BILOXI, Miss. -- This week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is sponsoring the 2007 National Flood Safety Awareness Week (www.floodsafety.noaa.gov). The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) joins with NOAA to support the week, especially Flood Insurance Day, Thursday, March 22. Now is the perfect time to remind Mississippi residents about flood risks and how to prepare and protect themselves as hurricane season approaches.
“Flooding is the nation’s number one natural disaster, occurring both inland and on the coast. It’s important to note that flash floods, inland flooding and seasonal storms flood every region of the country,” said David Maurstad, Director of FEMA's Mitigation Division and Federal Insurance Administrator. Twenty to 25 percent of all flood insurance claims are filed in low-to-moderate flood-risk areas.
The Association of Floodplain Managers of Mississippi will also hold their annual Flood Awareness Week April 23-27. Mississippi property owners and renters need to know that they can take steps to protect their property and financial security before disaster strikes. However, many eligible residents are unaware that they qualify for flood insurance or that affordable flood insurance is available.
- Make sure you have the right insurance.
Review your insurance policies and find out what they do and do not cover. Learn the difference between replacement cost coverage versus standard coverage, which only pays the actual cash value of insured property. Be sure that you have enough insurance to cover recent home renovations or improvements. Purchase a flood insurance policy. If you already have a flood policy, remember that your policy needs to be renewed each year. Most homeowners insurance polices do not cover flood damage, so be sure to consider flood insurance for both your structure and its contents. There is typically a 30 day waiting period for a flood insurance policy to take effect. Learn more by visiting www.FloodSmart.gov and www.Fema.gov.
- Plan for evacuation.
Plan and practice a flood evacuation route, ask someone out of state to be your “family contact” in an emergency, and make sure everyone knows the contact’s address and phone number. Create or re-supply an emergency supply kit: Food, bottled water, first aid supplies, medicines, and a battery-operated radio should be ready to go when you are. Visit www.ready.gov for a complete disaster supply checklist.
- Inventory your household possessions.
For insurance purposes, be sure to keep a written and visual (i.e., videotaped or photographed) record of all major household items and valuables, even those stored in basements, attics or garages. Create files that include serial numbers and store receipts for major appliances and electronics. Have jewelry and artwork appraised. These documents are critically important when filing insurance claims. For help in conducting a home inventory, visit www.knowyourstuff.org.
- Protect important financial documents.
Store copies of irreplaceable financial and family documents in a safe place, preferably one that is protected from both fire and water. Protected documents should include automobile titles, tax records, stock and bond certificates, deeds, wills, trust agreements, birth and marriage certificates, photos, passports and insurance policies. Keep originals in a rented safe deposit box. And don’t forget the household inventory file!