How to Fill Out an Elevation Certificate
(when seeking a more desirable insurance rate for a structure located in an "A" or "AO" Flood Zone)
An elevation certificate is a 3-page FEMA form for documenting property information.  It can be used to comply with local floodplain ordinances, support a Letter of Map Change request, or for determining the most appropriate flood insurance rating.  Usually the form must be completed and certified by a licensed professional.  But for the purpose of seeking a more desirable flood insurance rate for a structure located in an "A" or "AO" Flood Zone, anyone can complete it.

The official Elevation Certificate form and 9-pages of instructions can be downloaded at: www.fema.gov/business/nfip/elvinst.shtm

After completing the required portions of the Elevation Certificate, submit it to an insurance agent who has experience selling flood insurance.  A competent agent should provide you with the lowest applicable rate for the property based upon the information provided on the Elevation Certificate form.
 

Flood Zone A

In an "A" Flood Zone, Federal flood insurance for a structure without an Elevation Certificate is available at either the "Pre-FIRM" or "Post-FIRM with no Elevation Certificate" rate. 

With an Elevation Certificate, a structure might qualify for a less costly Post-FIRM rate.

An example of the various rates is shown in the Table below.


Community's CRS Classification
NFIP Annual Premium


Pre-FIRM
Post-FIRM

No El. Cert.
El. Cert. w/o professionally estimated BFE El. Cert. w/ professionally estimated BFE
Floor elevation over highest adjacent grade
      +1'              +2' to +4'        +5' or more
Floor elev. relative to Base Flood Elevation
      -1'                0 to +1'         +2' or more
6 $1,117 $3,504 $1,722 $684 $352 $3,121 $660 $346
7 $1,185 $3,721 $1,827 $725 $372 $3,314 $699 $366
8 $1,252 $3,938 $1,933 $766 $391 $3,507 $738 $385
9 $1,320 $4,155 $2,038 $806 $411 $3,700 $777 $405
10 $1,388 $4,371 $2,144 $847 $431 $3,893 $816 $424
Table: A comparison of annual premiums of the National Flood Insurance 
Program (NFIP) for a policy that insures a
1-4 family structure having no
 
basement or crawlspace in Flood Zone A to the maximum amount available, $250,000.
The coverage does not include building contents, and the deductible is 
$5,000, the maximum allowed.


Flood Zone AO

In an "AO" Flood Zone, Federal flood insurance for a structure without an Elevation Certificate is available at either the "Pre-FIRM" or "Post-FIRM without a compliance certificate" rate depending upon whether the structure was constructed before (pre-) or after (post-) the effective date of the community's initial Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM).

With an Elevation Certificate, a Pre-FIRM structure might qualify for a less costly Post-FIRM rate and a Post-FIRM structure might qualify for the least costly "Post-FIRM with compliance certificate" rate.

An example of the various rates is shown in Table I below.  A comparison of these annual premiums clearly shows that a substantial savings can be realized by obtaining a "Post-FIRM with compliance certificate" rate.

Community's CRS Classification NFIP Annual Premium
Pre-FIRM Post-FIRM w/o Cert. Post-FIRM w/Cert.
6 $1,117 $726 $298
7 $1,185 $769 $314
8 $1,252 $812 $331
9 $1,320 $856 $347
10 $1,388 $899 $364



Building Requirements

In order for a Pre-FIRM structure to qualify for a Post-FIRM rate, the structure must adhere to National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) standards. Specifically, any enclosed area such as a crawlspace or attached garage must have properly located and sufficiently sized permanent flood openings.

In order for a Pre- or Post-FIRM structure to qualify for the "Post-FIRM with compliance certificate" rate, the structure must not only adhere to the NFIP standards described above, but must also comply with the following.  For a structure in an "AO" Zone, the distance between the top of the bottom floor and the highest adjacent grade rounded to the nearest foot must be equal to or greater than the printed Base Flood Depth (BFD) printed on the FIRM or 2-feet if no BFD is provided.



Abbreviated Instructions

When seeking a more desirable insurance rate for a property located in an "A" or "AO" Zone, one need not fill out all sections of the Elevation Certificate form.  Only Sections A, B, E, and F must be completed.  An abbreviated set of instructions for just these sections is provided below.


Section A - Property Information


Items A1 - A4.  This section identifies the building, its location, and its owner(s).  The legal description, including the lot and block numbers and assessor's parcel number, can be obtained from the owner's Grant Deed.  

Item A5.  This item need not be completed for the purpose of seeking a more desirable insurance rate.

Item A6.  Photographs of the structure are required.  See the last page of the Elevation Certificate form and the instructions at the bottom of this page.

Item A7.  Select the diagram that best represents the building.

 Diagram No.  Description  Illustration
  (Click on an image to enlarge)
 1A A slab-on-grade building other than split-level.
 1B A raised slab-on-grade or slab-on stem-wall with fill, but not a split-level building.  
 2 A building with a basement other than split-level  
 3 A split-level building that is slab-on-grade.  
 4 A split-level building that is not slab-on-grade.  
 5 A building elevated on piers, posts, piles, columns, or parallel shear walls with no obstructions below the elevated floor.  
 6 A building elevated on piers, posts, piles, columns, or parallel shear walls with a full or partial enclosure below the elevated floor.  
 7 A building elevated on full-story foundation walls with a partially or fully enclosed area below the elevated floor.  
 8 A building elevated on a crawlspace with the floor of the crawlspace at or above grade on at least one side.  
 9 A building elevated on a subgrade crawlspace.  


For a building with a crawlspace or enclosure(s), complete Items A8.a - A8.d:

Item A8.a  Provide the square footage of the crawlspace or enclosure(s) below the lowest elevated floor of an elevated building.  Take the measurement from the outside of the crawlspace or enclosure(s).

Item A8.b  Enter the number of permanent flood openings in the crawlspace or enclosure(s) that are no higher than 1-foot above the higher of the exterior or interior grade immediately below the opening.  If the interior grade is used, note this in the Comments area of Section D.  If the crawlspace or enclosure(s) have no permanent openings within 1-foot above adjacent grade, then enter "0."

Item A8.c  Enter an estimate of the total net area of all permanent flood openings in square inches, excluding any bars, louvers, or other covers of the openings.  If the crawlspace or enclosure(s) have no permanent openings within 1-foot above adjacent grade, enter "0."

NOTE: In order to qualify for a Post-FIRM rating, the number provided for Item A8.c must be equal to or greater than the number provide for Item A8.a unless some or all of the openings are engineered flood vents  If A8.a exceeds A8.c, then additional open area will need to be added and/or existing openings will need to be converted to engineered flood vents.

Item A8.d  Indicate whether the flood openings are engineered, meaning that the openings were specifically designed to pass flood waters in accordance with NFIP and International Code Council regulations.  


For a building with an attached garage, complete Items A9.a - A9.d:

Item A9.a  Provide the square footage of the attached garage.  Take the measurement from the outside of the garage.

Item A9.b  Enter the number of permanent flood openings in the attached garage that are no higher than 1-foot above the higher of the exterior grade or interior floor immediately below the opening.  If the interior floor elevation is used, note this in the Comments area of Section D.  This includes any openings that are in the garage door that are no higher than 1-foot above the adjacent grade.  If the garage has no permanent openings within 1-foot above adjacent grade, then enter "0."

Item A9.c  Enter an estimate of the total net area of all permanent flood openings in square inches, excluding any bars, louvers, or other covers of the openings.  If the garage has no permanent openings within 1-foot above adjacent grade, enter "0."

NOTE: In order to qualify for a Post-FIRM rating, the number provided for Item A9.c must be equal to or greater than the number provide for Item A9.a unless some or all of the openings are engineered flood vents.  If A9.a exceeds A9.c, then additional open area will need to be added and/or existing openings will need to be converted to engineered flood vents.

Item A9.d  Indicate whether the flood openings are engineered, meaning that the openings were specifically designed to pass flood waters in accordance with NFIP and International Code Council regulations.



Section B


Item B1.  Enter the complete name of the community in which the building is located and the associated 6-digit community number.

Item B2.  Enter the name of the county in which the community is located.

Item B3.  Enter the 2-letter state abbreviation (CA for example).

Item B4.  Enter the 10-character Map Number shown on the FIRM.

Item B5.  Enter the letter suffix that follows the Map Number on the FIRM.

Item B6.  Enter the effective date or the map revised date shown on the FIRM Index.
  • For all communities within the County of Alameda this date is currently "8/2/2009."
  • For all communities within the County of Contra Costa this date is currently "6/16/2009."
  • For all communities within the County of San Mateo this date is currently "8/5/1986."
  • For all communities within the County of Santa Clara this date is currently "5/18/2009."
  • For a community in any other county, find the date of the most recent FIRM Index at http://msc.fema.gov.
Item B7.  Enter the map effective date or the map revised date shown on the FIRM panel.  This will be the latest of all dates shown on the panel.

Item B8.  Enter "AO."

Item B9.  Enter the Base Flood Depth printed on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM).  This will be either a "1," a "2," or a "3."

Item B10.  Place a check mark in the box next to "FIRM."

Item B11.  Place a check mark in the box next to the elevation datum that is indicated in the Map Legend and/or Notes to Users on the FIRM.  This will be "NAVD 1988" for communities in the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara.

Item B12.  Check the box next to "No" thereby indicating that the building is not located in a Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) area or Otherwise Protected Area (OPA).  Federal flood insurance is not available in designated CBRS areas and OPAs.



Section E - Building Elevation Information


Although insurance agents will round distance values to the nearest foot to determine the appropriate insurance rate, FEMA instructions require that all distances measured for Items E1 - E4 be recorded to the nearest tenth of a foot.  If a ruler or tape measure gradated in tenths of a foot is not available, then make measurements in inches and divide by twelve.  For example, if a height is measured as 15-inches, then divide 15 by 12 to get 1.25. Round this to the tenths place and record it on the form as 1.3-feet.

If the item does not apply to the building, enter "N/A" for not applicable.

Item E1.a  Enter the distance between the top of the bottom floor and the highest adjacent grade (HAG).  For a structure that sits atop a crawlspace, the floor of the crawlspace is the bottom floor referred to here.

Item E1.b  Enter the distance between the top of the bottom floor and the lowest adjacent grade (LAG).  For a structure that sits atop a crawlspace, the floor of the crawlspace is the bottom floor referred to here.

Item E2.  For Building Diagrams 6-9 with permanent flood openings, enter the distance between the next higher floor and the highest adjacent grade.  For a structure that sits atop a crawlspace or basement, the "next higher floor" is the floor that rests on top of the foundation wall--what most would refer to as the first floor.

Item E3.  Enter the distance between the top of the attached garage slab and the highest adjacent grade.

Item E4.  Enter the distance between the top of the platform that supports the machinery and/or equipment servicing the building and the highest adjacent grade.  Indicate machinery/equipment type in the Comments area of Section F.

Item E5.  This item should be ignored, except in the unusual circumstance when a Zone AO Base Flood Depth is not provided on the Flood Insurance Rate Map.



Section F - Property Owner Certification


Complete this section as indicated.  It is for the purpose of certifying the measurements taken by a property owner or property owner's representative when responding to Sections A, B, and E.  The address entered in this section must be the actual mailing address of the property owner or property owner's representative who provided the information on the certificate.



Photos

Provide at least two current photos showing the front and rear of the building.  The photographs must be taken with views confirming the building description and diagram number entered as Item A7.  To the extent possible, these photographs should show the entire building including foundation.  If the building has split-level or multi-level areas, provide at least two additional photographs showing side views of the building.  In addition, provide a photograph of the foundation showing a representative example of the flood openings or vents. All photographs must be in color and measure at least 3"x3."