Flood insurance

This community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP makes federally backed flood insurance available for all buildings, whether they are in a floodplain or not. Flood insurance covers direct loss caused by surface flooding, including a river flowing over its banks, a lake or ocean storm, and local drainage problems.

The NFIP insures buildings, including mobile homes, with two types of coverage: structural and contents. Structural coverage is for the walls, floors, insulation, furnace, and other items permanently attached to the structure. Contents coverage may be purchased separately provided the contents are in an insurable building.

FEMA Special Flood Hazard Area information

Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) are designated by the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) as land areas facing a 1.0-percent (100-year flood) or 0.2-percent (500-year flood) chance of flooding each year. All private development within the 100-year flood zone is regulated with the goal of ensuring the protection of life and property for those who are situated in these areas. The links below provide information about the National Flood Insurance Program which covers losses due to flooding. It is available to all buildings in the community and is required by federally-backed mortgage lenders who finance properties located in the SFHA.

Mandatory flood insurance requirement

The mandatory purchase requirement applies to all forms of federal or federally related financial assistance for buildings located in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). This requirement affects loans and grants for the purchase, construction, repair, or improvements of any publicly or privately owned building in the SFHA, including machinery, equipment, fixtures, and furnishings contained in such buildings.

Financial assistance programs affected include loans and grants from agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Farmers Home Administration, Federal Housing Administration, Small Business Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency. The requirement also applies to secured mortgage loans from financial institutions, such 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 Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of Thrift Supervision. It also applies to all mortgage loans purchased by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac in the secondary mortgage market.

Before a person can receive a loan or other financial assistance from one of the affected agencies or lenders, there must be a check to see if the building is in a SFHA. The SFHA is the base (100- year) floodplain mapped on a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). It is shown as one or more zones that begin with the letter “A” or “V.”

Community Rating System (CRS)

The City of Menlo Park has been recognized for performing floodplain management activities above and beyond the minimum requirements for the National Flood Insurance Program. Participating in this program allows the city to earn discounted flood insurance rates for all community members. By following the guidelines set forth by FEMA, the community earns a CRS credit. As the community earns a higher CRS credit, the community is eligible for greater flood insurance discounts. Menlo Park’s current CRS is 8, effective October 1, 2020.

By joining CRS program with a rating of 8, property owners in the Flood zones A / AE are subject to a 10 percent discount on flood insurance premiums. Additionally, property owners located in Flood zone X are entitled to a 5 percent discount on flood insurance premiums. Please contact your insurance agent for additional information.

Hazard mitigation plan annual progress reports

As part of the CRS, the City prepares an annual progress report on our Hazard Mitigation Plan objective to promote a flood safe community. You can view current and previous annual progress reports online:

View most recent report | View all annual progress reports

Elevation certificates

The elevation certificate is an important administrative tool of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It is used to provide elevation information necessary to ensure compliance with Menlo Park’s floodplain management ordinance, to determine the proper insurance premium rate, and to support a request for a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) or Letter of Map Revision based on fill (LOMR-F). For information on how to properly complete an Elevation Certificate, please watch the Elevation Certificate Training video series at the link below.

CRS Elevation Certificate Training Series – YouTube 

Applying for a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA)

If you think your home is high enough to be removed from the flood plain designation, you can apply to FEMA for a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA). A surveyor must confirm the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) and the lowest adjacent grade (LAG) next to the house. If the LAG is at or above the BFE, FEMA is likely to grant a LOMA. The surveyor will need to fill out some information and sign the LOMA application form. Some surveyors may submit the online LOMA application and receive a quicker response.


FEMA is asking my insurance agent for documentation regarding my flood zone. Why and how do I respond?

The City’s flood maps were last updated on October 16, 2012. Whenever they are updated, the National Flood Insurance Program must verify the flood zone for each insurance policy prior to its annual renewal date. The cost of the insurance policy is determined by the flood zone where the home is located and the height of the home above a set elevation.

The City’s Floodplain Manager can provide the needed documentation to your insurance agent. Email a copy of the letter you received from the NFIP or FEMA or call 650-330-6740.

Why do I have to pay flood insurance if my property has never been flooded?

Because your property is included on a map that shows it is at risk of flooding. Homes in flood zones that have been paid for with federally-backed mortgages are required to carry flood insurance

In the early 1970s the City of Menlo Park followed FEMAs procedure to develop a map showing where floods were most likely to occur. The maps were based on historic records of rainfall, tides and volume of water flowing down local creeks. The maps have been updated five times since then and are due to be updated again in 2017.

The National Flood Insurance Program, through your homeowners’ insurance company, uses these maps to decide who needs flood insurance and how much it should cost.

How can I reduce the cost of my flood insurance?

If your home is built high enough you can ask FEMA to remove it from the flood zone. Or if your home qualifies, you can get a lower insurance rate by “grandfathering in.”

How can I get my property out of the flood zone?

If your house is built high enough you can apply to FEMA for a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA). A licensed surveyor must sign and stamp part of the application. For more information visit www.fema.gov. Search for “apply for LOMA.” FEMA is likely to grant a LOMA if the lowest adjacent ground elevation next to your house is at or above BFE.

What is a Base Flood?

This is a flood having a 1% chance of occurring or being exceeded in any given year (formerly referred to as the 100-year flood).

What is the Base Flood Elevation (BFE)?

The Base Flood Elevation (BFE) is the height of the water, in feet above sea level that has a 1% chance of occurring or being exceeded in any given year. The BFEs are shown on the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and are used to determine the cost of flood insurance.

Does my home qualify for a grandfather flood insurance policy?

If the following conditions are met, a home may qualify for flood insurance based on lower rates:

  • You moved into your home and purchased your flood insurance policy before April 4, 1999
  • Before April 4, 1999 your lot was not in a special flood hazard area. After April 4, 1999 your lot was inside a special flood hazard area.
  • You have carried flood insurance continuously since you first obtained it.

What is a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)?

The SFHA is defined as an area of land that would be inundated by a flood having a 1% chance of occurring or being exceeded in any given year (formerly referred to as the 100-year flood). The 1% standard was chosen by FEMA to determine flood risk and flood insurance rates.

There are several categories of SFHA. They include A, AE, AO, A99, V and VE. Each has a different flood insurance cost associated with it.

Homes in SFHAs that have been paid for with federally-backed mortgages are required to carry flood insurance.

Will FEMA grant a LOMA for a detached garage if the garage floor is below the BFE but the building is wet-flood proofed?

No. A building will only be removed from the flood zone if the floor and lowest adjacent grade are at or above the BFE.

Where can I obtain a copy of the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM)?

FIRMs are in digital format on the FEMA website at www.fema.gov. Search for “How to Find Your Flood Map.”

Who do I call if I have more questions about flood insurance?

Call your local insurance agent.
Or call the National Flood Insurance Hotline at 1-800-427-4661
Or visit www.fema.gov/nfip.