The Special Flood Hazard Area is the area most likely to flood during intense rain, which may or may not be accompanied by tidal surges. Mapped by FEMA and shown on Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). Homeowners with a mortgage will likely find their mortgage holder requires them to purchase flood insurance if they live in a hazard area. Homeowners not in a special flood hazard area may choose to purchase flood insurance.
If your property is located in a Special Flood Hazard Area, you will want to know the Base Flood Elevation (BFE). The BFE is the elevation to which flood waters are anticipated to rise during the base (1% annual chance) flood event. The relationship between the base flood elevation and a structure's elevation determines the flood insurance premium.
To purchase flood insurance, you will need official documentation of your flood zone. Your insurance agent may provide this documentation for you. Official documentation consists of a copy of the FIRM panel. Since FEMA's Flood Insurance Rate Maps (A) are approximately two feet by three feet in size when printed to full-scale, you (or your insurance agent) can create a FIRMette which is a full-scale section of a FIRM that is formatted to print on most home/office printers. Download the instructions (PDF).