ORLANDO, Fla. ? Flooding is America's most common natural disaster. Even though hurricanes are the main cause of flooding in Florida, we must be prepared at all times. Officials from the State of Florida Emergency Response Team (SERT) and the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urge Floridians to take action now and buy flood insurance before heavy rains and late spring floods begin.
"There will be a rather dramatic shift from the typically dry months of March and April, to the rainy season that is underway by June," said Ben Nelson, state meteorologist with Florida Division of Emergency Management.
According to the meteorologist, "in South Florida, the wet season usually begins by mid-May. The almost daily rains begin in central Florida in late May. While in north Florida the heavy precipitation usually begins by early June.?
Florida has a flat terrain and after heavy rains, when the ground becomes saturated, water can flow across fields, yards and streets. More than 25 percent of the National Flood Insurance Program's (NFIP) flood insurance claims are for structures outside identified flood plains.
More than two million NFIP flood insurance policies are in force in Florida. This represents a quarter of all policies written nationwide. Since 1978, the counties experiencing the most claims are Broward and Miami-Dade, however, all Florida counties are at risk of flooding.
"Buying flood insurance is the best way to protect yourself from flood damages," said Scott Morris, FEMA director of Florida Long-Term Recovery. "In the last two storm seasons 64,000 Floridians have been helped by their flood insurance policies."
In 2005 the NFIP received over 30,000 claims and disbursed $322,743,654 in payments to Florida residents for closed claims. While in 2004, the claim count was over 34,000, and $1,127,947,910 was paid.
"Whether your community has seasonal or occasional flooding, there are proactive measures that can help minimize or prevent flood damage to homes and property," said Craig Fugate, director of Florida Division of Emergency Management.
State and local officials recommend that you prepare now and follow these guidelines to minimize losses and protect your property from flood damage:
- Buy flood insurance coverage. Homeowners insurance doesn't cover flooding. It takes 30 days for a policy to go into effect, so don't wait. You can obtain flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, from your insurance agent. To find an agent near you call 1-800-427-2419.
- Visit the FloodSmart Web site at www.floodsmart.gov to find out about your flood risk, how to protect your property and how to obtain flood insurance.
- Stay informed of weather conditions in your area.
- Be prepared to move valuable possessions to upper floors or to safe ground.
- Have emergency supplies on hand to last for at least three days. Food, bottled water, first aid supplies, medicines and a battery-operated radio should be ready to go, and have extra batteries.
- Have a working sump pump. Buy and install a sump pump with back-up power.
- Anchor fuel tanks. An unanchored tank can be torn free by floodwaters.
- Elevate your furnace, water heater, washer and dryer. They should be at least 12 inches above the base flood elevation (the projected floodwater depth).
- Take photos or videos of important possessions. If your home is damaged in a flood, documentation will help you in filing a flood insurance claim.
- Plan for evacuation. Plan and practice a flood evacuation route, ask someone out of state to be your "family contact" in case people are separated and be sure everyone knows the contact's address and phone number.
Flood insurance is eas...