New Flood Insurance Rate Maps Go into Effect Sept. 29

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Hilo’s Wailuku River during the record-setting storm in 2000. Hawaii County photo.

The County of Hawai‘i has revised Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) to qualify for federal disaster aid in the event of a federally-declared natural disaster, according to information provided at a FEMA Flood Maps Changes meeting conducted by the county on July 10.

The revised FIRMs–which took seven years to complete–become effective on Sept. 29, 2017. Now digitized, they will be used for flood insurance, land use, development and regulatory purposes. The current maps have been in use since 1982 and exist only on paper with the county.

Under the revisions, many property owners will be affected—especially those who live near streams or on the coast, according to information provided at the meeting. Some areas previously designated as low-risk zones will now change to high risk. Residents who live in these revised areas and have a federally-backed mortgage will be required to buy flood insurance. The county is not notifying individual property owners of these zone changes.


According to a FEMA representative, those who purchase flood insurance before the new flood zone maps go into effect will be eligible for lower rates through government subsidized programs. Those who buy insurance after the revised maps become effective will have to pay premium prices in full.

Furthermore, property owners who maintain coverage and secure subsidized flood insurance before the new maps are in effect will be able to transfer their low-cost insurance with the sale of their property. As a result, the value of the secured property under the insurance can be passed on to a future buyer, as opposed to being limited to the individual who purchased it.

Flood insurance must be purchased through an insurance agent–it cannot be bought directly through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Find an agent by contacting the NFIP Referral Call Center at (888) 379-9531. Learn more by visiting


View the new FIRMs online to see how zone designations will change.

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