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A Guide to FEMA Technical Bulletins

By Mitch Paine, CFM

From December 2016 Floodplain Management Today

Every community that participates in the National Flood Insurance Program in Nebraska has a local ordinance. The elements of that ordinance are guided by state minimum standards as well as the federal standards in the Code of Federal Regulations Title 44. The state and federal standards apply in every community, big or small, but don’t necessarily provide direction for every development situation that might occur.

FEMA has published 11 technical bulletins that outline how to administer floodplain management regulations in specific development situations. The documents don’t add regulations, but clarify the requirements established in the state and federal minimum standards. These technical bulletins do not replace community higher standards that may be in place. This article will give floodplain administrators a guide to the various technical bulletins and how they can be applied to development in your community. Having familiarity with all of the documents is helpful, but the three most used in Nebraska are Technical Bulletins 1, 10, and 11. Each of the titles is a link to the corresponding document.

Technical Bulletin 1 – Openings in Foundation Walls This technical bulletin outlines the specific requirements for flood vents, openings, and enclosed areas that must be vented. All local ordinances have language about flood openings, but this document provides the information needed to apply the openings provision to a wide array of development situations. It has diagrams like the one to the right, specifications, examples, and descriptions of all aspects of flood openings. Any floodplain administrator should know this document well, as many building situations will require flood openings.

Technical Bulletin 2 – Flood Damage-Resistant Materials Requirements Local ordinances require that any new development or substantial improvement must “be constructed with materials and utility equipment resistant to flood damage,” but does not outline the allowable materials. Technical Bulletin 2 describes the allowable materials, characteristics, and applicability to certain flood zones. This document would be good to give to contractors, builders, or others looking for recommendations for materials to use for a building permitted in the floodplain.

Technical Bulletin 3 – Non-Residential Floodproofing Local ordinances generally allow nonresidential buildings to be floodproofed to 1 foot above base flood elevation. This technical bulletin outlines the requirements for a building to be floodproofed including considerations for warning time, safety and access, flood characteristics, flood emergency operation plan, and engineering considerations for hydrostatic and hydrodynamic forces (the physical forces that push against the walls or against the whole building). Any nonresidential building owner looking to floodproof their building should consult this technical bulletin.

Technical Bulletin 4 – Elevator Installation Many buildings built in the floodplain are required to be elevated, and some are required to be elevated many feet above the ground. Increasingly, buildings must also comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires access for those with disabilities. Elevators are a method to do this. For a building in the floodplain, the elevator and its equipment almost always extend below the BFE. Technical Bulletin 4 describes the proper installation requirements that conform with local ordinance requirements and help keep the building safe from flooding.

Technical Bulletin 5 – Free-of-Obstruction Requirements This technical bulletin does not apply to Nebraska as it refers to V Zone (coastal) requirements.

Technical Bulletin 6 – Below-Grade Parking Requirements Some new buildings, particularly in dense urban areas, will have parking below-grade and below the residential or commercial areas on upper floors. While only floodproofed nonresidential buildings are able to have this below-grade area, Technical Bulletin 6 outlines the requirements of this specific development scenario.

Technical Bulletin 7 – Wet Floodproofing Requirements For the limited cases where a building can be wet-floodproofed (attached garage, accessory building if allowed in an ordinance, or an enclosed area below a lowest floor), the requirements for doing so are outlined in this technical bulletin. The document outlines considerations for flood characteristics, establishing an emergency operations plan, and situations where wet floodproofing may not be appropriate, even if allowed. This technical bulletin would be useful for contractors or builders, similar to Technical Bulletin 2 or 3.Technical Bulletin 8 – Corrosion Protection for Metal Connectors This technical bulletin is mainly for coastal areas where salt and proximity to the ocean cause corrosion on metal building components that then cause the structure to be more vulnerable. While this document is mostly not applicable to Nebraska, it may be useful for reference to the construction industry.

Technical Bulletin 9 – Breakaway Walls This technical bulletin does not apply to Nebraska as it refers to V Zone (coastal) requirements.

Technical Bulletin 10 – Ensuring That Structures Built on Fill In or Near Special Flood Hazard Areas Are Reasonably Safe From Flooding This is perhaps the most useful technical bulletin for Nebraska floodplain administrators. It outlines the requirements for a common scenario where a homeowner might apply for a LOMR-F and want to put a basement in the removed area. Technical Bulletin 10 provides a checklist for doing this type of building in a safe way and in a way that the floodplain administrator can comfortably sign the community acknowledgement form for a LOMR-F. Please see our June 2016 newsletter for more on applying Technical Bulletin 10.

Technical Bulletin 11 – Crawlspace Construction Technical Bulletin 11 outlines two important components: requirements for all crawlspace construction and specific requirements for below-grade crawlspaces. First, the document discusses characteristics of all crawlspaces that should be considered when permitting a building with one. Second, the technical bulletin outlines the requirements for construction of a crawlspace that is below-grade on all 4 sides. Any community that wants to permit a below-grade crawlspace must first adopt language that is included in Technical Bulletin 11. Some communities may want this flexibility, while others may not.

If you have any questions about the FEMA Technical Bulletins or their applicability, call or email Chuck or Katie for assistance.

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