|Hurricane Joaquin image courtesy of Flickr.com|
The latest news has the fairly sizable hurricane Joaquin threatening the East Coast of the United still recovering from 2012’s “Superstorm” Sandy. You may recall New Jersey experienced especially devastating flooding when Sandy drenched that region.States, even though the most current predictions are it will never make U.S. landfall. However, a storm as big as this doesn't have to hit to produce coastal flooding by the time Joaquin exits the area. In fact, the Carolinas are already experiencing flooding completely unrelated to this hurricane, so any additional rains as a result of Joaquin will make things dramatically worse. I also noted that emergency preparations are already underway in New Jersey, which is
I will first start with this – if you don’t already have flood insurance, you should seriously consider getting it as soon as possible. It may be too late for you to be covered in the event Hurricane Joaquin does strike, but there will always be another event that causes flooding, which very few of us are immune. I have been saying for years that “we are all in a flood zone, it just may not have happened yet.” Even if the place you live is not recognized as a flood zone by FEMA or a mortgage company that doesn't mean that flooding can't occur. If you are in a “low-risk” flood zone (as determined by FEMA), your mortgage company may not require you purchase flood insurance, yet your property may still be at risk. Countless people make that mistake each and every year, with dire financial consequences. And that may never change, at least not for everyone, but if you are reading this, I hope you will act now, and not become a statistic. Another of my flood-related sayings is, “if you place too much trust in FEMA flood maps today, you may be waiting in FEMA assistance lines tomorrow!”
Here are some interesting flood facts from www.FloodSmart.gov:
- In the past 5 years, all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods.
- Homeowners' insurance does not cover flood damage.
- Just a few inches of water from a flood can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage.
- A car can easily be carried away by just two feet of rushing water.
- New land development can increase flood risk, especially if the construction changes natural runoff paths.
- Federal disaster assistance is usually a loan that must be paid back with interest. For a $50,000 loan at 4% interest, your monthly payment would be around $240 a month ($2,880 a year) for 30 years. Compare that to a $100,000 flood insurance premium, which is about $400 a year ($33 a month).
- A Preferred Risk Policy provides both building and contents coverage for properties in moderate- to low-risk areas for one low-price.
- You are eligible to purchase flood insurance as long as your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program. Check the Community Status Book to see if your community is already an NFIP partner.
- In most cases, it takes 30 days after purchase for a policy to take effect, so it's important to buy insurance before the storm approaches and the floodwaters start to rise.
- In a high-risk area, your home is more likely to be damaged by flood than by fire.
- Even though flood insurance isn't federally required, anyone can be financially vulnerable to floods. In fact, people outside of mapped high-risk flood areas file over 20-percent of all National Flood Insurance Program flood insurance claims and receive one-third of Federal Disaster Assistance for flooding.
- From 2005 to 2014, total flood insurance claims averaged more than $3.5 billion per year.
- Since 1978, The NFIP has paid nearly $50 billion for flood insurance claims and related costs.
- There are currently more than 5.3 million flood policies in force across more than 22,000 communities in the U.S.
|Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org|
These are sobering statistics, which should make all non-insured homeowners pause to consider. It would be great if more people did know more about how flood insurance works, and who it can protect. Too many individuals and families are impacted each year simply because they got bad information about flood insurance, didn’t understand the information they were given, or didn’t have the resources to obtain the correct information. My goal would be to reach at least one person, and make a difference.
Along these lines, there was another section at FloodSmart which detailed common misconceptions about flood insurance. It was there I learned that floods are the #1 natural disaster in the country, and that many people (wrongfully) believe they are somehow not eligible for flood insurance, either because of where they live, or their mortgage status. I can’t tell you how many people have told me after the fact that they didn’t think they needed flood insurance because “the mortgage company said it wasn’t necessary.” The mortgage company probably said it wasn’t “required”, or maybe that is what they meant to say, but either way, the message was lost in translation.
The fact is, according to NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program):
- You CAN get flood insurance nationwide.
- You CAN get flood insurance if you live in a floodplain or high-flood-risk area.
- You CAN get flood insurance if you live outside a floodplain, or a low-to-moderate flood-risk area, and at lower cost.
- You CAN get flood insurance if your property has been flooded before.
- You CAN get flood insurance from insurance agents in your area.
- You CAN buy flood insurance even if your mortgage broker doesn't require it.
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Were you already aware of all this? If so, wonderful – you are a flood maven! If not, it might be time to do a little more research. People with accurate information about flood risks and protection options can make better decisions and plan for disasters. Sometimes the key is knowing who to ask, or where to look before the storm clouds gather and you begin to wonder, "Who'll stop the rain?"
In this article I used current weather conditions to again remind people of the need to prepare for potential disasters like flooding, and the cost of failing to do so. I also provided information from a valuable resource on the subject of flooding, www.FloodSmart.gov, and presented statistics and misconceptions to help people gauge their own levels of understanding on this topic. I hope you scored well!
Mark Goldwich is president of Gold Star Adjusters, a group of public insurance adjusters dedicated to helping citizens get the maximum settlement for any insurance claim.