Homeowners and businesses are vulnerable to any kind of disaster, but especially severe weather events. During the month of August, a time that the Gulf South has seen some of our most harrowing storms and floods, we will present our Disaster Preparedness and Recovery series. Follow along each week as we discuss strategies for keeping your home and business safe and insights on how to recover when disaster strikes. Our first installment, below, talks flood insurance basics and what to do before and after a flood occurs.
The Louisiana floods of August 2016 rank as the 4th most significant flood event in US history. The devastation experienced by so many was unexpected, and flood insurance became one of the most discussed and necessary commodities. Unfortunately, many homeowners are still unfamiliar with flood insurance policies. Although we hope to never face a flood disaster again, it is important to be prepared in order to protect your home and your family.
In this blog, we discuss the basics of flood insurance acquired through the National Flood Insurance Program, along with outlining a few helpful steps for what to do before and after a flood.
Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States. In fact, FEMA reports that 90% of all natural disasters in the United States involve some type of flooding. There is no coverage for flooding in standard homeowners or renters policies.Instead, coverage is acquired through a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Despite efforts to publicize the need for this coverage, many people exposed to the risk of floods still fail to purchase flood insurance. The protection and safety of your family and property is paramount, so considering flood insurance is usually worth it. To foster a better understanding of this type of coverage, we’ve outlined some of flood insurance’s key points below.
- Flood insurance covers direct physical losses by flood and losses resulting from flood-related erosion (usually caused by prolonged rain, storm surge, levee dam failure, etc.)
- Standard homeowners policies do not cover flood damage. Only a flood insurance policy available through the federal government will cover flood-related losses.
- Flood insurance is affordable. The annual premium for a residential NFIP policy starts at $112 per year and increases according to the level of risk and coverage needed.
- Flood insurance is easy to obtain. Federal flood insurance policies can be obtained directly from an insurance agent or representative. These policies are available to all communities that participate in the NFIP.
- There is a waiting period: Typically, a policy does not take effect until 30 days after the purchase of flood insurance, so it is best to avoid waiting until the last minute to purchase it.
What to do Before a Flood
Don’t wait until waters are rising and flood threatens, take steps now to ensure maximum safety that will make your life easier when a flood occurs. Here are some action items to prepare your family and home for a flood:
For Your Home
- Make sure your property has adequate insurance coverage.
- Assess your home’s risk level through contacting your insurance agent or using the tools on fema.gov.
- Maintain a supply of emergency materials: flashlights, plywood, plastic sheeting, batteries, emergency food and water, etc.
- Install a system to prevent floodwater from backing up in sewer drains.
- Locate switches to turn off water, electricity, and gas.
- Make a home inventory listing of all your possessions to ease the process in the case of damage.
For Your Family
- Educate your family and yourself about the various flood watches and warnings.
- Plan an evacuation route and a communication plan in case you are separated in the event of a flood.
For Your Recovery
Proper preparation will make things much easier in the event that you have to file a claim due to flood damage. Consider the following:
- Check your policy, including the declarations page.
- Prepare lists and documentation
- Secure important papers
- Talk to your insurance agent
What to do After a Flood
After a flood, it is important to take the necessary steps in recovering your home, ensuring your family’s safety, and securing your coverage.
For Your Home
- Notify your insurance agent as soon as possible. Your agent will be ready to help you and guide you in the necessary steps.
- Inspect your home for damage once you can safely do so. Be wary of falling walls or plaster, as the water may have weakened walls and ceilings.
- Take photos of damaged property and keep notes of your findings. These photos, along with inventory lists created before the flood, can be helpful for your agent and adjuster in assessing the damage.
- Do not be rushed into signing repair contracts- take time to research reputable contractors who have solid credentials in repair work (not just new construction). You can consult you agent or adjuster before signing any contracts, or reach out to the Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce for referrals.
For Your Recovery
If you experience damage from a flood, the recovery process can seem daunting. If you’ve purchased a flood policy, filing a claim is your next step. The infographic below outlines the claim process. Of course, reaching out to your insurance agent is always a great first step for guidance and assurance.
Flood insurance can be the difference between recovering and being financially devastated. Consider this: the damage from just one inch of water can cost more than $20,000. With a flood insurance policy in place, you could potentially be protecting yourself from immense loss. At Lewis Mohr, we’re here to help you understand the flood insurance you’re purchasing, and we’re ready to be there for you when you need it most.
The following resources provide great tools for flood aid and information.
Find your community’s flood map at msc.fema.gov/portal/search
Begin applying for assistance at disasterassistance.gov