ALBANY, N.Y. -- Flooding is America's most common natural disaster, yet most homeowner insurance policies do not cover flood damage. In the wake of flooding caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, state and federal officials are encouraging New Yorkers to sign up for federally-backed flood insurance.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers federally backed insurance to property owners, business owners and renters in communities nationwide which participate in the NFIP. Participating communities have agreed to adopt and enforce floodplain ordinances that meet or exceed FEMA building requirements in the Special Flood Hazard Areas to reduce the risk of flooding.
“FEMA encourages everyone to evaluate their risk and purchase a flood insurance policy,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Philip E. Parr.
Over 5.5 million people have flood insurance policies in 21,556 NFIP communities nationwide. Homes can be insured against flood damage for up to $250,000 and commercial buildings insured for up to $500,000. Policies can be written to include contents coverage up to $100,000 for homes and $500,000 for business owners' contents. Renters can insure their personal property for up to $100,000.
Since 1978, the NFIP has paid over $39 billion dollars in flood insurance claims, helping over 1 million policyholders recover from flood events. The NFIP is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and policies are sold through private insurance agents throughout the country.
Many people don’t buy flood insurance because they believe they cannot qualify for it, or that it will cost more than they can afford.
“Flood insurance doesn't have to be expensive," said Parr. “Talk to your insurance agent, learn about your flood risk and get covered for any flooding event.”
Some mistakenly believe flood insurance is not available to them because their neighborhood has never flooded or they are not in a special flood hazard area. Yet more than 25 percent of claims paid are in areas at medium or low risk of flooding. In these areas, NFIP flood insurance can be purchased for as little as $129 a year for a building and its contents or $49 for contents only.
Federal disaster assistance is usually a loan that must be paid back with interest. For a $50,000 loan at 4 percent interest, your monthly payment would be around $240 a month ($2,880 a year) for 30 years. Compare that to a $100,000 flood insurance premium, which is about $400 a year ($33 a month).
Parr noted that federal disasters are declared in less than half of flooding events. “National Flood Insurance Program claims, on the other hand, are paid regardless of whether a disaster is declared,” he said.
For additional information about flood insurance contact your local agent or visit www.floodsmart.gov to find an agent in your area. To find out if your community participates in the NFIP, visit www.fema.gov/fema/csb.shtm.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.