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Floodplain Mapping Information and Tools

It is important to understand what flood hazard information is available, how to use it, and where to get it.

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The Rhode Island Geographic Information System (RIGIS) has made the most recent Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map (DFIRM) databases compiled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for both Bristol and Providence counties available for download. The databases are posted under the Planning & Cadastre data section of the RIGIS website.

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Through its Map Service Center, FEMA offers flood hazard mapping information, products, and services. The Map Service Center maintains copies of all Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM), Flood Insurance Study (FIS) Reports, and “How To” Guides.  Here is some of what is offered:

  • Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM): FIRMs delineate Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) — land areas subject to inundation by a flood that has a 1-percent probability of being equaled or exceeded in any given year (hence, the terms “1-percent annual chance flood” and “100-year flood”). SFHAs are shaded on the FIRM and are divided into different flood hazard zones, depending on the nature and severity of the flood hazard.

    Learn How to Read a Flood Map.

  • Flood Insurance Study (FIS): A FIS is a report prepared by FEMA that summarizes an analysis of the flood hazards in a community.  The analysis used to prepare a FIS is also used to prepare a FIRM.  The FIRM is the basis for floodplain management, mitigation, and insurance activities in the National Flood Insurance Program.  The FIS provides information to supplement the FIRM. 

    Learn How to Read a Flood Insurance Study.

  • FIRMette: A FIRMette is a full-scale section of an official FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) that you create yourself online by selecting the desired area from an image of a Flood Insurance Rate Map.  Because a FIRMette is a “clipping” of the full-scale FIRM, it has the same legal status as a FIRM.  As such, it can be used in all aspects of the NFIP, including floodplain management, flood insurance, and enforcement of mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements.

    Step by Step Instructions for making a FIRMette

  • National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL): The NFHL is a computer database that contains the flood hazard map information from FEMA’s Flood Map Modernization program. These map data are from DFIRM databases and Letters of Map Revision (LOMRs). Products and services include MapViewer - Web, utility files to view the NFHL in Google Earth, a Web Map Service, and NFHL GIS data. All of these are available from the Map Service Center. 

    View the National Flood Hazard Layer in Google Earth.

The Mapping Information Platform (MIP) allows access to both flood maps and data, both during the course of a Flood Map Project as data become available and after the flood hazard map is adopted as required to determine insurance rates.  The MIP also provides access to a web-based eLOMA application that provides licensed land surveyors and professional engineers (Licensed Professionals) with a system to submit simple Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) requests to FEMA.

Remember, all Rhode Island communities have effective Flood Insurance Rate Maps.  Your local floodplain administrator and your State NFIP Coordinator maintain copies of your local floodplain maps.  Contact your local floodplain administrator to arrange a time to review the local maps.