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For decades, the national response to flood disasters was generally limited to constructing flood-control works and providing disaster relief to flood victims.  This approach did not reduce losses, nor did it discourage unwise development.  In some instances, it may have actually encouraged additional development.  To compound the problem, the public generally could not buy flood coverage from insurance companies, and building techniques to reduce flood damage were often overlooked.

In the face of mounting flood losses and escalating costs of disaster relief to the general taxpayers, the U.S. Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  The intent was to reduce future flood damage through community floodplain management ordinances, and to provide protection for property owners through insurance.  The NFIP is administered by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Additional information on the background of the NFIP is provided in the "Program Description" document that is accessible through the NFIP page on the FEMA Web site.  You may also access the enabling legislation through the Flood Hazard Mapping section of the FEMA Web site. As discussed in the "Program Description" document, the three major components of the NFIP are Floodplain Management, Flood Insurance, and Flood Hazard Mapping.

Floodplain Management and Flood Insurance

Participation in the NFIP is based on an agreement between communities and the Federal Government.  If a community adopts and enforces a compliant floodplain management ordinance to reduce future flood risk to new construction in high-risk Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) shown on the NFIP flood maps, the Federal Government will make flood insurance available within the community as a financial protection against flood losses.  Insurance is designed to provide an alternative to disaster assistance to reduce the escalating costs of repairing damage to buildings and their contents caused by floods.

Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties, and all of the incorporated communities within them, are active participants in the NFIP in good standing. This is important because FEMA is prohibited from providing flood insurance unless a community participates in the NFIP. 

You can also access the NFIP regulations through the FEMA Web site.

Mapping Program

FEMA also identifies and maps floodprone areas nationwide.  Flood maps create broad-based awareness of the flood hazards and provide the hazard and risk data needed for floodplain management programs and to actuarially rate new or reconstructed buildings for flood insurance.  FEMA has undertaken a multiyear effort called Flood Map Modernization to update and modernize these critically important emergency management and planning tools. 

Flood maps are called "Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs)" or "Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs)," if they have been modernized using digital methods.  Flood maps are used for:  

  • State and community floodplain management regulations
  • Calculating flood insurance premiums
  • Determining whether property owners are required by law to obtain flood insurance
  • Emergency management purposes
  • Land use and water resources planning
  • Implementing Executive Order 11988, Floodplain Management for Federal actions proposed in or affecting floodplains

The mapping activities are carried out in accordance with FEMA’s Guidelines and Specifications for Flood Hazard Mapping Partners and Document Control Procedures Manual. The major phases of the flood mapping process for a countywide flood map are summarized on the Calendar/Schedule page.

The Community Information pages have information on the specific flood maps for each community.   

Community Rating System

The Community Rating System (CRS) 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:

  • Reduce flood losses
  • Facilitate accurate insurance rating
  • Promote the awareness of flood insurance

You may also learn more about the CRS Program on the FEMA Web site.

Cooperating Technical Partners Program

The Cooperating Technical Partners (CTP) Program was developed by the FEMA for communities, tribal nations, universities, and regional and State agencies that have the interest, capabilities, and resources to be active partners in FEMA’s flood hazard mapping program.  By becoming a CTP, a community formalizes contribution and commitment to help ensure better overall floodplain management and flood risk identification through reliable, up-to-date flood maps.

You may also learn more about the CTP Program on the FEMA Web site.

Coastal Barrier Resources System

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has identified Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) areas in Mississippi’s three coastal counties.  The CBRS is comprised of undeveloped coastal barriers along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Great Lakes coasts. Through the enactment of legislation, the U.S. Congress restricts Federal expenditures that encourage development, including Federal flood insurance through the NFIP, thereby encouraging the conservation of hurricane-prone, biologically rich coastal barriers.