The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was set up as a means to provide flood protection to homeowners, renters, and business owners. Participation in the program is based on an agreement between a local community and the Federal Government, which states if a community adopts and enforces a floodplain management ordinance and undertakes activities to reduce flood risks, the Federal Government will make flood insurance available. In order to provide coverage to our citizens, St. James Parish is a participant in the NFIP. Additionally, the Parish has implemented several services and activities to achieve a better class rating for our flood insurance certification. Presently, our recertification as a Class 7 in the Community Rating System (CRS) Program provides a 15% reduction of premiums for all flood insurance premiums within flood zones (Zones A & AE) on structures that were constructed before flood insurance rate maps were adopted and any after the flood insurance rate maps were adopted, but constructed at or above the base flood elevation. Insurance premiums outside of flood zones (Zone X) receive a 5% premium reduction with our CRS rating.
As of April 1, 2015, every new or renewed policy will include an annual surcharge required by the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 (HFIAA). Policies for your primary residence will include a $25 HFIAA surcharge and all other buildings will have a $250 HFIAA surcharge. To ensure the correct renewal surcharge, you will need to complete verification documentation within 30 days of receipt or you will be charged the higher surcharge at renewal. Please contact your insurance agent if your policy is coming up for renewal soon and you have not received the form.
If you choose to purchase flood insurance, there is a 30-day waiting period for a flood insurance policy’s effective date; therefore, you cannot purchase flood insurance immediately before an approaching tropical storm. Flood insurance coverage is available to all owners and occupants of insurable property (buildings and/or contents) within St. James Parish.
Please keep in mind that you do not have to be in a designated flood zone area to be susceptible to flooding. It is important to note nearly 25% of all flooded properties are located outside designated flood hazard areas. Therefore, everyone should consider purchasing flood insurance and annually evaluate their structures susceptibleness to flooding. As communities continue to build and open land becomes developed, more rainwater runoff is forced into our drainage ditches and streets, overloading our present systems and flooding areas that have not flooded before. Rising sea levels, land subsidence, and coastal erosion also contribute to elevated flood levels. This is why it is important to review your situation and pay special attention to changes in and around your property that may adversely affect you.
It is important that we remain focused on the increased threats to our homes and businesses from flooding. We must also be prepared to address the many natural hazards that we are exposed to each and every day, whether it being a severe afternoon thunderstorm or a major hurricane. Everyone should have an emergency preparedness plan and the purchase of flood insurance should be considered as part of your plan.
Flood Water Model
Floods are caused by severe storms, tropical systems, water backup, levee failures, clogged drainage systems, or rapid accumulation of rainfall. One goal of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is to keep people safe and make structures less vulnerable to future flood damages. Most homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover flood damages. Over the life of a typical 30-year mortgage, homes in high risk areas have a 26% or greater chance of being flooded. That is 2˝ times greater than loss from a fire. Because St. James Parish participates in the NFIP, all homeowners, renters, and businesses receive flood insurance premium discounts. The Parish’s rating has improved to a Class 7, thus providing up to 15% discount in flood insurance premiums to residents and businesses. Flood insurance is available to you no matter where you live, even if you live in a high flood risk area or an area that traditionally does not flood. Nearly 25% of all flood insurance claims are from structures outside high risk areas. Flood insurance can be purchased at anytime, but there is a 30-day waiting period before the policy becomes effective. The Parish encourages all residents and businesses to consider purchasing flood insurance. To find an agent near you, call NFIP at 1-888-379-9531. To inquire about the flood history of a property, you can call the Parish Permitting Office at 562-2370.
Flood Warning System
The following terms are used in a flood warning system:
- Flood Watch means flooding is possible.
- Flash Flood Watch means a flash flood which can happen rather quickly is possible.
- Flood Warning means a flood is occurring or will occur soon within a certain area.
- Flash Flood Warning means a flash flood is occurring or will happen very soon.
These warnings are announced, as issued by the National Weather Service, on local cable television and radio stations and/or the telephone call-down system. For more information, call the Parish E.O.C. at 562-2265 or 562-2364.
Floodplain Development Permits and Regulations
All structures within the Parish must be built to at least 1 foot above the base flood elevation (BFE) or +6.0 MSL, whichever is greater. Additionally, all machinery and equipment which services a building, i.e. air conditioners, heat pumps, home generators, water heaters and electrical boxes must also be elevated and will require an elevation certificate for the permit. All new construction or substantial improvements must be built to the State Uniform Building Code requirements. Before beginning any type of construction, you must obtain a building permit from the Parish Permitting Office. All buildings must be inspected for compliance with the State Building Codes prior to issuance of a certificate of occupancy. Residents building in flood zone areas also need an elevation certificate before beginning any construction. If a structure is damaged so that the cost of restoration and repairs would equal to or exceed 50% of the market value, the structure is consider substantially damaged and must comply with the Parish floodplain regulations. For more information on permits, building codes, or flood risk, contact the Parish Permitting Office at 562-2264 or 562-2370. For ways to permanently flood proof or retrofit a building, contact the Parish Permitting Office or visit the local library.
- Before a community is eligible for disaster assistance, it must be declared a federal disaster area. Federal disaster assistance declarations are issued in less than 50% of flooding events.
- If you were uninsured and received federal disaster assistance after a flood, you must purchase and maintain flood insurance to remain eligible for future disaster relief.
- During a typical 30-year mortgage loan, any structure has a 26% chance of being flooded.
- There is a 30-day waiting period before a flood insurance policy takes effect.
- The average cost to raise a house is $60 per square-foot for structures on piers or pillows and $85 per square-foot for structures built on concrete slabs.
- Buying flood insurance can reduce future losses.
- Elevating and flood proofing can pay for itself in a few years through a reduction in flood insurance premiums.
Property Protection and Flood Hazards
There are many proven ways to protect a building from flood damage. These include elevating, retrofitting, small floodwalls, and emergency measures such as sandbagging, storm shutters, and raising furniture and appliances. Buildings located in a special flood hazard area should consider permanent flood proofing measures, which include raising the structure, building flood walls, dry flood proofing, earthen levees, or water proofing walls and doorways. With today’s technology, even houses built on concrete slabs can be elevated to eliminate flood damages.
- Building elevation certificates are required for all construction in special flood hazard areas and floodplains.
- New homes must be built so the lowest floor is 1 foot above the BFE or +6.0 MSL, whichever is higher, including servicing equipment.
- New and existing homes and businesses must carry flood insurance if they are mortgaged from a federally regulated lender or received grants or loans from a previous flood.
- Building permits must be obtained for all new construction, improvements, renovations, and other development including culvert installations.
- Any repair, reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvement of a structure of which the cost will exceed or equal 50% of the market value counted cumulatively for at least ten years must be built to Parish flood elevation requirements.
- Any development in a floodplain area requires a local permit. Onsite technical assistance is available by contacting the Parish Permitting Office at 562-2370. If you suspect illegal development, please contact the Permitting Office.
- Before purchasing property or making substantial improvements to existing structures, you should contact the Parish Permitting Office at 562-2370 to receive information on flood zones, land elevations, historical flood occurrences, and any special building requirements.
St. James Parish Emergency Preparedness will provide sheltering to residents in need during an emergency. Shelter locations may vary depending on the situation and will be announced before the emergency.
Local Water Levels
FEMA Flood Publications