March 21, 2013
Flooding strikes countless unprepared Americans each year. Unlike fire, wind, hail, or most other perils, flood damage is not covered by a homeowner’s policy. An uninsured flood loss can undo a lifetime’s worth of work and create a mountain of bills. Fortunately, a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policy provides defense against such losses and can ensure that a flood doesn’t bring financial ruin.
Flooding can happen at any time and in nearly any location. While some areas may be more likely to flood – especially coastal or riverine areas – history shows that almost no place is safe from flooding. Flooding can have many causes: a quick heavy rainfall or rapid snowmelt can cause flash flooding, a blocked culvert or storm sewer drain can create flooding in a city neighborhood, or prolonged wet weather can swell streams and rivers. Even dry conditions can pose a threat, because little rainfall in wildfire burn areas or drought stricken regions can create flash flooding when soils can’t absorb even a little water.
“Flooding can, and does happen in any area, that’s why I encourage everyone to consider getting flood insurance” said FEMA Region III Administrator MaryAnn Tierney. “Almost 20% of NFIP claims happen outside of the high-risk areas, so make sure flooding doesn’t wipe you out and insure yourself.”
Flood insurance is easy to get, you just have to live in a participating community (which might be a county or other jurisdiction for those living in unincorporated areas). That’s right; you don’t need to live in a floodplain to purchase a policy. In fact, if you live outside a floodplain you may be eligible for a preferred risk policy that has a much lower premium than for a policy in a higher flood risk area. In most cases you can purchase an NFIP policy with the insurance agent you already deal with for other insurance needs. When that isn’t possible, the NFIP can put you in touch with another agent that can get you a flood insurance policy. You can find out if your community participates in the NFIP by reviewing the Community Status Book, available at fema.gov/cis/nation.
One key difference of an NFIP policy from another insurance policy is the 30 day waiting period prior to the policy going into effect. A policy should be viewed as protection against a continuing threat rather than a hedge against a singular event such as anticipated spring flooding or flooding following a wildfire.
The average cost of flood insurance is about $650 a year – less than $2 a day for financial protection from what could be devastating effects of a flood to a home or business. By buying a policy now, or keeping your existing policy, you have peace of mind. As with any insurance, be sure to talk with your agent about the specifics of your policy – how much coverage you need, coverage of contents as well as structure and any other questions you might have.
Find out more about your risk and flood insurance at floodsmart.gov. To purchase flood insurance or find an agent, call 1-800-427-2419.