TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2015
Floods are No. 1 disaster in U.S.
Many people don’t realize the floods are the number one disaster in the U.S. and the cost of recovery grows every year. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the average flood claim from 2008 to 2012 was $42,000. In 2012, the average flood insurance policy cost $650 per year. In 2014, average claims paid ranged from a low of $10,476 to a high of $42,275.
Hurricane season doesn’t start until June 1, and even though a quiet season is forecast, heavy rains across the Midwest and South are already causing flooding problems. Here are 5 things you should know about flood insurance and preparing for flooding disasters.
1. Flood risk areas
Flood hazard areas are identified by the flood zones. There are 100 year flood zones like zones AE and A considered special hazard zones. Floods can occur in any flood zone including low risk zones like zone X.
Lenders believe that residents who live in a high-risk flood area have a one in four chance of flooding during the term of their 30-year mortgage and that’s why flood insurance is required by lenders. Homes in moderate and low risk areas that have mortgages are typically not required to have flood insurance.
2. What does flood insurance cover?
Flood insurance covers both the building and contents inside, but it doesn’t cover the land on which the dwelling is located. There may be limited coverage for basements, crawlspaces, lower floors and enclosed floors of elevated buildings.
Dwelling coverage will cover property up to $250,000 and contents coverage insures up to $100,000 of personal property. The NFIP recommends purchasing both types of coverage since homeowners insurance will not cover losses attributed to flooding. Flood insurance does not pay more than the policy limit for any losses. Like other insurance policies, purchasers must determine their deductibles for their property and contents coverage, which will affect their rate.
Building coverage covers:
- The building and its foundation
- The electrical and plumbing systems
- Major systems like central air conditioning equipment, furnaces and the hot water heater
- Some appliances such as refrigerators, cooking stoves and built-in appliances like dishwashers
- Permanently installed carpeting over an unfinished floor (e.g., wood, cement)
- Window blinds
- Permanently installed paneling, wallboard, bookcases and cabinets
- A detached garage (up to 10% of building property coverage)
Coverage for contents includes:
- Clothing, furniture and electronic equipment
- Portable and window air conditioners
- Portable appliances such as microwaves and dishwashers
- Carpeting that is not covered under the building coverage
- Clothes washers and dryers
- Food freezers and the food in them
- Certain valuable items such as original artwork and furs (up to $2,500)
3. What flood insurance doesn’t cover
There are a number of damages and expenses a flood insurance policy will not cover. These include:
- Currency, precious metals and valuable papers like stock certificates
- Damage caused by moisture, mildew or mold that could have been prevented by the homeowner or renter
- Property and items outside of the dwelling such as trees, plants, wells, septic systems, walkways, decks, patios, fences, hot tubs, seawalls and swimming pools
- Financial losses due to business interruption or loss of use of the insured property
- Most self-propelled vehicles – e.g., cars, motorcycles, four-wheelers, etc.
4. Who should be insured?
Anyone who lives in a building located in a NFIP community should have flood insurance whether they are an owner or renter.
Flood insurance is available for individuals who live on a floodplain or in a high-risk area, even if the property has been flooded before. A number of factors will affect the rates such as the type of building, contents, whether or not the property has a basement, if all of the contents are located above ground level, the building construction, the property’s elevation and where the physical property is located (in a high-risk or low-risk area).
5. Preparation tips
While most flooding disasters will come with some warning, there are steps that homeowners can take to prepare their properties well before an event occurs or even to prevent minor flooding mishaps.
Start with an inspection of inside and outside spaces:
- Make sure that gutters and downspouts are clear of debris and drain away from the structure.
- Landscaping should not allow water to collect next to the foundation of the building. Remove any damaged or low-hanging branches.
- Check low-lying areas that are vulnerable to water and ensure that they drain away from any basements or foundations.
- Walk through the basement to see what furniture, photos, electronics or other contents could be compromised or damaged during any flooding, and move them to a higher location or place them in protective, waterproof containers.
- Do a full inventory of the home and contents – Going room by room with a video camera and taking photos with a digital camera provides a quick inventory of collectibles, works of art, antiques and other irreplaceable items. The inventory should be stored somewhere other than the home or at least uploaded to the cloud.
Paperwork and preparations:
- Collect insurance policies pertaining to the home and be familiar with what they do and do not cover.
- Ask your insurance agent to do a review of policy limits and exclusions so you know what’s covered.
- Prepare supplies in case of a power outage– stock up on essentials like batteries, bottled water, canned goods, flashlights, etc.
- Have a checklist of items to grab if you only have seconds to prepare – e.g., purse, phone, laptop, medications
Taking these steps ahead of time, preparing for a variety of disasters and thinking through what to do and where to go will help save precious time if an unexpected emergency or disaster does occur. Reviewing insurance coverages and reducing the risk where possible will also make the recovery a little easier.
Suzanne Brown Insurance Agency
A Texas Independent Insurance Agency with over 40 insurance carriers
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