It’s flood season in much of the country – but Americans remain woefully unprepared. One California study – surveying residents of a state that is historically vulnerable to flooding and landslides – found that less than 3 percent of residents and business owners own flood insurance.
In some cases, consumers are under the misconception that standard homeowner and commercial property insurance policies cover risk from floods and mudslides. They do not.
Yet the vast majority of Americans also cannot afford to pay the risk out of pocket. The average flood damage claim, nationwide, between 2008 and 2012, is approximately $38,000 per household per incident, according to information from the National Flood Insurance Program.
What you can do:
Review your homeowners, renters or business insurance policies
Residents need to determine exactly what their policies cover and determine if flood insurance is a suitable option for them.
See if your home or structure is in a flood plain. Geologists have recently made some changes to flood zone maps, so if you haven’t checked recently, your property insurance agent can show you the official federal maps. But remember that even homes outside known flood hazard areas can get flooded.
Prepare an emergency evacuation kit. Many times areas have a lot of warning prior to a flood – but this isn’t always the case. Flash floods can occur surprisingly quickly, and your neighborhood could possibly be at risk from an event miles up river from you.
The federal government has published a recommended emergency supply list.
Inventory your property and document its value. This will go a long way to making sure any claims experience goes smoothly. Visit www.knowyourstuff.org for more information and a popular program to help make it easy to establish and maintain a property inventory.
Questions for your agent:
- Do I live in a designated flood zone?
- Is flood insurance mandatory?
- Does my lender require flood insurance?
- Am I eligible for a preferred rating on my flood policy?
- What damage to my home will be covered in the event of a flood?
- What damage to my home’s contents will be covered? Will I need to buy additional insurance to protect my home’s contents?
- Does my condo association maintain flood coverage? Do I need more?
- Is my neighborhood or community in the NFIP Community Ratings System?
- Am I covered for the current market value of my home? The book value of my home? Or for what it costs to rebuild it? How is that calculated?
- Is my home eligible for a discount?
- What is the cost?
- Who should I call if I want to file a claim?
- How do you handle renewals?
Some additional considerations:
You may need to get additional insurance to cover water damage that occurs due to high winds. This is especially true in coastal areas subject to hurricanes and tropical storms.
If you have received a federal disaster assistance loan, you may be required to maintain flood insurance coverage until the loan is paid off. Most lenders also require flood insurance on homes built within a flood hazard area for the duration of the loan.
Remember – flood insurance generally comes with a 30-day exclusion period. That is, policies don’t cover flood events within the first 30 days of purchasing a policy. You can’t wait for a bad weather forecast to get coverage in place. You must purchase your coverage before the crisis. Call ACBI with any questions or if you need to purchase Flood Insurance.