AUSTIN, Texas -- Flood protection might be the last concern of Texas wildfire survivors these days. Yet Texans -- even those who live in areas not rated at high risk of flooding -- should consider purchasing a flood insurance policy now.
Flood risk is higher as a direct consequence of the wildfires that denuded thousands of acres in Texas this year, according to hazard mitigation specialists with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). When fire burned away trees and other vegetation, healthy roots that soak up rainwater were lost. Storm runoff can cause severe erosion, mudslides and flooding.
While the highest risk of wildfire-related flooding is for properties burned in the blazes, it also rises for homes downstream or below scorched areas. Such conditions are one reason flooding is America’s most common natural disaster. Yet, most homeowner insurance policies do not cover flood damage.
A flood insurance policy is the best option for property owners and renters to safeguard their homes and belongings from flood losses. Most flood insurance is written through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is administered by FEMA. Due to the waiting period, NFIP policies become effective 30 days after the premium is paid.
“Don’t wait until the forecast calls for a downpour before deciding to insure against flood damage,” said Kevin L. Hannes, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer for the wildfire recovery mission. “Purchasing an NFIP policy now will give you some peace of mind should a flood occur.”
Less than half of the floods in the U.S. result in a federal disaster declaration, while NFIP pays claims even if a disaster is not declared, Hannes noted. What’s more, one out of every four claims paid are from areas at medium-to-low risk of flooding, he said.
The NFIP offers flood insurance to property owners and renters in communities that participate in the program. That’s nearly 21,000 communities nationwide, about 1,000 of them in Texas.
Texans can often obtain flood insurance from the agent who handles their homeowners or renters insurance policy, or they can go to the NFIP website at www.floodsmart.gov to get a list of the agents in their area who sell the policies. The interactive website also offers an easy way to get the estimated annual cost of flood insurance for a specific address.
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.