LAREDO, Texas -- Texas citizens take care to limit legal gambling to specific locations.
But every year, hundreds of residents throughout the state are taking a much more costly bet that they won’t be hit by floods.
It’s a poor wager that many of them are going to lose, according to state and federal recovery officials overseeing recovery operations following the federally declared flood disasters in 20 Texas counties.
“If more people knew the real risks and were aware of the real odds we’d have a lot more people signing up for flood insurance,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Brad Harris. He said that it’s a major goal of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to simplify legal language and reams of statistics so that the clear benefits of purchasing flood protection coverage could be seen.
Harris stressed that he understood the cost of purchasing coverage was an important factor in making a decision to buy NFIP protection. “When you have to pay out hard-earned dollars to protect against something that might happen, people have a tendency to downplay the risks,” he said. “And that can be very costly.”
Disaster recovery officials explained that data shows people in flood-prone areas are far likelier to experience a flood than a fire. During the life of a 30-year mortgage, the one-percent annual chance flood (“100-year flood”) has a 26 percent chance of occurring. This means a home in the mapped flood hazard area is five times more likely to be damaged by flood than to have a major fire. Yet, many people who readily buy fire or homeowners insurance underestimate the much greater risk of floods.
Another major underestimate is the cost of repairing flood damage. In the last fiscal year alone NFIP paid out over 3,291 claims to Texas policyholders covering over $126,605,561 for flood damage and loss claims. (Information from /policy-claim-statistics-flood-insurance/policy-claim-statistics-flood-insurance/policy-claim-13-9 that covers only part of FY09. FEMA only shows through FY07 which was 5,789 claims totaling $104,592,000) Officials said that figure was consistent with historical averages and that in the past 32 years more than $5,390,509,379 in state claims had been paid. (Information obtained from FEMA CIS Report: https://isource.fema.gov/cis/cisreport.do?method=getReports&reportType=2
Nearly 675,786 NFIP policies were currently in force throughout the state comprising total flood coverage of nearly $156,724,835,100.
“The best indicator of success is good word-of-mouth and neighbors are telling neighbors that flood insurance is worth it,” Harris said. He noted that 25 percent of all flood loss claims occur outside the 100-year floodplain and insurance for structures located outside the floodplain can be very inexpensive.
The Preferred Risk Policy is available for most homeowners with a one- to -four family residential building located outside of a high-risk flood area and can cost as little as $119 a year. (Information from http://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/choose_your_policy/policy_rates.jsp#resprefBCX)
Homeowners and renters can buy NFIP flood insurance through most major private insurance companies and licensed property insurance agents who sell homeowners’ or property insurance or call the NFIP's toll-free information line at 800-427-4661 or for individuals with hearing or speech impairments (TTY/TDD) 800-427-5593.
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