In the world of Real Estate, buyers, sellers and Realtors love to impress one another with their mastery of the jargon of the trade…what with “en suite bathrooms” and “clerestory windows,” everyone likes to feel that they are in on the game.
But here at the Jersey Shore, all of that has been replaced by a new glossary of required terminology. One can’t walk down a supermarket aisle without hearing someone talking about “base flood elevations” and “helical pilings.”
And telling the stranger next to you at the bar that you’re thinking of putting your lowest horizontal member at elevation 10 will no longer get you thrown out on your head.
Compliments of Sandy, we are all climbing the steep learning curve of post-disaster lingo. So with that in mind, I thought the following glossary of terms might be helpful for having a meaningful conversation with a Jersey Shore resident.
Most of these definitions can also be found here at the FEMA website.
And for technical info, see the section of the FEMA website containing Technical Bulletin 5, August 2008 titled: “Free-of-Obstruction Requirements.” This section provides guidance on the NFIP (national flood insurance program) regulations concerning obstructions to flood waters below elevated buildings and on building sites in Coastal High Hazard Areas (Zones V, VE, and V1-V30).
Glossary of Flood and FEMA terms:
Base Flood Elevation (BFE): If you are going to know one term, this is it. Base Flood elevation is the water height at which there is a one-percent chance of meeting or exceeding in any given year. This is what used to be referred to as the “100 year flood” but since we have had at least five of these so-called “storms of the century” in my lifetime, that moniker seems outdated.
Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE): These are newly proposed elevations that are reflective of the latest science on the subject, which are depicted on the ABFE advisory maps released by FEMA this past December. FEMA officials have said the maps become "preliminary" maps in August or September and ultimately will be finalized and adopted.
The maps also show flood zones including:
“A” Zone: An area subject to a one-percent annual chance of flood inundation. New construction and substantial reconstruction of homes and businesses in this zone need to be built at a height so the first finished floor is above the BFE.
“V” Zone: Sometimes called Coastal High Hazard Areas, these are areas subject to a one-percent annual chance of flood inundation with the added hazard of velocity wave action. New construction and substantial reconstruction of homes and businesses in this zone must be built to special flood zone criteria (typically piling type construction), whereby the “lowest horizontal structural member” is above the BFE.
Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA): The entire floodplain subject to a one-percent annual chance of inundation, encompassing both the A and V zones above.
“WTF” Zone: Ok, this isn’t really a zone but if all you friends say “WTF?!?” when you tell them where you want to build your house, maybe you should rethink your plan.
Freeboard: An additional height added to the elevation of a structure to provide a margin of safety over the BFE. In a V zone, it also provides a margin to elevate a structure above anticipated wave action.
Breakaway Walls: A construction technique for minimizing stress on a structure during a flood. These walls below the BFE are engineered to break apart at no less than 10 and no more than 20 pounds per square foot of pressure.
Pilings: A vertical column, usually of wood, sometimes of steel, sometimes of concrete, driven into the ground to support a structure.
Helical Pilings: These specialty pilings are screwed into the ground, rather than driven, and provide some design flexibility not found in traditional driven pilings.
ICC Money: An acronym for Increased Cost of Compliance coverage on a flood policy. This coverage pays up to $30,000 to the policy holder to cover the cost of elevating a building above the BFE.
SBA Money: The Small Business Administration provides low interest disaster loans to homeowners and business owners to allow for the reconstruction of buildings and for the replacement of personal property. Loans of up to $200,000 are available to allow for reconstruction prior to settling with your insurance company.
So there you have it. Master these few terms and you’ll be sure to impress your friends, neighbors and even the local FEMA inspector. If you are hear any other confusing terminology out on the streets, feel free to post here and maybe we can answer it for you.