aid items, etc.).  Your survival kit should have sufficient stockpiles to last you for a minimum of 72 hours after a storm event.
  2. Have a battery, or crank handled, emergency weather radio available to listen for news/information on storm events and conditions in the area.
  3. Do not walk or drive through 'flowing' water or flooded areas. Drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths, mostly during flash floods. Current can be deceptive and remember that six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet or impact your car. If you walk in standing water, use a pole of stick to ensure the area is still passable.
  4. Avoid driving through a flooded area. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else. Do not drive around road barriers as they may signal a bridge or roadway that has been washed out. If you have an emergency please contact the Orange County Sheriff's office or Emergency Services for assistance by dialing 911 before driving.
  5. Be alert for gas leaks and report them immediately to your utility provider. If you suspect a gas leak remember to always use a flashlight to inspect damage, do not use open flame devises (i.e. match, candles, lanterns, flare, etc.), and remember to extinguish all tobacco products (i.e. cigar, cigarettes, etc.) prior to going into an area where you suspect a gas leak. Also be cautious when inspecting damage in an enclosed space if you suspect a gas leak. Ensure the area is properly ventilated prior to entering.
  6. Stay away from power and electrical lines.  The second highest cause of death resulting from a flood event is electrocution. Electrical current can travel through water. Report downed power lines immediately to your local power company and Orange County Emergency Services. Have your electricity turned off by the utility company in the event of severe damage to your residence.  Do not attempt to do so yourself. 
  7. Remember some appliances, such as television sets, keep electrical charges even after they have been unplugged.  Do not use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned, and dried.
  8. Be on the lookout for animals, especially snakes. Small animals, who have been flooded out of their homes, may seek refuge in yours. Use a pole or a stick to turn things over to check for animals to avoid hurting them or yourself.
  9. Remember that after a flood the ground, and possibly floors of your residence, are covered with debris which can include broken bottles, glass, nails, and other similar hazards. Floors and stairs can also be very slippery. Walk in areas that have been inundated by flood waters with care to avoid injury.

Flood Insurance
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is a federal program enabling property owners in participating communities to purchase flood insurance on eligible buildings and contents, whether they are in or out of a floodplain. This community participates in the NFIP, making federally backed flood insurance available to its property owners.

The NFIP insures most walled and roofed buildings that are principally above ground on a permanent foundation, including mobile homes, and buildings in the course of construction. Property owners can purchase building and contents coverage from any local property and casualty insurance agent. To find a local insurance agent that writes flood insurance in your area visit www.floodsmart.gov.

Mandatory Purchase Requirement:  Pursuant to the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 and the National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994, the purchase of flood insurance is mandatory for all federal or federally related financial assistance for the acquisition and/or construction of buildings in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). An SFHA is defined as any A or V flood zone on a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM).

The mandatory purchase requirement also applies to secured loans from such financial institutions as commercial lenders, savings and loan associations, savings banks, and credit unions that are regulated, supervised, or insured by federal agencies, such as the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Comptroller of Currency, the Farm Credit Administration, the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the National Credit Union Administration. It further applies to all loans purchased by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac in the secondary mortgage market.

Federal financial assistance programs affected by the laws include loans and grants from agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Farmers Home Administration, Federal Housing Administration, Small Business Administration, and FEMA disaster assistance.

How it Works:  When making, increasing, renewing, or extending any type of federally backed loan, lenders are required to conduct a flood zone determination using the most current FEMA FIRM to determine if any part of the building is located in an SFHA. If the building is in an SFHA, the federal agency or lender is required by law to provide written notification to the borrower that flood insurance is mandatory as a condition of the loan. Even though a portion of real property on which a building is located may lie within an SFHA, the purchase and notification requirements do not apply unless the building itself, or some part of the building, is in the SFHA. However, lenders, on their own initiative, may require the purchase of flood insurance even if a building is located outside an SFHA. Up to 25% of all NFIP flood losses arise from outside SFHAs (B, C, and X Zones).

Under federal regulations, the required coverage must equal the amount of the loan (excluding appraised value of the land) or the maximum amount of insurance available from the NFIP, whichever is less. The maximum amount of coverage available for a single-family residence is $250,000 and for non-residential (commercial) buildings is $500,000. Federal agencies and regulators, including government-sponsored enterprises, such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, may have stricter requirements.

Please note even if your property is not located within a SFHA you should talk with your insurance agent about the benefits of flood insurance.  Homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover damage from flooding.  However, because Orange County participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, you can purchase a separate flood insurance policy.  This insurance is backed by the federal government and is available to everyone.

Please do not wait to the next hurricane or major storm event to buy flood insurance.  There is a thirty-day waiting period before the policy takes effect.  Contact your insurance agent for more information on rates and coverage.

Property Protection Measures  
There are several different ways to protect a building from flood damage.  One way is to keep the water away by regarding your building is to site it outside of the floodplain and stream buffer.  The Planning Department can provide you with information on floodplains and stream buffers.

Another opportunity is to retrofit the crawl space under your house.  First, relocate any water heater, central air unit, or electrical fuse box from the crawl space to some other place in the house or attached garage.  Next determine the location and number of hydrostatic vents that will be needed.  The bottom of such venting cannot higher than one foot above the natural grade.  The total vented area cannot be less than one square inch for every one square foot of crawl space wall subject to flooding.  No less than two vents on different walls subject to flooding are required.

Hydrostatic pressure from floodwaters is a major cause of damages to residences. These vents serve to equalize the pressures on the walls by allowing floodwaters to move freely both into and out of the crawl space. Another approach would be to elevate the house above the base flood elevation. This method can become pricey, but in specific situations may work.

These opportunities are termed flood proofing. More information is available at the Orange County Planning Department. Please note that any alteration to your property and building on your property requires a building permit from the Planning and Inspections Department.

If you know that flooding is immanent, you should shut off the gas and electricity and move valuable contents out of harms way.  You may not receive much of a warning, so a detailed checklist prepared in advance would help ensure that you will not forget anything.

Map of Orange County Flood Hazards:  You can use the Orange County Interactive GIS to locate your property. Just click on the floodplain overlay and you will see if your property is subject to flooding

Floodplain Development Permit Requirements:  A Floodplain Development Permit is a required document for any disturbance within the floodplain prior to the starting any development activity, including, but not limited to the clearing of land, building fences, constructing a barn or shed, installing a road or driveway, or repairing or expanding an existing house or building. No new structures are allowed in the floodplain. 

Substantial Improvement and/or damage requirements:  Should you wish to make improvements to your existing house or buildings, you may have to follow the County standards for substantial improvements or substantial repair to the structure.

Substantial improvement is any combination of repairs, reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvement of a structure, taking place during any one year period whereby the cost of which equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure before the start of construction of the improvement.  This term includes structures, which have incurred substantial damage, regardless of the actual repair work performed.  The term does not, however, include either any correction of existing violations of State or Orange County health, sanitary, or safety code specifications which have been identified by the Orange County code enforcement official and which are the minimum necessary to assure safe living conditions, or any alteration of a historic structure provided that the alteration will not preclude the structure's continued designation as a historic structure.

Substantial damage is damage of any origin sustained by a structure during any one year period whereby the cost of restoring the structure to its before-damaged condition would equal or exceed 50 percent of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred.  Substantial damage also means flood-related damage sustained by a structure on two separate occasions during a 10-year period for which the cost of repairs at the time of each such flood event, on the average, equals or exceeds 25 percent of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred.

For additional assistance or questions, please feel free to contact the local Floodplain Manager in the Orange County Planning and Inspections Department by telephone at (919) 245-2577, by email at mharvey@orangecountync.gov, or in person at 131 West Margaret Lane, Hillsborough, North Carolina 27278 any time from Monday to Friday during normal business hours (8:00 am to 5:00 pm).

Stormwater and Drainage System Maintenance
There are easy, proactive, steps property owners can take to address and even abate potential flooding risks.  Here are some steps local property owners can take to not only help themselves but others within identified floodplain areas:
  1. Do not dump or throw anything into ditches or streams.  Dumping grass clippings, leaves, trash, yard debris, etc. can accumulate and plug ditches, culverts, and channels thereby increasing the risk of flooding during storm events as rain water will have nowhere to go. The dumping of this material could also put you in violation of several County regulations and subject you to enforcement action. You are encouraged to keep any ditch on your property clear of brush and debris to avoid unnecessary flooding during a storm event.
  2. Always check with the Planning Department before you build on, alter re-grade, or add fill material to your property.  Not only are permits typically required for such activities, staff liked to review the potential said impacts can have with respect to increasing a properties susceptibility to inundation by flood waters.

If you witness dumping of materials into a stream or drainage ditch, or if you need assistance in reviewing a development project on your property, please call the Planning Department at: (919) 245-2575.

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