Detailed Natural Hazard Descriptions

  • Special Flood Hazard Areas

    Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) are designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and are also called FEMA Flood Zones. Land located in such areas is prone to flooding, either partially or completely, in any given year. Properties in flood zones must have adequate flood insurance to guard against the so-called 100-year flood. This designation is somewhat misleading, as the 100-year flood has a one in four chance of occurring during a thirty year mortgage. Land outside of a flood zone may still be in danger of severe flooding, so lenders have the right to require owners to purchase flood insurance, even if the property is not within the boundaries of the Special Flood Hazard Area. For more information contact FEMA:

    FEMA Documents Available:

    Mandatory Purchase of Flood Insurance Guidelines: The Mandatory Purchase of Flood Insurance Guidelines booklet provides guidance to the federally regulated lending industry for implementing the mandatory purchase provisions of the National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994 and other key legislation that governs the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This 2007 edition of the guidelines clarifies some of the complex issues that have arisen since the 1999 edition and incorporates industry best practices and lessons learned for implementing statutory requirements. Mandatory Purchase of Flood Insurance Guidelines

    MT-EZ Form: Application Form for Single Residential Lot or Structure Amendments to National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Maps This form should be used by an individual property owner to request that the Federal Emergency Management Agency remove the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) designation from a single structure or a legally recorded parcel of land or portion thereof by issuing a Letter of Map Amendment. The SFHA is the area, shown on a NFIP map that will be inundated by the flood having a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year (also known as the base, or 100-year, flood). MT-EZ: Application Form for Single Residential Lot or Structure Amendments to National Flood Insurance Program Maps

    MT-1: The application forms and instructions included in the MT-1 package were designed to assist requesters (community officials, individual property owners, and others) in gathering the information that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) needs to determine whether property (i.e., parcel[s] of land, structure[s]) is likely to be flooded during the flood event that has a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year. The 1-percent-annual-chance flood is often referred to as the base, or 100-year flood. The area flooded by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood is called the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). The mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) apply to insurable structures in the SFHA shown on an effective NFIP map. MT-1 Application Forms and Instructions for Conditional and Final Letters of Map Amendment and Letters of Map Revision Based on Fill

    The Standard Flood Determination Form: Download PDF format: Standard Flood Hazard Determination Form

    Elevation Certificate: The Elevation Certificate is an important administrative tool of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It is to be used to provide elevation information necessary to ensure compliance with community floodplain management ordinances, to determine the proper insurance premium rate, and to support a request for a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) or Letter of Map Revision based on fill (LOMR-F). The Elevation Certificate is required in order to properly rate post-FIRM buildings. The expiration date for this form is March 31, 2012. Download PDF format: Form and Instructions for FEMA Elevation Certificate

  • Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones & Wildland Fire Areas

    Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones (VHFHSZ) are designated by the California Director of Forestry and Fire Prevention. Following the devastating firestorms in the Oakland-Berkeley Hills in 1991, the California Legislature ordered the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) to identify fire hazard zones to reduce the possibility of uncontrolled fires. Properties in designated fire hazard zones are considered not to be a state fire responsibility. Notices must be posted in various county offices explaining how to find maps identifying these zones. Local agencies must designate by ordinance Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones within their jurisdictions unless they adopt equivalent or more restrictive measures of their own. For more information, see Public Resources Code ?125, et seq.

    CAL FIRE is in the process of gathering current data for an updated mapping project. This is a massive project requiring policy and procedure staff, prevention and planning staff, and the technical GIS skills of CAL FIRE’s Fire and Resource Assessment Program.

    Some Countys and Cities have their own ordinances, for example the City of Los Angeles establsihed its own Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone in 1999 and replaced the older “Mountain Fire District?and “Buffer Zone.?The “Zone?was carefully determined according to California State Law. This zone requires brush clearance as well as adding further criteria for maintenance of landscape vegetation in such a condition as not to provide an available fuel supply to augment the spread or intensity of a fire. These criteria included, but were not limited to eucalyptus, acacia, palm, pampas grass, and conifers such as cedar, cypress, fir, juniper, and pine. In February of 1999 section 57.21.07 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code was again amended, this time establishing a fee for inspections of properties in the City of Los Angeles to determine if a violation of this section exists. It is important to check with your local fire agency for requirements in your area. See: and California Director of Forestry and Fire Prevention

    Wildland Fire Areas

    Wildland Fire Areas are identified by the State Board of Forestry, and are assigned to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for primary wildland fire suppression. These areas, known as State Responsibility Areas (SRA) are at significant risk of forest, brush and wildland fires. Sellers are required to inform all potential buyers of these considerable risks. Buyers must also be informed that construction, remodeling, and landscaping of properties in state responsibility areas can be severely restricted because of fire danger. Notices must be posted in various county offices explaining how to find maps identifying these zones.

    The existing FHSZ maps are being updated pursuant to Public Resources Code Sections 4201 – 4204 and Government Code Sections 51175 – 51189. CAL FIRE completed the public hearings for the adoption of Fire Hazard Severity Zones (FHSZ) for those areas of California where the state has fiscal responsibility for wildland fire protection, known as State Responsibility Areas (SRA). CAL FIRE’s intent is to complete the SRA FHSZ adoption by December, 2007.

    Wildland-Urban Interface Building Code Information

    On September 20, 2005, the California Building Standards Commission approved the Office of the State Fire Marshal’s emergency regulations amending the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 24, Part 2, known as the 2007 California Building Code (CBC).

    “701A.3.2 New Buildings Located in Any Fire Hazard Severity Zone” New buildings located in any Fire Hazard Severity Zone within State Responsibility Areas, any Local Agency Very-High Fire Hazard Severity Zone, or any Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Area designated by the enforcing agency for which an application for a building permit is submitted on or after January 1, 2008, shall comply with all sections of this chapter. For more info go to: California Department of Forestry(Wildland Hazard/Building Codes)

    For definitions and more information See: State Board of Forestry and March 2010 California Fire Plan (Current).

  • Earthquake Fault Zones & Seismic Hazard Zones

    Earthquake Fault Zones are mapped by the California Division of Mines and Geology. These maps detail surface traces of known active faults. Only active faults identified to date are required to be shown on the maps. Fault zones are generally designated to be 660 feet on either side of the fault trace. Development and construction in these zones are controlled by the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act of 1994.

    The main purpose of the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act is to prevent the construction of buildings used for human occupancy on the surface trace of active faults. This Act only addresses the hazard of surface fault rupture and is not directed toward other earthquake hazards. The Seismic Hazards Mapping Act, passed in 1990, addresses non-surface fault rupture earthquake hazards, including liquefaction and seismically induced landslides.

    The law requires the State Geologist to establish regulatory zones (known as Earthquake Fault Zones) around the surface traces of active faults and to issue appropriate maps. The maps are distributed to all affected cities, counties, and state agencies for their use in planning and controlling new or renewed construction. Local agencies must regulate most development projects within the zones. Projects include all land divisions and most structures for human occupancy. Single family wood-frame and steel-frame dwellings up to two stories that are not part of a development of four units or more are exempt. However, local agencies can be more restrictive than state law requires.

    Before a project permit can be issued, cities and counties must require a geologic investigation to demonstrate that proposed buildings will not be constructed across active faults. An evaluation and written report of a specific site must be prepared by a licensed geologist. If an active fault is found, a structure for human occupancy cannot be placed over the trace of the fault and must be set back from the fault (generally 50 feet).

    Fault rupture almost always follows preexisting faults, which are zones of weakness. Rupture may occur suddenly during an earthquake or slowly in the form of fault creep. Sudden displacements are more damaging to structures because they are accompanied by shaking.

    If a property is located in an Earthquake Fault Zone, this fact must be disclosed to a potential buyer before the sales process is complete. The real estate agent is legally bound to present this information to the buyer. When no Realtor is involved, the seller must inform the buyer directly. This is usually done at the time an offer is made or accepted.

    For more information, contact California Department of Conservation or California Geological Surveyin Sacramento.

    Seismic Hazard Zones

    Similar to the mapping of Earthquake Fault Zones, Seismic Hazard Zone maps are also compiled by the California Division of Mines and Geology. Areas identified on these maps are subject to earthquake induced landslides, strong ground shaking and possible liquefaction where the soil acts like a liquid following a severe earthquake. Counties and cities may require stricter building standards in such areas. For online information about mapped areas, see Seismic Shaking Hazard Assessment

    Other Seismic related sites: United States Geological Survey – Earthquake Hazards Program


    Have you ever been to the beach and the sand seems solid but when you step on it or tap it the water comes to the surface? That is Liquefaction! Liquefaction and related phenomena have been responsible for tremendous amounts of damage in historical earthquakes around the world. Liquefaction occurs in saturated soils, that is, soils in which the space between individual particles is completely filled with water. This water exerts a pressure on the soil particles that influences how tightly the particles themselves are pressed together. Prior to an earthquake, the water pressure is relatively low. However, earthquake shaking can cause the water pressure to increase to the point where the soil particles can readily move with respect to each other, compressing and forcing the water to the surface. When liquefaction occurs, the strength of the soil decreases and, the ability of a soil deposit to support foundations for buildings and bridges is reduced by the water and moisture rising to the surface.

    Liquefaction Info Site – University of Washington The California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN) Southern California Seismic Network Southern California Earthquake Data Center

    Landslides The term “landslide” describes a wide variety of processes that result in the downward and outward movement of slope-forming materials including rock, soil, artificial fill, or a combination of these. The materials may move by falling, toppling, sliding, spreading, or flowing. Although there are multiple types of causes of landslides, the three that cause most of the damaging landslides around the world are the following:

    Landslides and Water Slope saturation by water is a primary cause of landslides. This effect can occur in the form of intense rainfall, snowmelt, changes in ground-water levels, and water-level changes along coastlines, earth dams, and the banks of lakes, reservoirs, canals, and rivers. Land-sliding and flooding are closely allied because both are related to precipitation, runoff, and the saturation of ground by water. In addition, debris flows and mudflows usually occur in small, steep stream channels and often are mistaken for floods; in fact, these two events often occur simultaneously in the same area. Landslides can cause flooding by forming landslide dams that block valleys and stream channels, allowing large amounts of water to back up. This causes backwater flooding and, if the dam fails, subsequent downstream flooding. Also, solid landslide debris can “bulk” or add volume and density to otherwise normal streamflow or cause channel blockages and diversions creating flood conditions or localized erosion. Landslides can also cause overtopping of reservoirs and/or reduced capacity of reservoirs to store water.

    Landslides and Seismic Activity Many mountainous areas that are vulnerable to landslides have also experienced at least moderate rates of earthquake occurrence in recorded times. The occurrence of earthquakes in steep landslide-prone areas greatly increases the likelihood that landslides will occur, due to ground shaking alone or shaking-caused dilation of soil materials, which allows rapid infiltration of water. The 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake caused widespread land-sliding and other ground failure, which caused most of the monetary loss due to the earthquake. Other areas of the United States, such as California and the Puget Sound region in Washington, have experienced slides, lateral spreading, and other types of ground failure due to moderate to large earthquakes. Widespread rockfalls also are caused by loosening of rocks as a result of ground shaking. Worldwide, landslides caused by earthquakes kill people and damage structures at higher rates than in the United States

    Landslides and Volcanic Activity Landslides due to volcanic activity are some of the most devastating types. Volcanic lava may melt snow at a rapid rate, causing a deluge of rock, soil, ash, and water that accelerates rapidly on the steep slopes of volcanoes, devastating anything in its path. These volcanic debris flows (also known as lahars) reach great distances, once they leave the flanks of the volcano, and can damage structures in flat areas surrounding the volcanoes. The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, in Washington triggered a massive landslide on the north flank of the volcano, the largest landslide in recorded times. For online information about landslides and landslide mitigation, see: Landslide Types and processes Or “Landslide 101”

  • Radon

    Radon is defined by the Department of Health Services (DHS) as a colorless, odorless, and tasteless radioactive gas produced by the decay of trace amounts of uranium occurring naturally in soils. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that all homes be tested for radon. The average concentration inside American homes is approximately 1.3 picocuries per liter. The average outdoor concentration is about 0.4 picocuries per liter. The EPA recommends avoiding long-term exposure to any level above 4.0 picocuries per liter because radon exposure can cause lung cancer. The Department of Health Services database identifies areas prone to excessive indoor radon levels. Statistical information is provided by zip code and by county. If no indoor radon test data is available within a zip code, information for that area is omitted from the database.

    For more information go to: California Dept. of Conservation(Radon). Another good site shows radon testing by county and test kits. Also See Letters from the GeoAssurance President: Letter from the President Regarding Radon

    Other Radon Related Links: How to Install Radon Mitigation – with Host Kevin O’Connor, This Old House television A Citizen’s Guide to Radon – US EPA Guide to Protecting Yourself and Your Family From Radon

  • Commercial Industrial Zoning Disclosure

    California Residential Disclosure Law (section 1103, et seq. of the California Civil Code) requires a Seller to disclose to Buyer, Seller’s actual knowledge of any commercial or industrial use within one mile of the subject property. This disclosure identifies industrial use zones, from public records, within one mile of the subject property to help make that determination. Some Commercial / Industrial property may be subject to some of the annoyances or inconveniences associated with proximity to a commercial / Industrial building operations (for example: noise, vibration, traffic, or odors). Individual sensitivities to those annoyances can vary from person to person. You may wish to consider what, if any, are associated with the property before you complete your purchase and determine whether they are acceptable to you.

  • Military Ordnance Location & Formerly Used Defense

    Sellers of residential property are required to disclose actual knowledge they may have of any Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) within one mile of their property containing military ordnance. To aid in this disclosure we have identified all locatable FUDS, specified by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, as sites that have been used by the military and may contain military ordnance.

    The Department of Defense (DoD) is responsible for environmental restoration of properties that were formerly owned by, leased to or otherwise possessed by the United States and under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Defense. Such properties are known as Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS). The Army is the executive agent for the program and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages and directs the program’s administration. The scope and magnitude of the FUDS program are significant, with more than 9,900 properties identified for potential inclusion in the program. Information about the origin and extent of contamination, land transfer issues, past and present property ownership, and program policies must be evaluated before DoD considers a property eligible for Defense Environment Restoration Account (DERA) funding under the FUDS program. Environmental cleanup procedures at FUDS are similar to those at active DoD installations.

    UXO stands for unexploded ordnance. UXO result from our military’s use of munitions during live-fire training or testing. UXO are considered the most dangerous category of military munitions. Although the conditions that define military munitions as UXO are specific, the public should consider any munitions or suspect munitions it encounters as UXO and as extremely dangerous. By visiting this website and learning the 3Rs (Recognize, Retreat, Report), you have begun to protect yourself and family from the potential hazards associated with. For Additional information, visit: Denix(UXO Homepage).

  • Vicinity of Airport(s) & Airport Noise

    Notice of Airport in Vicinity

    If the Airport Influence Area is checked “yes?in the Summary, then the following statement applies. “This property is presently located in the vicinity of an airport, within what is known as an airport influence area. For that reason, the property may be subject to some of the annoyances or inconveniences associated with proximity to airport operations (for example: noise, vibration, or odors). Individual sensitivities to those annoyances can vary from person to person. You may wish to consider what airport annoyances, if any, are associated with the property before you complete your purchase and determine whether they are acceptable to you.?

    Airport Noise

    Contour maps may be provided by airports indicating areas where noise levels may exceed 65 decibels, the sound level of a busy street.

  • Farmland

    The intent of AB 2881 is to ensure that anyone purchasing real estate within one mile of farmland is made aware of the state’s right-to-farm laws. Purchasers are often unaware that the State of California has laws to protect a farmer’s right to perform customary farming activities, some of which are dirty, noisy, or lead to unpleasant odors. In addition there are some aspects of farming operations can extend beyond a farm’s boundaries, through water runoff and irrigation ditches, for example. Shown on the Natural Hazard Zone Map, the light-green zone indicates a Grazing Land; the blue zone indicates a Unique farmland; the yellow zone indicates a Farmland of Statewide Importance area; the brown zone indicates a Farmland of Local Importance area; the green zone indicates a Prime farmland and the red zone indicates a Confined Animal Agriculture area.

  • Local Hazard Disclosures

    State law allows for local agencies to require disclosure of hazards in their area. The first county to do so was Santa Clara which required disclosure of Fault Zones Liquefaction Zones, Slide zones, and Special Flood Zones within the county. The City of San Jose also required disclosure by local ordinance of slide zones within the municipality.

    To have more precise information in order to make a more informed decision, buyers should be provided with local-level natural hazards as well as the statutory disclosures. Cities and Counties that have developed their own safety element or other hazard maps may use different sources than the State. Therefore, a site considered as a hazard by one source, may not be included as a hazard by another source. Maps prepared by the local jurisdiction may be used making decisions regarding new or additional construction. If the property which is the subject of this report, is in a locally mapped hazard zone or if information of concern exists in another source, the property may require a geologic or other study prior to any new or additional construction. Additional natural hazards may exist which are not in this report. To investigate other sources of natural hazard information that may be available and used at the local level, contact the local agency Planning, Engineering or Building Departments.

    Examples of Local Natural Hazards include: Landslide and Slope Instability, Local Fire Zones, Coastal Bluffs, Subsidence ?Unstable Soil, Methane, Local Fault Hazards to name a few.

  • Advisory Disclosures

    Molds Advisory

    Molds and fungi are naturally occurring plants which may cause allergic reactions, respiratory problems and rashes, as well as other responses from sensitive people. Molds may be present inside and outside residential properties, and may damage property and possessions. There are inspection companies who may be retained to determine whether and to what extent molds and fungi may be present. All parties are advised to seek professional advice on the presence and clean-up of such material. More information may be found on the EPA’s website(The key to mold control).

    Registered Sex Offender Database (“Megan’s Law”) Advisory

    California law allows the public to access the database containing detailed information concerning registered sex offenders, including physical descriptions, name(s), locations and nature of the offense(s). The California Department of Justice, (DOJ), maintains a website at Local police and sheriffs?offices may be contacted for neighborhood information and a CD-ROM may be available. The DOJ has a Registered Sex Offender Hotline (900) 448-3000 for further information.

    Methamphetamine Advisory

    The State of California passed the Methamphetamine Contaminated Property Cleanup Act of 2005 which became effective January 1, 2006.This Act, among other requirements, authorizes the imposition of a civil penalty upon a property owner who does not provide notice or disclosure required by the act, or upon a person who violates an order issued by the local health officer prohibiting the use or occupancy of a property contaminated by a methamphetamine laboratory activity. The property owner is also liable for the costs for testing, remediating, and administering enforcement and oversight upon a property that receives an order. In addition, it authorizes a local government to impose a nuisance abatement lien if the property owner fails to pay for the costs of remediation. More information may be found at the California DTSC(Methamphetamine Drug Lab Cleanup Program).

    Oil and Gas Well Advisory

    The production of oil and gas is an essential part of California’s economy. Oil and gas are by far the largest sources of energy found and used in California. In1980, oil and gas provided about 91 percent of the total energy consumed in California. The California petroleum industry began in the 1860s.Since then, About 200,000 wells have been drilled in the search for oil, gas, and geothermal resources. About 95,000 production and injection wells are in use today. As the industry grew, so did the recognition that controls were necessary to protect the environment and the oil, gas, and geothermal resources. Since the 1980’s, construction-site projects in have been reviewed under the Construction-Site Plan Review Program of the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (division). The program is an integral part of building and safety procedures for urban development of oilfield properties. Problems from this encroachment may include methane gas and oil seepage, contaminated soils, leaking wells, and wells not plugged and abandoned to current standards. Mitigation costs to develop oilfield properties can be high. Also, owners of homes who have older improperly abandoned wells on their property could find it necessary to re-abandon them to current standards. For example, a property may require $50,000 or more to remove soil contaminated with hydrocarbons and $50,000 to $150,000 or more to plug and abandon an oil well to current standards. Note: Oil and Gas Well locations within 1/4 mile of Property are shown on maps in Geoassurance Environmental Disclosure Reports, with detailed maps and information when they are “Close to/or On the Subject Property.

    For more information go to: Read About Environmental Disclosure

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