Ever since Noah first built the ark there have been floods raging across the world. Actually, they seem to be getting worse and worse lately. Whether it’s down to global warming and melting polar ice caps, an increasing population moving into vulnerable areas or indiscriminate builders building housing estates on flood plains is up for debate (not now!!) but the fact remains, flooding is a major risk for many homes and very often your basic household insurance won’t have anything to do with it.
It’s estimated that only 20% of American home-owners, whose homes are at risk of floods, have flood insurance cover. That’s not many is it? Insurers don’t hand out flood insurance “willy nilly” either, they like to do their homework before covering any property against the risk of flooding, referring to topographical maps showing floodplains and lowlands which are particularly susceptible to flooding before even thinking about it. Insurance companies like to weigh up all of the odds, and they like them to be strictly in their favor before they offer cover.
What is Flooding?
Might seem like a silly question, we all know it’s when you have to at least put your wellington boots on to go downstairs, but according to insurance companies, what is a flood? The National Flood Insurance Program in America defines flooding as “general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or two or more properties (at least one of which is your property) from: Overflow of inland waters, unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from ANY SOURCE, and mudflows”. This can be caused by many different occurrences – landslides, earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters, but even if your home is covered against earthquakes, for example, it doesn’t mean that you will be covered against flooding which was caused by an earthquake, that can be something totally different.
According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) many people just automatically assume that their homes are covered for flood damage with their standard policy – they’re wrong! It’s also true that around half of the people who do live in areas which are at risk of flooding think that they cannot buy flood insurance at all – they could be wrong too!
The National Flood Insurance Program was set up in 1968 for just these reasons, and any community (around 19,000 of them so far nationwide) which participates in the NFIP can get a separate flood insurance policy – just to be on the safe side. Check out whether your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, because if they do you’re in, even if you’re a renter. It stillt doesn’t come automatically though, you’ll have to take out a separate insurance policy for flood insurance with any insurance company, as long as they too participate in the NFIP. Find out if you’re eligible and get it sorted out now before the rains come. The flood insurance policy has to be in force for at least 30 days before they’ll pay up, so don’t wait until the puddles start creeping up the path before you sort it out. If you’re in the right sort of community then you can get it covered.
Some of these facts about flooding are pretty surprising actually, so read on and prepare to be amazed:
- Damage to your property can be caused by as little as one inch of water and cost you a small (or a large) fortune to repair
- There is a risk of floods and flash floods in the 50 states of America – don’t presume that you’re safe just because it’s never happened before in living memory, you never know, it could be your home next
- It only takes two feet of flood water to take your car away, I bet you thought it would need more than that didn’t you?
- A flash flood might bring with it a 10 or even 20 foot high water wall (yes, water wall, not wonder wall)
- If you live in a high risk area there is double the chance of your home being damaged by flood water than there is by fire (well, I suppose it would be difficult for a fire to start with all of that water about)
Flood Insurance – Risk Management
If your home is at risk of floods and you’re having a bit of trouble finding flood insurance, then there are a few things which you can do, a spot of “damage limitation” if you like.
- keep any valuable items on high, wall-mounted shelves
- make sure that your TV and other electrical equipment is wall mounted, around 1.5 meters above the floor
- get a water-pump fitted into the basement (if you don’t have one already)
- avoid fitted carpets and use rugs instead whenever possible. They are much easier to deal with if they get a bit soggy!