FEMA Flood Map Service Center: Products and Tools Overview
The FEMA Flood Map Service Center (MSC) is the official source for a variety of products detailing communities' flood risk. Effective flood maps and any amendments or revisions that apply to them may be accessed through the Address Search. The complete range of products available on this site is accessible through the Search All Products page. For instructions on how to perform a direct download of flood hazard products through a standardized web address (URL) format, read the Flood Hazard Products Direct Download factsheet.
Regulatory Mapping Products
Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) - The official map of a community on which FEMA has delineated both the special hazard areas and the risk premium zones applicable to the community. Full FIRM panels are quite large (36" x 25.875"), so most users will prefer to print out a smaller selected portion called a FIRMette. This can be accomplished by selecting "View" once you have located your FIRM or by using the FIRMette - Desktop application.
Flood Insurance Study (FIS) - A compilation and presentation of flood risk data for specific watercourses, lakes and coastal flood hazard areas within a community. The FIS report provides a detailed written account of a flood hazard mapping study and its findings.
Letters of Map Change (LOMC) - Documents, including different types of Letters of Map Revision (LOMR) and Letters of Map Amendment (LOMA), that are issued by FEMA to revise or amend the flood hazard information shown on the FIRM without requiring the FIRM to be physically revised and republished. In addition, FEMA issues a formal determination letter, called a LOMC Revalidation or LOMC-VALID letter - when one or more previously issued LOMCs are found to still be valid during a new flood mapping study of an area. Revalidation letters are included in the LOMC product results on this site.
GIS Databases (FIRM DB and NFHL) - Compilations of digital GIS data representing the same information presented on the FIRMs, and in the FIS report. The GIS data is designed to provide the user with the ability to determine the flood zone, base flood elevation and the floodway status for a particular location. It also has NFIP community information, map panel information, cross section and hydraulic structure information, Coastal Barrier Resource System information (if applicable), and base map information like road, stream, and public land survey data.
When in Preliminary or Pending status, these datasets are referred to as FIRM Databases (FIRM DB). FIRM Databases can be opened with widely available GIS software, including freely available programs, that can open and view GIS shapefiles. When FIRMs and FIRM databases become effective, that data is incorporated into the National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL). The NFHL is a continuously updated digital dataset that represents the current effective flood data for those parts of the country where maps have been digitized. The NFHL combines the flood hazard data from the FIRMs with the updates issued through LOMRs to provide a unified view of the current effective flood hazards. For information on the NFHL data availability, visit the FEMA.gov NFHL page.
State- and County/Community- level extracts of NFHL data, available for download through Search All Products, are referred to as NFHL Databases (NFHL DB).
Regulatory Product Status
Preliminary Products - Preliminary flood hazard data provides the public an early look at the projected risk identified by an in-progress flood hazard study. Preliminary Products are not final and are presented on the MSC as the best information available at the time, subject to revision prior to final issuance. Preliminary data include new or revised FIRMs, FIS reports and FIRM Databases.
Pending Products - Products with this status are released at the conclusion of a regulatory flood mapping project and have an effective date on which they will become official for the purposes of legal determinations in fulfillment of National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requirements. When a FIRM, FIS or FIRM DB is posted to the MSC prior to its effective date, it is categorized as a Pending Product until it reaches that date and changes to Effective status.
Effective Products - Regulatory products with Effective status are authorized by law to be used in making determinations under the NFIP. The set of Effective FIRM, FIS and NFHL DB, as well as any Effective LOMC that have been issued to modify those products, collectively comprise FEMA’s official flood hazard determination for a given area.
A LOMC is attached to the FIRM panel that it modifies. As a result, a LOMC issued for an effective FIRM will always appear in the Effective Products category, whether or not the effective date of the LOMC itself has been reached. Users should check the effective date on the LOMC determination document to confirm whether it has reached that date and entered into Effective status.
Historic Products - Once a FIRM or FIS has been superseded by a new version, it will be categorized as a Historic Product. After they move to this status, these products are no longer official and binding under the NFIP. However, Historic Products may serve as valuable reference information and provide a record of an area's changing flood risks over time. They are made available on the MSC for these purposes.
Flood Map Tools
In order to help communities, the public, and other FEMA stakeholders manage and reduce flood risk, FEMA provides a suite of user-friendly tools that support the needs of the public in viewing, analyzing, and printing flood hazard maps.
Basic Map-Viewing Tools
FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are approximately two feet by three feet in size when printed to full-scale. A FIRMette is a full-scale section of a FIRM that you create yourself and is formatted to print on most home/office printers. FIRMettes can be used in all aspects of the National Flood Insurance Program, including floodplain management, flood insurance and the enforcement of mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements. The Web tool and the Desktop application enable users to create FIRMettes. The FIRMette tools also allows users to view LOMCs associated with the current FIRM.
In areas with modernized data, a completed MSC Address Search will offer an "Interactive Map" option which will open FEMA’s National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL) in FEMA’s Geoplatform with the location of interest in the center of the view. This is a fast way to view flood hazard data such as base flood elevations and flood hazard boundaries without the need to download a file or an application. For more information on the NFHL see the NFHL page for more information.
Use the FIRMette Web tool if you have a fast, reliable internet connection. To create a FIRMette, you must first find a flood map and then select the View button associated with that flood map. For detailed instructions on how to create a FIRMette, visit our tutorial. You can make a FIRMette of most maps in FEMA’s inventory online using the FIRMette Web tool.
Use the FIRMette Desktop tool if your internet connection does not support the easy download of large data files, you often work offline or you frequently use the same set of flood maps and would prefer to store them locally. However, to use the FIRMette Desktop tool, you must first download the flood maps to your computer. An overview of FIRMette Desktop v3.2.4 exists in the FEMA Library. A detailed Installation and User Guide also serves as an available resource.
Advanced Map-Viewing Tools
The FIRM DB and NFHL GIS Databases can be used in a variety of ways, that provide the user with flexible and powerful visualization and analysis capabilities. These products generally require more advanced computer skills, specialized software and better understanding by the end user of the accuracy and precision of the various data sources being used. See the NFHL page for more information.
Flood Risk Products (FRP) go beyond the basic flood hazard information found in the official regulatory products. These products provide a more user friendly analysis of flood risks within a Risk MAP Flood Risk Project, as they are specifically geared toward communicating flood risk information to the public, rather than meeting statutory requirements under the NFIP. The three Flood Risk Product types are similar to their regulatory equivalents: FRP for a given area include a graphical Flood Risk Map, a detailed Flood Risk Report and a digital Flood Risk Database.
Hazus - Hazus is a nationally applicable standardized methodology that contains models for estimating potential losses from earthquakes, floods and hurricanes. Hazus uses GIS technology to estimate physical, economic and social impacts of disasters. View the Hazus page on the MSC to download the Hazus-MH software application, service packs, and state datasets.