Everyone Lives in a Flood Zone!
Since the heavy flooding in late April of this year, many property owners have expressed concern to me and their local government officials about their neighborhood’s vulnerability to flooding. Homes and landscapes are most people’s largest investment, and the damage caused by a major storm can be financially and emotionally devastating.
To say that Florida is prone to flood is an understatement, at best. Between 1851 and 2012, every county in our state endured between 65 and 141 tropical storms and hurricanes. Many counties average one named storm every 1.1 years. While other states have coastal regions vulnerable to hurricanes, the entire state of Florida lies within FEMA’s highest designation of storm frequency. With hurricane season just beginning and record-breaking flood events in April, it is wise to consider flood insurance. Regular homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover damage related to flooding. Many homeowners go without flood insurance because their home is “high and dry” or “not in a flood zone.” It can be argued, however, that as a Floridian, particularly one in a region of the state with the highest annual average rainfall, you’re in a flood zone—it’s just a matter of whether you’re high or low risk. And, as we’ve seen recently, even those who thought they were low risk could be vulnerable.
Flood insurance is often very inexpensive for those outside of officially designated Special Flood Hazard Areas (think waterfront homes, low-lying property, creek floodplains, and barrier islands). Rates can be as low as $130/year for basic coverage in a low-risk area. It’s simple to get a ballpark figure for potential flood insurance costs by entering your address into a one-step “risk profile” online. According to the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) website, a quarter of NFIP flood insurance claims and third of Federal Disaster Assistance each year goes to residents outside a mapped high-risk flood zone . When the expenses related to flooding, including removal of flooring, walls, furniture, and damage to plumbing and wiring, are taken into consideration, flood insurance can be a smart investment.
Timing is important, too, because a 30-day waiting period is often required before flood insurance coverage kicks in. If you are also looking at additional windstorm insurance, be aware that policies will not be sold if a storm is in the Gulf. It is important to act sooner than later, but if you start now you can have flood and windstorm coverage in place before August and September. Our most severe storms historically occur during these months, after the Gulf has had all summer to warm up.
To purchase flood insurance, contact your local agent, find an agent online at www.floodsmart.gov, or call 1-888-379-9531. Be sure to ask exactly what is covered and under what circumstances, as there are many particularities to flood insurance. For up-to-date information on recent changes to the NFIP, please visit Coastal Planning Specialist Thomas Ruppert’s webpage.
Disclosure: The University of Florida/IFAS Extension program cannot make specific recommendations on insurance agents or providers. Please make the best decision for your home and family to prepare for storms and flooding.