Mother Nature is powerful and often unyielding. But Mother Nature does not visit all areas of the country equally. In areas out west, residents deal with earthquakes and the threat of droughts. In areas of the north and east coast, there are times of heavy ice and snowfall.
Then, stretching through the middle of the country is tornado alley. And at any time of the year, a severe storm or combination of warm and cold fronts can spawn dozens of dangerous tornadoes.
One thing that is fairly constant is flooding. The risk for flooding is higher in some areas, but it does exist for a lot of people.
What’s most frustrating about the threat of flooding is the damage it can cause and the difficulties of finding flood insurance coverage.
It’s not typical for flooding history and flooding risk to be among the details shared with potential home buyers, but climate change is making it more important to know what you may be facing. And it’s even more important if your business is based at your home.
So, how or when do you know if your home is at risk of flooding? And how do you get flood insurance?
What causes flooding?
The first step in being prepared for potential flooding is to know some of the causes. It’s possible that flooding starts in the home. Maybe a pipe bursts and floods the basement. Or the plumbing backs up in the bathroom and other areas of your house get a little soggy.
There are even some of the more comical, Hollywood-style flooding scenarios where the kids run wild and fill up a kiddo pool in their bedroom.
Flooding can be a result of common plumbing problems – or unfortunate situations – but not always. More often than not, flooding comes from the outside and mother nature.
The most common causes of flooding is heavy rainfall, rapidly melting snow and ice, or the geographical make-up of an area. High amounts of moisture – whether it’s rain, snow, or ice – can cause rivers, creeks, streams, ponds, and lakes to overflow. If a home is situated too close to these bodies of water, then flooding is a real possibility.
It’s also possible for a home to be flooded without being reasonably close to bodies of water. If a home is nestled in a low area and/or has improper drainage, then there could be flooding concerns as well.
There are other more specialized considerations. Homes and cities near the coasts are at risk of hurricanes and related flooding concerns. Plus, areas near dams or levees could see flooding if there is a blockage, damage, or failure to these structures. But these aren’t concerns for the majority of people or areas.
How do you know your home is at risk of flooding?
There are dozens of different safety measures to keep your home and business safe – everything from protecting the physical structure to protecting the digital property. One of those safety measures should be knowing the flood risk of your home.
But how do you find out that information? If you are purchasing a new home, a disclosure might describe a flooding threat but not always. If the current homeowner never experienced a problem, they might not know there is a threat of flooding to communicate to potential buyers.
One of the best ways to know the risk of flooding your home faces is by checking FEMA flood maps. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has a country-wide map that describes the flood risk at any address.
It’s a fairly simple process. You input your address and the FEMA map outlines any flood zones or floodways and clearly states your home’s flood risk. It’s a great resource for current homeowners and those looking to buy something new.
If your home is in a designated flood zone, however, lenders will require you to carry flood insurance to protect the property. Even if you don’t require lending on a property, it’s not a bad idea to carry some flood insurance in the event your home does flood.
What is flood insurance?
So, what exactly is flood insurance? I have home insurance, isn’t that enough. No, it’s not. A traditional home insurance policy only covers accidently flooding – flooding caused by plumbing issues or a malfunctioning appliance.
No home insurance policy coverages flooding from a natural disaster. That type of damage is only covered by a supplemental flood insurance policy. But that’s not all.
Flood insurance isn’t just one standard coverage. There are actually two types of flood insurance – building or property coverage and personal property coverage. Building or property coverage covers just that – the building. This type of coverage would be used to make the necessary repairs to your home after a flood.
Personal property coverage, on the other hand, is used to cover your personal effects in the event they are damaged during a flood. You can choose to carry one or both of these types of coverage and limits and terms will depend on a number of different factors.
It’s also important to note that flood insurance does not cover every type of damage or repair caused by flooding. Additional structures may not be covered and any expenses incurred away from the property – i.e. temporary housing – is not covered.
How do you get flood insurance?
Getting flood insurance can be tricky. You have to have a policy in place well before any damage occurs, so it’s best to buy a policy as soon as possible.
Flood insurance also isn’t readily available on the open market. There are a few private companies that offer flood insurance. In fact, almost all flood insurance is offered by FEMA through their National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
Policies can’t be purchased directly from FEMA or the federal government, but the NFIP contracts out to certain agents and insurance companies. The best option is to contact your home insurance provider and discuss your insurance options.
Flooding is never fun, but it is a very real reality for many. Nobody can control the weather or predict future loss, so it’s worth finding an affordable flood insurance policy to make sure as much of your property and belongings are protected.
Laura Gunn writes and researches for the insurance comparison site, Clearsurance.com. Her childhood home was frequently flooded. She uses those experiences to help others know the importance of flood insurance and how to get it.