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Are You Protected From The Next Disaster?

In July of 1993 almost no one in the Midwest expected flooding, until the rain started falling - and didn't stop. Rivers and streams, already swollen from heavy spring rains and snowmelt, rose rapidly to record flood levels. After two months, the Missouri and Mississippi rivers had surged through nine states, destroying homes, businesses and croplands in towns and cities across the Midwest. It was a summer no one in the Midwest will ever forget. The Great Flood of '93 was the worst in U.S. history, causing 48 deaths, and an estimated $10.5 billion in damage to 45,000 homes and $6.5 billion to crops.

Devastating floods occur throughout the U.S. every year. Overdevelopment and leveling of forests have reduced the land's natural ability to absorb excess water. So with little warning, heavy rains can bring disastrous floods - even if you don't live near a river or stream.

Flooding As A National Problem
Until the late 1960's, most property owners were unable to get insurance against flood damage. Private insurance firms, aware of the potential for catastrophic losses, were unwilling to assume the financial risk alone. This put the burden on taxpayers to provide costly disaster relief to a growing number of flood victims.

In 1968, Congress addressed this issue by creating the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This Federal program provided flood insurance at a reasonable cost in exchange for the careful management of flood-prone areas by local communities.

Today, the NFIP serves over 2 million policyholders in more than 18,000 communities across the country. It is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Your Homeowners Policy Isn't Enough
Losses due to flooding are not covered under most homeowners or business policies. No one, however, should be without financial protection from flood disaster. You can insure your home or business, and its contents, if your community is in the NFIP. to participate, a community must adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations to reduce future flood damage.

You can buy flood insurance in NFIP communities no matter where your home or business is locatedč. Even if you are in an area that is not considered to be flood-prone, it's a good idea to have flood insurance. One-third of all NFIP claims come from outside high-risk flood areas.

To find out more about flood insurance and whether your community is participating, ask any licensed property agent or company - the same person who sells your home and auto policies.
čexcept in Coastal Barrier Resources areas (P.L. 97-348)

Facts You Should Know
Compared to a fire, people in floodplains are 27 times more likely to have a flood during their 30 year mortgage.

Find out whether you are located in a floodplain - a special flood hazard area. Contact your city or county government (start with the Building or Planning Department) and ask to see the Flood Insurance Rate Maps published by FEMA. These maps are available for public inspection. if your building is located in a flood zone that begins with the letter A or V, you are in a special flood hazard area.

In low - to moderate-risk areas, coverage is available for as little as $80 per year. The average premium in high-risk areas is about $300 per year.

Buy as much flood coverage as you can. Primary residences insured for 80% of their value, or the maximum amounts available, get replacement cost coverage. It pays the amount needed to replace the building elements, without deduction for depreciation.

There is a 30-day waiting period from the time a policy is purchased until you are covered, with the following exceptions:

  • If the initial purchase of flood insurance is in connection with the making, increasing, extending or renewing of a loan, there is no waiting period. The Coverage becomes effective at the time of the loan, provided application and presentment of premium is made at or prior to loan closing

  • If the initial purchase of flood insurance is made during the one-year period following the issuance of a revised flood map for a community, there is a one-day waiting period.

Flood insurance is required by law to get Federally secured financing to buy, refinance, build, repair, reconstruct, or improve structures in special flood hazard areas of a participating community. This includes Federal grants, FHA and VA loans, as well as most conventional mortgage loans.

The NFIP not only covers flood losses to your building or contents, it also reimburses you for actions you take to prevent flood damage. For example, costs for removing insured contents to a safe location are reimbursed up to $500 with no deductible. Other costs, such as for sandbags, plastic sheeting and lumber, pumps, fill for temporary levees, and wood to save the building can also be reimbursed up to a limit of $750 with no deductible.

The Next Steps Are Up To You
At a time when flooding causes more than $2 billion in property damage each year, you cannot afford to think that it will never happen to you. It can happen, and often when it's least expected.

But you must act in advance. Call your insurance agent or company to purchase flood insurance today. For more information on steps you can take to prepare for and reduce flood damage, contact FEMA or the American Red Cross.

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Updated: Thursday July 20, 2017

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