What is Flood Zone AE?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has identified several flood hazard areas, i.e., areas at risk of flooding. Among them is Flood Zone AE. What defines Flood Zone AE, and how severe is the risk of flooding in this flood zone?

Flood Zone AE is identified as having a high risk of flooding due to lying close to a floodplain, river, lake, or other body of water or being in a low-lying region. It is an area where you should be prepared for potential flooding.

Learn more about what FEMA has classified as Flood Zone AE and how living in this flood zone matters below.

What is Flood Zone AE?

fema difined flood zones ae

FEMA identifies Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA’s) as areas likely to be inundated by a flood event with “a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year” [1] based on a 100-year flood record. They are shown on a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) and are defined by a Base Flood Elevation (BFE). Here, we elaborate on areas designated as Flood Zone AE:

  • The areas lie within the SFHA.
  • The areas are vulnerable to a 1% annual chance of a flood.
  • The FIRM for these areas shows Base Flood Elevations.
  • Floodplain management standards apply in these areas.

flood zone AE risk

Base Flood Elevation

Based on previous flood records, Base Flood Elevation (BFE) defines the height that a flood is most likely to reach. It assumes the flood water level will not go higher than the BFE. The BFEs specified for Flood Zone AE make it essential to:

  • Construct the lowest level of the house at or above the BFE (or higher if floodwaters are expected to be higher during a base flood).
  • Not utilize areas below the BFE for living purposes, such as basements.
  • Have all electrical, plumbing, and HVAC equipment (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) above the BFE.

Regulations require all the above because areas in Flood Zone AE lie inside an SFHA, an area at high risk of inundation by a flood. Newer homes will probably meet them already, but an older ones may need updating.

Risk of Flooding in Flood Zone AE

Flood Zone AE lies within an SFHA because the annual risk of flooding is 1%, i.e., there is a 1 in 100 chance of a flood occurring based on the previous 100-year records. It means the area is very prone to flooding. The flood risk is as high as for other A and V zones under SFHA. Therefore, areas under Flood Zone AE are marked on a FIRM because they lie inside the SFHA.

Another critical thing to understand is that the flood risk in any zone is determined based on historical data. The high risk in Zone AE is an expression of the likelihood of flooding after considering past high water levels. Also, the actual risk of flooding in your particular spot in Zone AE will depend on how high or low your dwelling is compared to the surrounding area.

Flood maps can and do change over time as well. If you’ve been living in Flood Zone AE, the area could be reclassified if it does not flood there for 100 years. Likewise, another area designated under another flood zone may be reclassified later to Flood Zone AE shaded.

Does Living in Flood Zone AE Matter?

Besides worrying about the potential damage caused by flooding, if you live in or near a Flood Zone AE, knowing that you do matters for several more reasons:

  • Flood risk – As the flood risk is high, read the section above on ‘Risk of Flooding in Flood Zone AE.’
  • Flood preparation – As the flood risk is high, you should be prepared for the eventuality.
  • Flood insurance – Living in Flood Zone AE means your location is inside an SFHA, which affects your home insurance. Flood insurance purchase is mandatory. Be aware that flood insurance may not cover your personal belongings stored below the BFE.
  • Elevation certificate – If you don’t live in Flood Zone AE but live very close to one, you could still be at risk, and your insurance provider may require an elevation certificate. The elevation certificate will help your property be appropriately priced if you live within this zone.

Useful Links

To know which flood zone your area is in, enter your location or coordinates on FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center website.

Take a look at some of our related articles below.


[1] FEMA. Flood zones. Retrieved from https://www.fema.gov/glossary/flood-zones. 2020.

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