GLEN ALLEN, Va. -- Virginians are being strongly advised by state and federal disaster officials not to make the mistake of thinking property damage caused by high water is covered by regular property owners' insurance policies.
"On the other hand, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers coverage for recovery from floods, runoffs or ground water intrusion," Gracia Szczech, federal coordinating officer, pointed out.
Bottom line, officials explain, homeowners have a 26 percent chance of being damaged by a flood over the life of a 30-year mortgage. The record shows that one in four flood insurance claims are paid on policies in low-to-moderate-risk areas. Anything from a broken sewer main to a slow moving rainstorm can cause flooding.
About 200 private insurance companies nationally offer affordable NFIP flood insurance backed by the federal government. Policies are available to property owners, condo owners, apartment owners, businesses, non-governmental organizations and governments.
For those who live in a low-to-moderate risk area, a flood policy can cost just over $100 a year, or less than 30 cents a day to protect property from natural disasters that cause more than $2 billion in property damage every year. Fortunately, even in the high risk areas, the cost of flood insurance is affordable at a maximum of $1,285 for $250,000 coverage a year.
"Considering the widespread damage frequently caused by flooding, that's a very low price for peace of mind," State Coordinating Officer, Michael Cline, observed. "Many people don't think they need flood insurance because they believe federal disaster assistance will bail them out. But floods are not always declared as a federal disaster area."
In the case of Virginia's current declared disaster, officials explained, only the Public Assistance Program (PA) and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) have been authorized to repair or mitigate for eligible infrastructure damage which doesn't open the door for Individual Assistance program grants for property owners (IA). Even when IA aid is declared, residents may only qualify for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans which must be repaid. NFIP flood insurance, on the other hand, pays all covered losses and requires no payback.
Affordable flood insurance coverage is available for replacement costs up to $250,000 on a structure and $100,000 on contents. For businesses, structural coverage is available up to $500,000 for structural repairs or replacement and $500,000 on contents and inventory. Purchase of a policy takes 30-days from application to effective date of coverage, so it is smart to purchase flood insurance as soon as possible. To assess your risk, visit www.FloodSmart.gov. For more information, call your insurance agent or the NFIP call-center at 1-800-427-2419.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities; works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.