AUSTIN, Texas -- Today marks the official countdown to the 2007 hurricane season (starting June 1) and officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) remind consumers there is typically a 30-day waiting period before a new flood insurance policy takes effect. With experts predicting another above-average hurricane season just around the corner, now is the time for people to protect their home and property against the number one natural hazard in America-floods.
Standard homeowners insurance does not typically cover flood damage. Flood insurance backed by FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides homeowners, business owners and renters with the best protection available against flooding. Currently, more than 5.4 million people have flood insurance coverage for losses they would otherwise have to pay for themselves.
"Total claims paid during the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons totaled nearly $18 billion- approximately $3 billion more than the NFIP has paid out since the program began in 1978. Yet many properties located in high-risk flood areas remain uninsured or underinsured against floods. We urge all Americans to learn their flood risk and take steps to protect themselves," said David Maurstad, Assistant Administrator of Mitigation and Federal Insurance Administrator for FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program.
The risk of hurricanes reaches beyond the Gulf Coast and Southeastern U.S. Many scientists predict the Northeast is long overdue for a major hurricane-and storm surge is a major risk factor for this region. Flood insurance covers flooding from tidal and storm surge where other policies may not.
Although storm surge caused by hurricanes and tropical storms can wreak havoc on coastal areas, some of the most damaging floods occur hundreds of miles from the shoreline, days after the storm's initial landfall. As hurricanes and tropical storms move inland, torrential rains and high winds intensify the risks of flooding.
"In the summer of 2006, every region of the United States suffered a federally declared flood-related disaster. In addition to tropical systems, severe storms, heavy rains and snow melt caused millions of dollars in flood damage from California to Maryland. Even a few inches of water can cost thousands in repairs," said Maurstad.
One of the most significant and costly floods in 2006 occurred from severe storms and rainfall across much of the Northeast, resulting in more than $213 million in flood-insured losses.
Flood insurance is affordable and available through about 90 insurance companies in more than 20,200 participating communities nationwide. National Flood Insurance is available to renters, business owners, and homeowners. The average flood insurance policy premium is around $500 a year. And in low- to moderate-risk areas, homeowners can protect their properties with lower-cost Preferred Risk Policies (PRPs) that start at just $112 a year. Individuals can learn more about their flood risk by visiting FloodSmart.gov or calling 1-800-427-2419.
FEMA coordinates the Federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terrorism.