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Preparing for a Flood

Do you need flood insurance?

Understanding Flood Insurance

In general, flood insurance is only available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). A few private insurers offer excess flood insurance.

According to FEMA, floods, including inland flooding, flash floods and seasonal storms, occur in every region of the United States and 90 percent of all natural disasters in the U.S. involve some type of flooding. Even if you do not live in a high-risk area, it is worth looking into flood insurance as more than 20 percent of all flood insurance claims are filed in low-to-moderate flood-risk areas.

Some Facts about Flood Insurance

  • Standard homeowners and renters insurance does not cover flood damage: Flood damage is excluded under standard homeowner’s policies, although it is covered under the comprehensive section of a standard auto insurance policy. Only a flood insurance policy, available to homeowners and renters through the federal government, will cover flood-related losses.

  • Flood insurance is easy to purchase: Federal flood insurance policies can be purchased directly from an insurance agent or a company representative, and are available to communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. Nearly 100 insurance companies write and service NFIP policies. In order to find an agent or company servicing your area, visit

  • FloodSmart.gov or call (888) 379-9531. Flood insurance is available on a replacement cost basis for the structure of the home and on an actual cash value basis for personal property.

  • Flood insurance is affordable: The annual premium for a residential NFIP policy starts at $112 per year, according to FEMA, and increases according to the level of flood risk and amount of coverage needed. The maximum coverage amount is $250,000 for the structure of the home and $100,000 for the contents of the home.

  • There is a 30-day waiting period before a flood insurance policy takes effect, so don’t wait until the last minute to purchase it.

  • It is easy to assess your flood risk: More than 20,000 communities in all 50 U.S. states and territories voluntarily participate in the NFIP, encompassing nearly all properties in the nation’s high-risk flood zones. Enter your address in the FloodSmart Tool to determine your level of flood risk.

  • Excess flood insurance policies add an extra layer of coverage: A growing number of private insurers have begun offering excess flood policies, intended to provide water damage protection to homeowners over and above the coverage provided by the NFIP policies.

  • Without insurance, relief from floods primarily comes in the form of loans: If your community is declared a disaster area, no-interest or low-interest loans are usually made available by the federal government as part of the recovery effort. These loans are just that—loans—and must be paid back. Obtaining a flood insurance policy is the only way to protect yourself fully from the cost of flooding.

In case of Flood: Protecting You and Your Family

Watches / warnings:

  • Flood watches are issued when rain is heavy enough to cause rivers to overflow.
  • Flood warnings describe the severity of the situation and indicate when and where the flood will begin.
  • Flash flood watches are issued when heavy rain is occurring or is expected to occur.
  • Flash flood warnings are issued when flooding is occurring suddenly. In the event of flash flooding, move immediately to high ground.
  • Educate your family and yourself about your community's flood warnings.

Evacuation:

  • Plan an evacuation route.
  • Develop a plan for you and your family to communicate if you are separated when a flood comes.

Protecting Your Property

  • If you are moving into a new home, apartment or business location, make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. Your bank, local officials or insurance representative can inform you if your location is at risk of flooding.
  • Flood insurance is excluded under homeowners and renters policies, but it is covered under the comprehensive section of standard automobile insurance policies and some coverage is available for floods under special commercial insurance policies.
  • Flood insurance for homeowners, renters and businesses is administered through the federal government and can be purchased from an insurance agent or company under contract with the Federal Insurance Administration (FIA), part of the
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Flood insurance is only available where the local government has adopted adequate flood plain management regulations under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Most communities participate in the program.
  • Flood insurance covers direct physical losses from floods and losses resulting from flood-related erosion caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels and accompanied by a severe storm, flash flood, abnormal tide surge or a similar situation which results in flooding. Flood insurance also may cover mudslides.
  • Coverage for the structure and contents of the home are sold separately. Buildings are covered for replacement cost but content coverage is available on an actual cash value basis only
  • Maintain a supply of emergency materials: plywood, plastic sheeting, nails, hammer, shovels, sandbags, flashlight, batteries, battery-operated radio, first aid kit, medication, sturdy shoes, emergency food and water, cash and credit cards.
  • Install a system to prevent flood water from backing up in sewer drains.
  • Locate switches to turn off gas, electricity and water.
  • Make an inventory of your possessions and store it off the premises. If your stuff is damaged, this list will help facilitate the claim filing process.

Recovering from a Flood: Protecting You and Your Family

  • Do not enter your home if flood waters are over the first floor.
  • Flood waters may bring poisonous snakes into your home. When walking through your home wear thick shoes and be alert
  • Do not consume food that has come in contact with flood waters.
  • Beware of fire hazards such as broken gas lines, flooded electrical circuits and flammable or explosive materials coming from upstream.

Protecting your property

  • Inspect your home for damage, especially for cracks in foundations.
  • If your basement has flooded, do not pump it out all at once. Remove about one-third of the water per day. The wet ground surrounding your basement may cause the floors to buckle and the walls to collapse.
  • Water may have weakened walls and ceilings. Be on the lookout for falling walls and plaster.
  • Make temporary repairs. Keep all receipts done for work on your property.
  • Notify your insurance agent or company representative as soon as possible. If you have vacated the premises, make sure your representative knows where to contact you.
  • Take pictures of damaged property and keep notes. Use pictures and inventory lists to help your insurance agent and adjuster assess the damages.
  • Don't be rushed into signing repair contracts. Deal with reputable contractors. If you're unsure about a contractor's credentials, contact your claims adjuster, Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce for referrals. Make sure the contractor you hire is experienced in repair work - not just new construction. Be sure of payment terms and consult your agent or adjuster before you sign any contracts.