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The Forerunner Guide to Elevation Certificates

November 9, 2023
Susanna Pho, CFM

One of the most important tools that floodplain managers have to understand the flood risk for structures are Elevation Certificates (ECs). ECs are complicated documents that record built conditions and key elevation measurements related to flood risk. They are equal parts a compliance tool, an insurance document, and a planning asset.

We’re in a time where the landscape of flood risk is shifting at a progressively more rapid pace. Flood insurance is evolving and communities are increasingly adopting stricter standards to ensure community-wide safety. To keep up with these evolutions, the administrative tools that we use to document flood risk are also changing. FEMA releases a new version of the Elevation Certificate every few years. The 2026 Elevation Certificate went into effect on July 7, 2023, expanding the applications for permitting and insurance.

At Forerunner, we provide software that helps support floodplain management in a variety of ways. Through our experiences aiding municipalities around the country, we found ECs as a specific area of interest because they provide critical detail and often underutilized data. We conducted interviews with EC experts, EC novices, and a range of communities—small and large, inland and coastal—to put together this white paper, which synthesizes all that we know about Elevation Certificates, their challenges, and their potential.

We explain what they are, the role they play in compliance, and some of the most common mistakes that communities make. We also discuss how various communities around the country are beginning to unlock the potential of ECs to improve resilience. We hope our work will encourage conversations between communities about how to better manage—and make the most of—ECs and their valuable data.

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