National Flood Insurance Program


The NFIP is a federally-subsidized flood damage insurance program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In order for residents and business owners to be eligible to purchase flood insurance, communities must exchange a commitment to manage development in their special flood hazard areas according to minimum federal regulations. These areas are delineated by FEMA on Flood Insurance Rate Maps. For more information on the NFIP, please visit

The NFIP offers the Community Rating System (CRS), which is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP requirements.

As a result, flood insurance premium rates are discounted to reflect the reduced flood risk resulting from the community actions meeting the three goals of the CRS:


  1. Reduce flood damage to insurable property;
  2. Strengthen and support the insurance aspects of the NFIP, and
  3. Encourage a comprehensive approach to floodplain management.


The City of Birmingham has been a participating community in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for over two decades. In December 1993 the Department of Planning, Engineering & Permits staff began participating in the CRS program.  October 1, 2005 the city received application recertification approval recognizing the City’s comprehensive flood hazard prevention activities.


Flood insurance premium rates are discounted in increments of 5%.  For example; a Class 1 community would receive a 45% premium discount, while a Class 9 community would receive a 5% discount (a Class 10 is not participating in the CRS and receives no discount). The CRS classes for local communities are based on 18 creditable activities, organized under four categories.

  1. Public Information
  2. Mapping and Regulations
  3. Flood Damage Reduction
  4. Flood Preparedness

The   is now available.

Birmingham homeowners and renters are paying less for flood insurance.   Birmingham‘s current Class 6 Rating has earned policyholders a 20% reduction on flood insurance premiums.  The average savings on a flood insurance policy in the Special Flood Hazard Area is $132 per policy per year.  



The Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) issues flood watches (when conditions are right for flooding) and flood warnings (flooding is imminent or is in progress) for Birmingham through TV and radio broadcasts. Since the EMA maintains 24-hour, direct contact with the National Weather Service (NWS), it can provide the latest flood threat information. If needed, the EMA also can override local cable broadcasts to provide flood threat information; send siren-equipped vehicles to critical facilities, such as hospitals, nursing public places; and send mobile address units and Personnel for door-to-door warning evacuation.


Gages also give real time flooding conditions and rain fall amount(s). Please see the link to some of the City’s active gages



Flood Insurance is available in Birmingham through the National Flood Insurance Program and can help you recover from a disaster! Flood Insurance can help you recover from a disaster! Flood insurance protects you from the financial devastation caused by floods.  Even a few inches of water can bring thousands of dollars in repair and restoration costs.  Most homeowners insurance does not cover floods.

Flood insurance is “single peril” insurance, sold separately from homeowners insurance.  Flood insurance protects against losses to buildings and their contents, not the land surrounding them. The coverage applies whether the flooding results from heavy or prolonged rains, coastal storm surge, blocked storm drainage systems, or other causes.  To be considered a flood, the waters must cover at least two acres or affect at least two properties.


Flood insurance is available in Birmingham, both within and outside of the floodplain.  Your property’s flood risk is shown on flood hazard maps.  Different types of policies are available depending on your flood risk. If you live in a high-risk area, you will need a Standard Policy.  Federally backed mortgage lenders will require that you have such a policy before they will approve your loan.

 Outside of high-risk areas, flood insurance is also available, usually at lower cost.  A Preferred Risk Policy covers both a home and its contents, with low yearly premiums.  While you aren’t federally required to have flood insurance in a low-to-moderate risk area that does not mean that you won’t ever need it.  Large floods often extend beyond the boundaries of high-risk areas and smaller floods occur outside high-risk areas as well.  In fact, a quarter of all flood insurance claims come from low-to-moderate risk areas.

Waiting Period

There is usually a 30-day waiting period, after applying and paying the premium, before the flood insurance policy becomes effective. However, there is no waiting period when flood insurance is required by a lender for any purpose.  Lenders may require flood insurance for a new loan, when a loan amount is increased or extended, or after a mortgage portfolio review shows that the building is in a high-risk area.

There is a one-day waiting period for a new policy or when additional amounts of coverage are required by the lender during the 13-month period following map revisions. This applies when the map revision changes the structure’s designation from a non-high-risk area to a high-risk area.

Cost and Coverage

Flood insurance is sold and serviced by private insurers, and backed by the federal government.  More than 85 companies sell flood insurance.  Often the same insurance agent who wrote your homeowners insurance policy can help you obtain flood insurance. Flood insurance costs the same wherever you purchase it, because the rates are set by the National Flood Insurance Program. Flood insurance covers both homes and businesses.  With residential coverage you can get up to $250,000 of insurance to protect your home and up to $100,000 to protect its contents.  If you are located in (or moving into) a high-risk area, federally regulated or insured lenders will require you to have flood insurance for the amount remaining on your mortgage, or $250,000, whichever is lower.  With commercial coverage, you can get up to $500,000 of insurance to protect your building and up to $500,000 to protect its contents. Be Flood Smart!


Please check with your local insurance agent as the above numbers are rough estimates and change frequently.


Click here to find out about your property and contact an insurance agent:  What’s Your Flood Risk



New construction, development or redevelopment in the floodplain increases the likelihood of exposure to damages and can cause flooding on neighboring properties. Therefore, Birmingham has regulations on building and development designed to prevent new construction from making flooding and drainage problems worse.

There are special rules in the Special Flood Hazard Area, i.e., the area shown on the Floodplain Map.  If you are planning to construct a house, garage, fence or any type other structure or development close to or in the floodplain, check with the Planning, Engineering and Permits Department (205-254-2933) to see if your site is located in the floodplain. . A permit will be needed to ensure that such projects do not cause adverse impacts on other properties.

Please see the attached brochure for permitting related process and requirements



If you live in a flood prone area, there are a number of things you can do to protect your property from flood damage:

  • Regrading your property
  • Elevating and securing electrical outlets and components
  • Construct barriers out of fill or concrete between the building and flood waters
  • Dry flood proof by using flood-resistant materials on exterior surfaces
  • Basement protection
  • Wet flood proofing to modify the structure and move the contents so that when flood     waters enter the building there is little or no damage.

Buildings can also be permanently retrofitted for better flood protection!

Retrofitting For Flooding

Retrofitting means making changes to an existing building to protect it from flooding or high winds. FEMA publication 312, Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting: Six Ways to Protect Your House from Flooding provides information that will help you decide whether your house is a candidate for retrofitting.


Six Ways to Protect Your House From Flooding
Elevating: is raising your house so that the lowest floor is above the flood level. This is the most common way to avoid flood damage.
Wet flood proofing: makes uninhabited parts of your house resistant to flood damage when water is allowed to enter during flooding. (example – vents in a carport)
Relocation: means moving your house to higher ground where the exposure to flooding is reduced or eliminated altogether.
Dry flood proofing: is sealing your foundation to prevent flood waters from entering.
Levee and floodwall protection: means constructing barriers to prevent flood waters from entering your house.
Demolition: means razing your house and rebuilding properly on the same property or buying a house elsewhere.

Retrofitting For Wind Hazards

For houses in areas subject to high winds, some retrofitting methods are more appropriate than others. Regardless of the method you choose; if your house is in a high-wind or tornado valley, your contractor or design professional must ensure that all structural changes made can withstand not only the expected flood forces but the expected forces of winds as well. Wind is similar to flowing water in that it pushes against the side of the house that faces the wind and pulls on the side that faces away. Wind passing over a house can exert a lifting (vertical) instead of flowing (horizontal) force on the house.