Those Old Flood Plain Maps Were All Wet

Determining which property lies in a flood zone has never been an easy task. One reason is that it is difficult to gain ready access to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) stockpile of more than 40 million maps that detail flood-prone areas, such as the recently hard hit region in the Midwest. Complicating matters, most FEMA maps don't have the exact street address of a location, and sometimes several maps must be consulted to analyze the true risk.

But now, FEMA has a software program to make the whole process easier. Published on CD-ROM, FloodView runs on hardware ranging from high-powered Unix-based minicomputers to Macintoshes to IBM-compatible personal computers. Each disk presents detailed, digitized regional street maps and flood data compiled by FEMA and the Environmental Protection Agency. By typing in an address or a property's boundaries, bank mortgage officers can instantly visualize flood risks and determine what level of insurance is needed--as mandated by federal law. TerraLogics Inc., the Nashua (N.H.) software company that created FloodView for FEMA, says the program will help FEMA save an estimated $2 million a year in warehousing its library of paper maps.