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« Reducing Flood Damage | Main | FLOODPLAIN MAPPING – The Basics »


Know your risk.

What's your flood zone?

Everyone in Hawaiʻi County lives in a flood zone.

Flood zones are geographic areas defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) according to the level of flood risk. Flood zones indicate areas of low, moderate and high flood risk. In low and moderate risk zones flooding can still occur—the risk is reduced but not removed.

How is your flood risk determined?

Flood history is one element. Determinations are also based on rainfall and river-flow data, topography, tidal surge, flood control measures, and existing and planned development. The Hawaiʻi County Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) shows flood zones around the island. Each zone reflects the severity or type of flooding in the area.

Finding and understanding your flood zone

  • The National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) One-step Flood Risk Profile helps you rate your risk, estimate flood insurance premiums and find a flood insurance agent. For more information, contact NFIP, 1-888-379-9531.
  • Find your flood risk electronically using the Hawaiʻi Flood Hazard Assessment Tool.
  • If you are renting, it is wise to insure your contents Renter's
  • FEMA’s Information for Homeowners provides references and links to assist homeowners in locating and obtaining copies of their perspective floodmaps, how to read them, and how to request map changes that may be warranted.
  • To request flood zone information from Hawaiʻi County, complete the "Flood Zone Designation Form."

Do you need flood insurance?

If you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) - an area with an high-risk for flooding - and have a mortgage from a federally regulated lender, you are required to purchase a flood insurance policy.

To remove the property or structure from the SFHA zone, complete the electronic Letter of Map Amendment (PDF).

For single family residential lot or structure amendments download the MT-EZ application.

For multiple lot and multiple structures download the MT-1 forms.

To appeal or protest a NFIP map, download the Appeals and Protests to NFIP Maps guide.

Every homeowner, business owner and renter in a high-risk area is at risk for flooding and should be protected with flood insurance whether or not their lender requires it. During the term of a 30-year mortgage, there is a 26 percent chance that a home in a high-risk area will experience flooding. If you live in a low-to moderate-risk area, flood insurance is still a vital investment to ensure that you have protection against flooding. 

Because the County participates in the NFIP, federal flood insurance is available to all County residents and businesses. It is important to understand your flood risks when deciding to purchase flood insurance. Using flood hazard maps, your insurance agent can help you determine your risk level and provide you with the flood insurance coverage that is right for you.

Building and developing in flood zones

Based on the floods zones, the County designates where and how new structures and developments will be built. All development (not just the construction of buildings) in designated floodplains requires County permits, and building construction may also require elevation certificates. Obtain the necessary building permits from the Building Division and follow the Hawaiʻi County General Plan, Hawaiʻi County Code and ordinances when building or maintaining property.

For additional information on Hawaiʻi County Floodplain Management and floodplain development, see the Hawaiʻi County Code, Chapter 27, Section 27-18.

Know the warnings.

Not all floods are alike.

If it has been raining hard for several hours or steadily raining for several days, be alert to the possibility of a flood. 

Flash floods can happen quickly, sometimes in just a few minutes and without any visible signs of rain in your area. Flash floods often have a dangerous wall of roaring water that carries rocks, mud and other debris and can sweep away most things in its path. Be aware of streams, gulches, drainage channels, and other areas that appear harmless in dry weather. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without such typical warnings as rain clouds or heavy rain.

Be alert to signs of flooding

  • If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
  • Real-time river gage data is available for the Waikoloa, Alakahi, Kawai Nui and Honoliʻi streams, Wailuku River, and Pāʻauʻau Gulch.
  • Listen for and respond to watches and warnings issued by the National Weather Service, the State Emergency Alert System (PDF) and the Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense Agency.
  • Civil Defense transmits warnings to the public through the Emergency Alert System's simultaneous broadcasts over all radio and television stations.
  • Sirens are activated to alert people to seek further information from the radio or TV stations.
  • Civil Defense operates a mass notification email and text messaging system. Use the link under "GET UPDATES" to register.

Know your flood watches and warnings

When a Flood Watch or Flash Flood Watch is issued

Flooding or a flash flood is possible.

Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio (KBA99 on 162.550 & 162.400 MHz or WWG27 on 162.550 MHz), the State Emergency Alert System or Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense messages on AM, FM or TV broadcast stations for information.

  • Be ready to act if a warning is issued or flooding occurs. Floods can happen quickly and without warning.
  • Review your flood preparedness plans and evacuation routes. If you live in a flood-prone area, be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice and follow the instructions and advice of local officials.
  • Take steps to protect your home and your valuables.
  • Know how to safely shut off utilities.
  • Consider precautionary evacuation of your animals.