Sarasota, FL -- Torrential rains and flooded streets are not new to Floridians. Such events happen almost every year, and sometime the overflowing creeks and flooded streets are worse than others. These facts probably contribute to a belief common among many Florida property owners - that if such flooding has not hit them in the past so it won't hit them in the future; or if flooding does occur, there is nothing they can do about it. Such thinking is wrong in both cases.
In the seven Florida counties recently declared as a disaster area because of flooding since June , there are more than 132,000 flood insurance policies protecting some $18.3 billion worth of property. That says something about Florida's susceptibility to flooding.
"Changing land use causes changes in how and where rainfall runs off the land," said Peter Martinasco, federal coordinating officer at the disaster field office in Sarasota. "The more impervious surfaces, such as building roofs, roads and parking lots, we create, the greater the amount of runoff and the more likely homes and businesses will be flooded. You don't need to live near a river or stream to become a flood victim. Floods are caused by storms, hurricanes, dam or levee failure, even water backing up due to overloaded drainage systems."
It is not unusual for families who have lived in a home for 15 or 20 years, have never been flooded and carry no flood insurance, to suddenly find their homes inundated with several feet of floodwater when a seemingly small storm system comes along.
"In the state that has 40 percent of all the flood insurance policies in the nation, you'd think that everyone knows about the dangers of flooding and the need for flood insurance," Martinasco said. "But every time homes and businesses are flooded we hear from people who had no idea they were in a floodplain or that flood insurance was available to them."
All homeowners are encouraged to check with their local or county building and zoning office to obtain current flood map data on their neighborhood.
There is also a mistaken belief that the standard homeowner's insurance policy will cover flood damage. Damage cause by rising floodwater is not covered by homeowner's policies. Only flood insurance covers that risk.
You can insure your home through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) with flood insurance for up to $250,000 for the building and $100,000 for its contents. There is also a low-cost policy for homes in low- to moderate-risk areas (locations outside designate special flood hazard areas and having less than a one percent chance of being flooded in any given year).
The Preferred Risk Policy is available for just over $100 a year and provides up to $250,000 of coverage for the home and $60,000 of coverage for the contents. Flood insurance is available through any licensed property agent who is in good standing with the Florida Department of Insurance.
There are a couple of other misconceptions about flood insurance.
One is that people are frequently told they do not need or cannot purchase flood insurance because they do not live in a high flood hazard area. In reality it doesn't matter whether your flood risk is high, medium, or low, you can buy flood insurance as long as your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program. And, it's a good idea to buy flood insurance even in low or moderate risk areas. In fact, almost 25 percent of all flood insurance claims come from low- to moderate-risk areas.
"Unfortunately, people too often look to the government to replace what they lose in a flood; but federal disaster assistance is not the answer," Martinasco said. Federal disaster assistance is only available if the President declares a disaster, yet more than 90...