Check out the answers to some common questions about flood insurance. Answers all come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
I Don’t Have Flood Insurance – Why Do I Need It?
- Floods are the nation’s most common and costly natural disaster and cause millions of dollars in damage every year. Floods cost America, on average, $8.2 billion each year (according to 2015 data). Recovering from just one inch of water inside your building can cost about $27,000.
- Homeowners and renters insurance do not typically cover flood damage.
- Floods can happen anywhere – More than 20% of flood claims come from properties outside the high risk flood zone.
- Flood insurance can pay regardless of whether or not there is a Presidential Disaster Declaration.
- Most federal disaster assistance comes in the form of low-interest disaster loans from U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and you have to pay them back. FEMA offers disaster grants that don’t need to be paid back, but this amount is often much less than what is needed to recover. A claim against your flood insurance policy could, and often does, provide more funds for recovery than those you could qualify for from FEMA or SBA – and you don’t have to pay the money back.
- You may be required to have flood insurance if you have a mortgaged property located in an area at high risk of flooding. Even if your property is not in a high risk flood area, your mortgage lender may still require you to have flood insurance.
How Can I Buy Flood Insurance?
You can only purchase flood insurance through an insurance agent or an insurer participating in the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program). If your agent does not sell flood insurance, you can call the NFIP Referral Call Center at 1-800-427-4661 to request an agent referral.
What Is Covered?
Talk to your licensed agent about what is and isn’t covered by your policy.
- The cause of flooding matters. Damage caused by a sewer backup is only covered by flood insurance if it’s a direct result of flooding; the damage is not covered if the backup is caused by some other problem.
- Coverage for your building and contents. Contents and building coverage are purchased separately (for the Preferred Risk Policy, there’s an option for combination coverage for both contents and building coverage), but there are always separate deductibles. Unless you have contents coverage, your flood-damaged contents are not covered by your NFIP flood insurance policy.
It’s a good idea to purchase coverage for both your building (the structure) and its contents.
Covered Building Property:
- The electrical and plumbing systems
- Furnaces, water heaters, heat pumps, and sump pumps
- Refrigerators, cooking stoves, and built-in appliances such as dishwashers
- Permanently installed carpeting over an unfinished floor
- Permanently installed paneling, wallboard, bookcases, and cabinets. The damage must be directly caused by flood water. Cabinets that were not damaged by flood water are not covered, even if they match cabinets that were damaged by flood water
- Window blinds
- Foundation walls, anchorage systems, and staircases attached to the building. There is an exclusion for “loss caused directly by earth movement even if the earth movement is caused by flood”
- A detached garage, used for limited storage or parking. Up to 10% of the building coverage limit can be used, but will reduce the total amount of building coverage available
- Cisterns and the water in them
- Fuel tanks and the fuel in them, solar energy equipment, and well water tanks and pumps
Covered Personal Property – Contents (If you have this coverage on your policy):
- Personal contents property
- Personal belongings such as clothing, furniture and electronic equipment
- Portable and window air-conditioners
- Portable microwave ovens and portable dishwashers
- Carpets that are not included in building coverage
- Clothing washers and dryers
- Food freezers and the food in them (but not refrigerators; those are covered under Building coverage)
- Certain valuable items such as original artwork and furs (up to $2,500)
Is There a 30-Day Waiting Period?
Typically, there’s a 30-Day waiting period from date of purchase until your policy goes into effect. Here are the exceptions:
- If the building is newly designated in the high-risk Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and you purchase flood insurance coverage for it within the 13-month period following a map revision, there is a 1-day waiting period.
- If you purchase flood insurance in connection with making, increasing, extending, or renewing your mortgage loan, there is no waiting period.
- If you select additional insurance as an option on your insurance policy renewal bill, there is no waiting period.
- If a property affected by flooding on burned federal land and the policy is purchased within 60 days of the fire-containment date, there may be no waiting period. Waiving of the waiting period is determined at the time of the claim.
What Should I Know And Do Before, During and After a Flood?
Protecting yourself today means preparing your home or workplace, collecting sources of information, developing an emergency communications plan and knowing what to do when a flood is approaching your home or business.
Things to Know and Do Now:
- Stay Informed: Learn things you can do now to stay safe from flooding due to large storms like hurricanes. It’s important to stay informed about what is happening with the storm as it approaches and always follow the instructions of local emergency management officials.
- Take Photos: If you have contents coverage on your flood insurance policy and you haven’t already done so, take photos of clothing, flooring, light fixtures, appliances, furniture, etc. – anything that could be damaged by the flood. Having this can help if you end up filing a flood insurance claim later. If you’re not sure what your flood insurance policy covers, call your insurance agent.
- Reduce Flooding:
- Make sure your sump pump is working. Then, install a battery-operated backup in case of power failure.
- Install a water alarm to let you know if water is accumulating in your basement.
- Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
- Anchor any fuel tanks.
- Move furniture, valuables and important documents to a safe place.
- Protect Valuable Documents: Store copies of irreplaceable documents (such as birth certificates, passports, insurance documents, deeds, etc.) in a safe, dry place. It can also be a good idea to photograph these documents and store the images in a safe place too.
- Prepare your family: Visit Ready.gov for a complete disaster supply checklist, and to find out how to prepare for and what to do during a power outage.
- Be Ready to Evacuate: Plan and practice a flood evacuation route. Ask someone out of state to be your “family contact” in an emergency, and make sure everyone knows the contact’s address and phone number.