It's only after a disaster strikes that many people learn the ins and outs of flood insurance. And by that time, it's too late.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) dictates flood zones and insurance premiums across the nation. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) administered through FEMA provide property owners and renters with financial protection against flooding.
Patch caught up with Susan Wilson, Chief of FEMA's Region IV Floodplain Management and Insurance branch, to get some important tips everyone should know about flood insurance.
- Are You Covered: Most homeowners, business owner’, and renters policies do not cover flooding, so a separate flood insurance policy is important protection against the financial devastation that flooding could cause. Even if flood insurance isn’t required on a building, it’s still an important consideration as anyone can be financially vulnerable to floods. It’s the nation’s most common and costly natural disaster.
- Know Your Zone: Everyone lives in a flood zone. Whether it’s a low, moderate or high-risk flood zone, the risk is still there. In fact, about 25 percent of flood insurance claims occur outside of the high risk flood zone.
- Property Rights: Flood insurance protects two types of insurable property: building and contents. The first covers your building, including its foundation plumbing, electrical work and flooring. The latter covers your possessions, including clothing, curtains, electronics, and portable air conditioners. The NFIP does not cover the land and other site improvements, such as landscaping, fencing, swimming pools and exterior lighting.
- Timing Is Important: Typically, there's a 30-day waiting period from date of purchase before a flood insurance policy goes into effect. Now is the best time to buy flood insurance, before the flood waters rise. Homeowners, business owners and renters can purchase flood insurance policies from state-licensed property and casualty insurance agents who they deal with for other property insurance needs. When that isn’t possible, visit the National Flood Insurance Program website at www.floodsmart.gov to locate an agent.
- Know The Difference: Flood insurance is different than Federal disaster assistance. Federal disaster assistance is only available when there is a Presidentially-declared disaster, and the majority of assistance is in the form a loan that must be repaid with interest. Flood insurance claims are paid even if a disaster is not declared by the President.
A few basics about the program:
- In 1968, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to provide property owners and renters with financial protection against flooding. The NFIP is a voluntary program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
- Flood insurance is available to homeowners, business owners and renters in any community that participates in the NFIP. Communities that participate in the program agree to adopt and enforce ordinances that meet or exceed FEMA requirements to reduce the risk of flooding.
- Flood insurance is sold and serviced by about 90 private insurance companies in nearly 22,000 communities that participate in the program nationwide. More than 450 communities participate in Florida.
- Flood insurance rates are set nationally and not for specific geographic locations. That means that two identically rated houses would have the same rate to establish their premium whether they were in Florida, Florida, or California. Costs will vary depending on how much insurance is purchased, what it covers and the property's flood risk.