Updated September 9, 2021
Reading time: 4 minutes
If your flood zone code reads X, you’re at a low to moderate risk of flooding. But that doesn’t mean you should rule out flood insurance.
Flood zone X: It sounds like the alien outpost in a sci-fi movie. But read on to learn about flood zones and what they mean for your flood risk, and flood zone X won’t be a foreboding mystery. You’ll be ready to make informed, practical decisions to protect your property from flood damage.
If you already know your property’s flood zone code, read on for an explanation of key terms and what flood zone X means for your situation.
To find your property’s flood zone, head to FEMA ’s Flood Map Service Center, put in your address, and you’ll find that your property is assigned a flood zone code that indicates your property’s estimated flood risk. There are three basic FEMA flood zone types. Zone codes that begin with A or V are high-risk; C, B, and X are moderate- and low-risk; and D stands for undetermined. Flood zone risk is quantified by your annual chance of flooding —usually 1 in 100 or 1 in 500.
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, draws the maps and sets the flood zones. These maps are referred to as f lood insurance rate maps, or FIRMs. Not only do they determine flood risk, but they’re also a good starting indicator of your flood insurance premium.
At the most basic level, flood zone code X indicates low or moderate risk of flooding. That might sound like a relief! But first, let’s get a couple of things out of the way:
Everyone is at risk of flooding. Heavy rainfall can happen anywhere and quickly cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage. And with climate change altering weather patterns, intense rain events and flash flooding will happen more frequently and in unexpected places.
About 20 percent of flood insurance claims come from properties at low to moderate flood risk. If so many insured properties have flood issues, think of all the homes in flood zone X that never bought insurance but still sustained costly flood damage.
Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster. Even though flood insurance is only required in Special Flood Hazard Areas, and only then for properties with federally backed mortgages, every homeowner ought to seriously consider flood insurance.
With that out of the way, let’s get deeper into the specifics of what flood zone X means.
If you’re in a shaded flood zone X, you also might see a zone B flood code. These are the same. Shaded zone X or zone B indicates moderate flood risk.
If you’re in a zone B or shaded zone X flood zone, here’s the good news: you’re not in an SFHA ( Special Flood Hazard Area ) like Zone A, which means you’re outside the high-risk areas. The SFHA zones are also called base flood zones because they’re at or below base flood elevation ( BFE ). Properties at or below base flood elevation are in a 100-year floodplain, meaning they have a 1 percent chance of flood in a given year.
The bad news: Zone B is usually not in a 100-year floodplain, but it’s inside a 500-year floodplain. This is also defined as the 0.2 percent annual-chance floodplain. Property owners can breathe easily that they’re not in a high- risk flood zone but should still be as wary as ever of flood disaster.
Zone X flood zones also might be in an area with a 1 percent chance of flooding in a given year that is protected by levees or other flood protection measures that lower the risk of damage. The average depth of flooding in shaded zone X is one foot—but keep in mind that even an inch of water can do a lot of damage.
Properties in unshaded zone X, also coded as zone C, are in areas of minimal flood hazard. Not only are they above the base flood elevation and outside of 1-percent-annual-chance flood event zones, but they’re also not in a 500-year floodplain —phew!
It’s great to be in low-risk areas. But you might want to pay extra attention to your immediate surroundings. Unshaded zone X flood zones could be affected by ponding and other drainage issues that could cause shallow flooding, even if those potential problems weren’t big enough to warrant a higher risk rating from FEMA.
The rest of the FEMA flood zone codes are pretty simple. Here’s a quick guide:
Zone A and zone V are Special Flood Hazard Areas, known as SFHAs. SFHAs are in 100-year floodplains, meaning that every year, there’s at least a 1-in-100 annual chance of a flood. That might not sound likely to meet the definition of “high-risk,” but think of it this way: there’s a 26 percent chance that a 100-year flood will come during a 30- year mortgage.
Zone AE means your home is at or below base flood elevation and at high risk of flooding, and there is detailed flood information available for your area.
Zone AH flood zones are still high-risk, but the average flood depth is between 1 and 3 feet. Zone AH properties are usually next to ponds.
Zone AO means your primary flood risk is from streams or rivers, and sheet flow could cause average flood depths between 1 and 3 feet.
Zone AR means your property is temporarily at increased risk because a flood mitigation project like a dam or levee is under construction or renovation.
Zone V areas are coastal and carry a series of additional hazards that could increase flood damage, such as wave action, hurricanes, and storm surge.
Zone VE areas carry zone V risks but have additional floodplain information and base flood information.
If you are worried about flooding and want to consider investing in a flood insurance policy, call your insurance agent or head to FloodSmart. gov. The National Flood Insurance Program ( NFIP ) is required for homeowners with federally backed mortgages in SFHAs, but it’s available in every state and territory and serves five million homeowners and counting.
Unshaded flood zone X means you’re not in a 100- or 500-year floodplain, and you’re at the lowest risk of flooding. Shaded zone X flood zones are not in 100-year floodplains but are inside a 500-year floodplain, so they’re at moderate risk.
Only homeowners in SFHA areas (coded zone A) with federally backed mortgages are subject to mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements.
Even if it’s not required, you should think carefully about purchasing a flood insurance policy. Flooding is the costliest and most common natural disaster, millions of homes are highly vulnerable, and homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding. Ask your insurance agent about flood insurance ASAP.
Base flood elevation (BFE) is the base altitude of a 100-year floodplain, so if you’re at “base flood,” as it’s called, you’re at risk of water reaching your home in the event of a flood.
Check out FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center at FEMA.gov.
Being at low or moderate risk sure is a relief compared to being high-risk enough to have mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements. But homeowners in moderate-risk FEMA flood zones should be paying close attention to flood management in their area and strongly consider purchasing flood insurance.
Jackie Cohen is an editorial manager at Insurify specializing in property & casualty insurance educational content. She has years of experience analyzing insurance trends and helping consumers better understand their insurance coverage to make informed decisions about their finances.
Jackie's work has been cited in USA Today, The Balance, and The Washington Times.Learn More