CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- The most common disaster that the Federal Emergency Management Agency deals with involves flooding. The topography of West Virginia makes it especially vulnerable to floods, as many residents bluntly learned, or relearned, over the last several weeks.
Insurance companies seldom offer coverage for flood damage. FEMA does.
The National Flood Insurance Program provides federally backed insurance to property owners, business owners and renters in communities nationwide that participate in the program. These jurisdictions have agreed to adopt and enforce floodplain ordinances that meet or exceed FEMA building requirements in what are called Special Flood Hazard Areas to reduce the risk of severe losses caused by deluges.
"The NFIP covers upwards of 5.5 million homeowners, renters and businesses in more than 21,000 communities nationwide,” FEMA flood-insurance specialist Richard Sobota said. “Homes can be insured against flood damage for up to $250,000 and commercial buildings for up to $500,000. Policies can be written to include contents coverage for up to $100,000 for homes and $500,000 for business contents. Renters can insure their personal property for up to $100,000."
Since its establishment in 1978, the NFIP has paid some $40 billion dollars in flood insurance claims, helping over a million policyholders recover from often devastating inundations.
Although FEMA administers the program, the policies are sold through private insurance agents.
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. This is not usually the case, according to Sobota. Insurance agents who sell the coverage can quote costs and determine eligibility. A $100,000 flood insurance policy costs about $400 a year on average.
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. But more than 25 percent of claims paid are in areas at medium or low risk of flooding. In these areas, flood insurance can be bought for as little as $129 a year for a building and its contents, or $49 for contents alone.
Sobota noted that major disasters are declared in less than half the floods that occur. “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 see 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.