BEVERLY, Mass. -- As the recovery from flooding caused by April’s record-setting rains continues, state and federal disaster officials are encouraging Bay State residents to purchase flood insurance before disaster strikes again.
“Flooding is the leading cause of property loss from natural disasters in this country,” said James N. Russo, federal coordinating officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), “and Massachusetts has suffered more than its share of floods in recent years.”
Recurring flooding is a serious problem in the commonwealth. Since the major flood of October 1996 the state has experienced a number of floods, but only three were presidentially declared disasters that enabled state residents to apply for federal/state disaster assistance. More than 90 percent of floods in the U.S. are not declared disasters, and those victims must have flood insurance to recover losses.
April’s severe rains created flooding problems in homes and businesses away from rivers and streams that tend to flood. Residents in many areas that don’t usually experience flooding found water in their homes and basements due to such factors as poor drainage, excessive runoff, ground saturation and inundated sewer/septic systems unable to handle the rainfall.
Many residents are not aware that their homeowner’s policies do not cover flood damage or loss. To meet this need, low-cost National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) insurance is available to homeowners, renters and businesses in almost every community in Massachusetts. Participating NFIP communities agree to adopt and enforce sound floodplain management practices to reduce future flood damage.
“Living in the floodplain without flood insurance is like living in a wood frame building without fire insurance,” said Cristine McCombs, state coordinating officer for the current recovery effort. “We strongly urge uninsured residents and businesses throughout the state to consider purchasing flood insurance.”
NFIP coverage is not only for homeowners. Businesses may apply for coverage to buildings and their contents, including equipment. Separate policies are available for contents of a residence for homeowners and renters. Policy coverage is also available for individuals with a home business.
Recovery officials recommend residents purchase flood insurance whether flood risk is high, medium or low. Rates are standardized according to risk so there is no need to shop for quotes. In Massachusetts, the average residential policy provides $160,000 of coverage for $725 per year. Outside of the floodplain, NFIP offers preferred risk policies for less than $300 per year. There is a 30-day waiting period before NFIP policies take effect so applicants should act promptly to ensure coverage.
“In some instances, flood insurance is considered so important that it is now mandatory,” McCombs said. Residents who live in high-risk parts of the floodplain, designated as Special Flood Hazard Areas, are required to purchase and maintain flood insurance for the life of the property if they accept FEMA disaster assistance grants. Otherwise, they will not be eligible for certain forms of assistance in any future disaster. In addition, if the property is sold, the seller must inform the buyer of the necessity to maintain the insurance.
Anyone obtaining a federally regulated loan for a home in the floodplain, including most mortgages as well as low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), must purchase and maintain flood insurance for the life of those loans.
Throughout the state, homeowners and renters can buy NFIP flood insurance through most major private insurance companies and licensed property insurance agents who sell homeowners’ or property insurance. Anyone unable to easily find an agent shou...