As the flood waters rose in Richland County only 37 of the 1,884 victims-to-be were properly prepared, according to what applicants told state and federal disaster assistance officials.
"From our records as of Oct. 26 - one month after the disaster declaration - only 2 percent of the households in Richland County said they had flood insurance when they called us," said Federal Coordinating Officer Jesse Munoz of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In all eight counties declared for disaster assistance, only 522, or 6.6 percent, of the 7,869 renters, homeowners and businesses who registered said they had flood insurance.
"In this area of the state it is not a matter of if it will flood, it is a matter of when it will happen again," said State Coordinating Officer Nancy Dragani, executive director of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. "That is why we strongly encourage our citizens to acquire flood insurance."
Floods are the #1 natural disaster in the United States. Everyone is at risk - not only from local weather systems, but from increased runoff from development or large regional events like snowmelt or mudflows. More than one-fourth (26 percent) of properties, on average, suffer flood-related losses in the life of a 30-year mortgage. That compares to a 9-percent chance of fire-related losses.
Federal and state disaster assistance is only a partial solution at best. Disaster aid is a helping hand to those affected by disasters, but it cannot make them "whole" again. Disaster grants help with immediate needs like housing. The bulk of federal disaster assistance is in loans that must be paid back with interest. Disaster assistance is available only when a disaster has been federally declared.
One of the most effective ways to prepare for man-made or natural disasters is to have adequate insurance.
Most homeowner?s insurance does not cover flood damage. Flood insurance must be bought separately and can cover up to $250,000 for the structure and $100,000 for its contents. Renters can buy flood insurance for their personal property. Non-residential property can be covered up to $500,000 for the structure and $500,000 for the contents.
Tragically, flood insurance often becomes an issue only after people have suffered flood damage
It takes 30 days after purchase for a flood insurance policy to take effect. That is why it is so important to buy flood insurance before flood waters start to rise. (If a policy is bought in conjunction with a mortgage closing, there is no waiting period.)
The federal government underwrites the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to make sure that flood insurance is within the reach of nearly everyone. Property owners, renters and businesses can purchase flood insurance if their community is among the more than 21,000 communities that participate in the NFIP program.
Anyone can learn their flood risk - along with other helpful information - by visiting www.FloodSmart.gov. All it takes is a ZIP code and one can find out whether your house is in a low or high flood threat area. It is important to understand, however, that about one-fourth of all flood insurance claims are filed in low- to moderate-risk areas.
Oct. 26, 2007, is the last day to register for state and federal disaster assistance or to return a U.S. Small Business Administration low-interest loan package. Registering with the Red Cross, the city or the county is not the same as registering with FEMA. To register for assistance, call 1-800-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the speech or hearing impaired, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, or visit www.fema.gov. You can call FEMA to verify that you are registered or get an update on your request for assistance.