Floods are the most widespread of all weather-related natural disasters in the U.S., according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Flooding causes billions of dollars of damage across the country, yet many Americans don’t have flood insurance.
Floods can happen anywhere, even in low- or moderate-risk flood zones. Some of the homes damaged by floodwaters brought on by Hurricane Harvey were considered to be in a minimal-risk flood hazard area.
You may not live in a designated flood plain, but that doesn’t mean your home is safe from floods. Heavy rains between November and April increase flooding risk for much of the Pacific Northwest, and these rain storms can cause expensive flood damage that homeowner’s insurance rarely covers. Read these flood facts and tips, then talk to your agent about flood insurance.
4 Flood Facts Every Homeowner Should Know
1. In the past 6 years, all 50 states have experienced floods.
2. It doesn’t have to be a hurricane. Just a few inches of water can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage.
3. From 2008 to 2012, the average residential flood claim amounted to more than $38,000.
4. Nearly 25% of all National Flood Insurance Program claims come from people living outside of mapped high-risk areas. These claims often come from people living in areas like these:
- Rivers, streams and other bodies of water
- Storm drains
- Recent burn areas
- New construction areas
- Urban environments with lots of pavement
- Dam failures and snowmelt can also cause flooding
I live in a low-risk flood zone, Do I really need flood insurance?
Most likely, yes. It’s a good idea to buy flood insurance even if you live in a moderate- or low-risk area. Anyone can be financially vulnerable to rising water. in fact, people outside of high-risk areas file over 20% of NFIP claims and receive one-third of disaster assistance for flooding. When it’s available, disaster assistance is typically a loan you must repay with interest. You may qualify for the Preferred Risk Policy (a lower-cost flood insurance policy) that provides contents coverage and building plus contents coverage for less than you may think.
- Avoid driving in floodwater. Flooding causes more deaths than any other storm-related event. Many of those deaths occur in vehicles. As little as 12 inches of moving water can sweep most vehicles off the road.
- Head to higher ground. If you have to evacuate, be cautious in floodwater. Avoid stepping into moving water and use a broom handle or stick to test water depth. Six inches of water can knock adults off their feet.
- Build an emergency kit for your home, car and work. Include a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio, a flashlight and extra batteries, first aid supplies, medications, nonperishable food, a can opener and water. Keep essential electronics charged.
- Create an emergency plan. Talk with your family about where you’ll go in the event of a flood, how you’ll get there and how you will communicate with each other. If you have pets, don’t forget to plan for them as well.
- Shut down safely. Unplug electronics. Know how to turn off your power, gas and water. And, if time permits, shut everything down and move electronics and other valuables to higher ground before evacuating.
What to do if you have damage
- If your home has suffered damage, call the professional who handles your flood insurance to file a claim. If you are unable to stay in your home, make sure to say where you can be reached.
- Take photos of any water in the house and save damaged personal property. This will make filing your claim easier. If necessary, place these items outside the home. An insurance adjuster will need to see what’s been damaged in order to process your claim.
- Check for structural damage before entering the home. Don’t go in if there is a chance of the building collapsing.
- Do not use matches, cigarette lighters or other open flames. Water may extinguish your appliance’s pilot light. If the gas lines remain open gas may be trapped inside your home. If you smell gas or hear hissing, open a window, leave quickly, and call the gas company from a neighbor’s home.
- Keep power off until you’ve been given the all clear. Or, at least until an electrician has inspected your system for safety.
- Avoid using the toilets and the tap. If you suspect damage, call a plumber.
- Throw away all food. Throw away any food — including canned goods — that has come in contact with flood waters.
- Salvage. Water-damaged books, heirlooms and photographs can be salvaged using restoration techniques.
- Follow local building codes and ordinances. Use flood-resistant materials and techniques to protect your property from future flood damage.