Are you covered? Collier's new flood zone maps take effect Wednesday

■ 2012 flood maps already are in effect for Naples building permits.

■ New flood maps become effective on unincorporated Collier County building permits as of March 30.

■ Maps are effective for insurance purposes in all areas as of Wednesday, May 16.

■ To find out a Collier County property’s floodplain designation go to www.colliergov.net/floodmaps.

■ Property owners can call (239) 252-2942 with questions about the Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps.

■ Property owners in the city of Naples can find if their flood status changed at naplesgov.com. (The direct web address is napgis.naplesgov.com/NIMA.) Enter your address and if you still need confirmation of the property’s official flood zone designation, contact a flood insurance agent or Naples Floodplain Coordinator Christa Carrera at ccarrera@naplesgov.com or (239) 213-5039. (city-only calls)

■ Marco Island property owners have a tool on the city’s website: cityofmarcoisland.com

■ Everglades City property owners should go to the Collier County government site or contact Everglades City Hall for more information (239) 695-2511.

— Time is running out for Collier County property owners to find out what type of risk they have under the new flood zone maps affecting flood insurance.

It may be the first act people should take in preparing for the upcoming rainy and hurricane seasons.

The 2012 Federal Emergency Management Flood Zone Maps go into effect Wednesday, May 16, for all of Collier County, including the cities, for insurance purposes.

"Home and business owners who purchase flood insurance prior to the effective date of new maps may be able to obtain a preferred risk policy or be grandfathered into the current flood zone, thereby saving money on flood insurance," FEMA spokeswoman Mary Olsen said.

Though officials couldn't determine the number of properties with new insurance requirements, it's been estimated that tens of thousands of properties in Collier County will have different insurance regulations when the maps go into effect Wednesday.

Most properties in Naples city limits have been categorized into a new zone, said Christa Carrera, the city's floodplain coordinator.

Generally, Golden Gate and the Golden Gate Estates areas are among the most affected in Collier, said Robert Wiley, Collier County flood zone map project manager. Those are by no means the only areas affected, however, and the only way to know about each specific property is to check the flood zone maps online, Wiley has said.

Owners of property in unincorporated Collier County should go to colliergov.net/floodmaps. Owners of property in the city of Naples should go to napgis.naplesgov.com/NIMA.

Some people contacting the Daily News said they found the Collier interactive map difficult to use. Problems reported in March, however, seem to be corrected. Officials provided these tips:

When going to the website, click "Final DFIRM with the flood zones."

It may require downloading and installing Microsoft Silver Light, which is free. Then, type in the address in the upper right search box labeled "Find Places."

The map is color-coded and the legend for the color-coded zones is on the left side of the map. For example, if a property is in the orange zone, the legend indicates it's in "Zone AH."

There are seven zone names between the old and new maps and to find out the significance of each zone, go to the colliergov.net/floodmaps main page and in the list of "frequently asked questions" click "Flood Hazard Zone Descriptions on the FIRM and DFIRM Maps."

Owners of buildings which moved from B, C or X zones, which indicate moderate- to low-risk areas, to A, AE, AH or VE zones, which are called Special Flood Hazard Areas, are likely to have flood insurance implications, Olsen said.

Flood insurance is required on properties with federally backed mortgages, as is typical, or which were constructed or repaired using federal grants, Wiley wrote in an email to the Daily News.

County staff is "helping to clarify anything that people don't understand," Wiley said.

Not everyone will pay more. Some properties' zone indicates a lower flood risk and, therefore, possibly lower insurance rates than the previous maps, which hadn't been updated for about seven years.

Collier County and city of Naples governments already have put the new maps into effect for building permit applications. Naples is seeing a flood of new building permit applications within the city limits, Carrera said.

"For the most part, the new flood maps will actually have a positive impact on construction due to the decreased elevation requirements throughout the city limits," Carrera wrote in an email to the Daily News.

Due to potential cost savings, it's not recommended to delay learning the effects of the flood zone map changes on individual properties. The costs of flood insurance premiums vary greatly based on flood zone, flood elevation and property values. The average flood insurance policy costs about $600 per year, according to National Flood Insurance Program officials.

Homeowners might be notified by their mortgage lender. However, they might not be notified if their flood insurance is no longer necessary or if their risk and associated costs decreased. Such notification, if it comes, may not be in time to take advantage of one of several cost-savings opportunities made available through the National Flood Insurance Program, Olsen said.

People are encouraged to contact their lender and insurance agent to see what options are available to them.

"Timing is important … There is only one chance to grandfather and lock in the existing zone for future rating, and that is before the new flood map becomes effective," Olsen said.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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