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GUIDANCE - Help for Communities on How to Comply with FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program After a Flood

Submitted by Stephanie.Brac… on

After widespread flooding across the state, many homes and buildings have flooded. While multiple teams assess flood damage for federal disaster aid, Vermont communities may need to follow additional requirements if they participate in FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Communities participating in the NFIP must:

  1. Track and permit post-flood repairs for buildings in FEMA’s mapped Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) according to local zoning bylaws or Flood Hazard Area Regulations.
  2. Assess flood-damaged buildings in FEMA’s mapped SFHA for Substantial Damage.

Please note that FEMA NFIP tracking is different than FEMA Public Assistance tracking. Towns must complete Public Assistance tracking to get reimbursed for flood damage to public infrastructure. Communities must complete NFIP tracking to make flood insurance possible for public and private residences and buildings in FEMA’s mapped SFHAs.

Substantial Damage is a requirement that significantly damaged buildings may need to meet local flood regulations during post-flood repairs. Here is some guidance on how this requirement works:

  • If the repairs needed to bring a building to its pre-damage condition are at or above 50% of the market value of the building (not including the value of the land), the building is considered “Substantially Damaged.”
  • Likewise, if the proposed work to improve a building will cost 50% or more of the market value, the building is considered “Substantially Improved” and must meet local flood regulations.
  • If the community has adopted a stricter standard, such as adding repairs over a certain period of time, the community’s standard would apply.
  • Damages to buildings that are below 50% of the market value are not considered Substantial and may be able to be administratively permitted depending on local Flood Hazard Area Regulations.

 A building in FEMA’s mapped SFHA is subject to a Substantial Damage Determination whether or not it carries flood insurance. If you think your community has buildings that are “Substantially Damaged,” please document the damages and notify the owners. These buildings may be subject to elevation or floodproofing requirements as part of the rebuilding process. This helps protect the buildings and the people that live in them from future flooding disasters and make flood insurance coverage more affordable.

Building owners can contact their local Zoning Administrator for more information on permitting. Communities must complete Substantial Damage estimates and permitting to remain in good standing in FEMA’s NFIP. Not doing this could jeopardize a community’s flood insurance availability.

For those that need help, Floodplain Managers in the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation will support communities with post-flood permitting and Substantial Damage estimates. Please fill out this form to request assistance.

To find additional community post-flood resources for flood hazard area permitting, visit:

For more information on flood recovery resources from the Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Conservation, Fish and Wildlife Department, or the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, visit

Rebecca Pfeiffer, CFM, VT NFIP Coordinator
Department of Environmental Conservation

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