NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With four months of 2010 left, much of Tennessee has already seen a year's worth of rain, including the devastation of the first weekend in May. What more proof is needed to persuade all residents to think seriously about protecting their homes and valuables with flood insurance?
Anyone living in a community that participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) can buy a policy, whether the property is in a high-risk area or not.
"Everyone needs flood insurance," says Gracia Szczech, federal coordinating officer in Tennessee for the response to the May floods. "It's a myth that only those in a special flood hazard area can purchase coverage. The only requirement is that your community participates in NFIP."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) oversees the NFIP, which offers government-backed insurance in communities that agree to adopt and enforce ordinances meeting or exceeding FEMA requirements to reduce the risk of flooding. Tennessee has 349 such communities.
Floods are the most common, and most costly, natural disaster. Just a few inches of water from a flood can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage. And it's been a wet year already in the Volunteer State. For example, Nashville has already reached its normal annual rainfall of just over 48 inches.
Flood insurance offers the best protection from devastating financial loss.
"The fact that more than one-fourth of all flood insurance claims come from moderate- to low-risk flood zones indicates the importance of having a flood policy no matter where you live," says Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Leslie Newman.
In the eligible communities, flood insurance is available to homeowners, business owners and renters, at an average cost of less than $570 a year. Policies offer coverage up to $250,000 for homeowners and up to $500,000 for business owners, with additional coverage available for contents.
Typically, a policy becomes effective 30 days after the premium is paid.
Only an insurance agent can provide a flood insurance policy. About two dozen agents in Tennessee sell them; to find one, go to www.FloodSmart.gov and enter your home address into the One-Step Flood Risk Profile. This online tool will also estimate your level of risk as well as your premium.
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