ALBANY, N.Y. -- Although the National Flood Insurance Program insures more than 4 million policyholders nationwide, only 90,271 of those policies were issued in New York, where flooding damage from this year's Tropical Storm Floyd is expected to be millions of dollars.
In the 13 New York counties that received a major disaster declaration after the storm, only 9,055 flood insurance policies are in force, less than 1 percent of the estimated 990,000 housing units in those counties.
As many New York homeowners and renters have discovered this year, flood damage is not covered by most homeowner's insurance. So far, it is estimated that 5,320 homes and 257 businesses were damaged or destroyed by Tropical Storm Floyd.
"It's too late to insure yourself against Hurricane Floyd," said Marianne C. Jackson of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "But it is an absolute certainty that many of the areas flooded this year, and other areas in New York State, will flood in the future.
"Flood insurance is the only way for homeowners to protect themselves against ruinous flood losses," Jackson said.
"Voluntary agencies and local volunteers are always ready to meet emergency needs. FEMA's assistance programs are only available after the President approves a federal declaration of disaster. Even then, FEMA assistance only meets immediate urgent needs. The U.S. Small Business Administration issues low-interest loans to rebuild flood-damaged property, but they are loans that must be repaid," Jackson said.
"Every time there is a flood disaster in the United States, many homeowners are dismayed to learn that flooding loses are not covered under the usual homeowner's or business insurance policies.
"But flood insurance is available to anyone living in a community that participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)," Jackson said. In New York, 98 percent of all communities participate in the program.
"Our clear message," Jackson said, "is that we want people protected from the devastation of flooding at all times. It isn't fair to leave the mistaken impression that disaster aid will always be there, or that disaster aid is a substitute for flood insurance."
Every year, flooding causes more than a billion dollars in property losses in the United States. This year, the total will be far higher because of Hurricane Floyd.
Facts that Homeowners and Renters Should Know
- People who live in a flood zone have a 26 percent chance of being flooded during the life of a 30-year mortgage, compared to only a 4 percent chance of fire.
- People living anywhere are eligible for flood insurance, if their community takes part in the NFIP.
- You can buy flood insurance from the agent who carries your homeowner's policy. If the agent cannot sell you a policy, call the NFIP at 1-888-CALL-FLOOD (1-888-225-5356), ext. 445.
- Nationwide, the average flood insurance premium is a little more than $300 a year for $100,000 in coverage. The average policy is for $124,270 with an annual premium of $411.
- Homeowners can buy up to $250,000 coverage for the building and $100,000 for its contents. Renters can buy up to $100,000 for the contents of their homes.
- In low-risk and moderate-risk areas, minimal coverage may be bought for just over $100 a year. From a fourth to a third of all flood insurance claims come from these low- and moderate-risk areas.
- There is normally a 30-day waiting period from the time a policy is bought until coverage begins.
- In special flood hazard areas, you are required to buy flood insurance to get federally secured financing, such as FHA or VA loans.
- Actions you take to prevent flood damage may be reimbursed by a flood insura...