Flood Plains


Millersburg Borough has a Flood Plain Management ordinance that governs new development in flood-prone areas. Any new development in a flood plain requires special permitting. This page is intended to give an overview of the issues related to flood plains and flooding. The following list of frequently asked questions will provide a general overview of the issues surrounding flood plains. If you have additional questions, you may contact the Borough Manager.


Floodplain Management FAQs

What is flood insurance?

Flood insurance will protect you from loss due to flooding. Until very recently, the private insurance market has been hesitant to enter the flood insurance business (see more information below). As a result, traditional homeowners, business and renter's policies typically do not cover flood damage. Therefore, the federal government offers insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). For more information, see https://www.floodsmart.gov/

 

Am I required to carry flood insurance?

If you have a home or a business in a Special Flood Hazard Area (formerly known as the 100 year floodplain) and if you have a federally-backed mortgage through a bank or some credit unions, then you are required to carry flood insurance. In addition, your financial institution may require you to carry insurance if the insured property is within a non-regulated flood zone (also known as the 500 year flood plain). Even if you are not required to carry flood insurance under the terms of your mortgage, it is still a very good idea to be covered. Federal, state and local assistance to rebuild is not guaranteed following a flood. 

 

That’s crazy. Hurricane Lee in 2011 was a 100-year flood. The next one won’t happen until 2111.

Flood plain professionals are trying to get away from the term “100 year flood” because the term is misleading. It actually means that there is a one percent chance every year that the area will flood. If you have a 30 year mortgage and there is a one percent chance of a flood every year, statistics say that the house has a 26 percent chance of flooding at least once during the life of the mortgage.


We just had a flood. Now what?

Once you and your family are out of immediate danger, you should contact your insurance agent. If local, state and/or federal officials are considering declaring a disaster, you may see folks from PEMA and FEMA as well as local officials doing a Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA). Often, these teams are just surveying the damage to assess the scope of the disaster rather than examining specific properties. Once a state and/or federal disaster is declared by the Governor or President respectively, recovery funds will start to be awarded. Unfortunately, this money can take months or years to be awarded and individual assistance is not always approved anyway. That is a major reason why flood insurance coverage is so important to quickly rebuilding your family's home.

 

I don’t live near the water. Should I have coverage?

A flood is generally defined as water that crosses a property line. Traditional policies usually will not pay out for flood damage. You should talk to your insurance agent about your particular risk. Premiums for properties outside of the flood plain are typically much lower and carry a preferred rate. There is also an option available to renters to cover the cost of contents only. Approximately 20 percent of claims and one-third of disaster recovery funds cover non-floodplain properties.


I have heard that private flood insurance is available. Where can I get more information about that?

The NFIP was created in 1968 in response to disjointed federal responses to disasters. At that time, it was not financially viable for private insurers to enter the market for flood insurance and private insurers would not cover flood losses. Following Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, the NFIP found itself billions of dollars in debt. As a result, Congress passed reforms to phase out flood insurance subsidies. This caused flood insurance premiums to increase. Because of this, private insurers are now entering the flood insurance market. You can get more information from the Pennsylvania Insurance Department here. The Department also maintains a list of companies that offer flood insurance in Pennsylvania. 

 

I live close to the water, but I don’t know if I am in a floodplain.

Most municipalities (including Millersburg Borough) participate in the NFIP program. Your city, borough or township should have a designated floodplain manager who can help you assess your risk. In Millersburg Borough, the local floodplain ordinance designates the Borough Manager as the designated Floodplain Manager. You may contact the Manager for assistance in reading the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) and additional guidance for new development in the floodplain. The Millersburg Borough Manager has taken FEMA's Flood Plain Manager's Course. In addition, you can use FEMA's online mapping tools here

                                                                       

I have heard about the Community Rating System (CRS). Will that reduce my flood insurance rates?

If you are insured in a CRS community, you are eligible for a rate reduction. This discount can range from 5 to 45 percent in the floodplain and 5 to 10 percent in the non-regulated (500 year) floodplain. Millersburg Borough, with the assistance of Dauphin County, is actively exploring CRS membership.

 

Will my premium actually go down by 45 percent?

Probably not. Only one community in the nation (Roseville, California) has achieved the highest classification and only a handful of communities are in the higher classifications. Millersburg Borough’s goal is a classification of 7, which would result in a premium reduction of 15 percent in the floodplain and 5 percent in the non-regulated (500 year) flood plain. Flood insurance policies are offered for properties outside of the flood plain at a premium price. Because of this premium price, the CRS program does not offer further discounts to policies outside of the flood plain.

 

I own a house in the flood plain and there are vents in the foundation. Won’t that allow water to get under my house?

Yes it will, but those vents help to equalize the water pressure, reducing the risk of major foundation damage due to the force of the flood waters.

 

I got water in my basement. Can I pump it out?

You need to be very cautious about pumping basements in houses with a shared foundation (townhouses, duplexes, etc.). Unequal water pressure in different basements can compromise the foundation, possibly causing the building to collapse.

 

How are floodplains determined?

Floodplains are determined by statistical modeling based on historical flood data and topography. This data is then shown on the FIRMs, which are available at the Borough Office during regular business hours. Electronic copies of FIRMs are available on FEMA’s website. It is important to remember that water does not stop at lines on a map. Flood waters can and do exceed the established flood plains.

 

Is it safe to drive across a flooded street? It’s just a little water.

No. it is not safe to drive through flood waters.More than half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven in flood waters. The next leading cause of drowning is walking too close to flood waters. Six inches of fast moving water can knock over an adult and one foot of water can wash away a small car. Even a small amount of water can cause hydroplaning. Turn Around; Don’t Drown. For more information, read the National Weather Service’s webpage on flood hazards: http://tadd.weather.gov/

Obey all traffic control devices such as signs and barricades and do not move such devices. They were erected for the safety of all drivers. If you encounter a flooded street that is not closed, you should contact the municipality or the police department. 














The Borough’s Flood Plain Manager just told me that I cannot store a propane tank outside on my property. What gives?

Floodplain ordinances typically prohibit the storage of large items and hazardous materials outside in a floodplain. Any unsecured item can float away and become dangerous debris. Hazardous materials are a special concern due to the health and environmental impacts downstream.


I have a house in the floodplain, but it does not meet the current standards. How do I come into compliance?

Check your flood insurance policy. You may have a clause called “Increased Cost of Compliance.” You may be eligible for up to $30,000 to mitigate the danger to your home or business.   


Millersburg seems to put a lot of time and effort into cleaning up Riverfront Park. Is that a floodplain activity?

Yes. One of the biggest hazards to buildings during a flood other than the water itself, is the debris that is swept along by the water. Cleaning the trash and driftwood from the riverbank certainly improves the aesthetic qualities of Riverfront Park, but it also protects our neighbors downstream from debris.

 

So bottom line… Can I build a house in a floodplain?

Yes, but you must meet certain building standards. These standards can be found in your municipality’s current floodplain ordinance. Millersburg Borough's flood plain ordinance is posted here. You must be aware that these standards are meant to minimize your risk, not to totally eliminate risk. If you live in a floodplain, you are at greater risk of flood losses than someone living outside of the floodplain.