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Do you need flood insurance?

TDCI • Aug 12, 2018 at 12:00 AM

NASHVILLE – Flooding is the most common and expensive natural disaster in the U.S., according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Floods cost our nation nearly $8.2 billion annually. Yet, a 2016 Insurance Information Institute poll found that only 12 percent of U.S. homeowners have flood insurance. In Tennessee, most homeowners don’t have flood insurance. To raise awareness of the importance of flood insurance, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offer tips and information to help consumers better understand the importance of flood insurance.

“Several Tennessee cities have experienced the devastating impacts of flooding during the last decade,” said TDCI Commissioner and NAIC President Julie Mix McPeak. “Though landlocked, Tennessee borders the Mississippi River and is home to other large rivers and bodies of water that have the potential to flood. With the Atlantic hurricane season extending until November, Tennessee homeowners should remember that you don’t have to live in a flood zone to experience a flooding event. It only takes one time for you to lose everything.”

What Is Flood Insurance?

The most important thing to understand about flood insurance is what it isn't. Flooding damages are not typically covered through most homeowners and renters insurance policies. Flood insurance can be purchased through an agent or insurer participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which FEMA manages. The NFIP provides coverage of up to $250,000 for the structure of a home and up to $100,000 for personal possessions. If your agent or insurer doesn't sell flood coverage, contact the NFIP Referral Call Center at 1-800-427-4661.

If your community doesn't participate in the NFIP, contact your licensed insurance agent to ask about private flood insurance. If your agent can't write a private flood policy, he or she may refer you to another licensed agent. If you choose a private flood insurance policy, shop around and compare coverage and premiums before you decide which policy to buy (NAIC Flood Insurance Basics – PDF).

Please note: There are a few areas in Tennessee that do not participate in the NFIP program. If your community does not participate, FEMA assistance is not available. Additionally, NFIP insurance policies do not go into effect immediately after you buy them. NFIP policies have a 30-day waiting period unless a policy is bought at the same time as a newly purchased home.

Why Do I Need Flood Insurance?

The FEMA flood map service allows you to determine your flood risk. Risk levels are divided into three categories:

High-risk areas have at least a 1 percent chance of flooding each year. Homeowners in these areas with mortgages from federally regulated or insured lenders are required to buy flood insurance.

Moderate- to low-risk areas have less than a 1 percent chance of flooding each year, but there is still a possibility the area could flood. Flood coverage isn't required in these areas, but it is recommended. Some mortgage lenders still require you to have flood insurance in non-high-risk areas.

Undetermined risk areas are areas where flood-hazard analysis has yet to be conducted, but risk still exists.

It is important to note that approximately 20 percent of flood insurance claims come from outside of high-risk flood zones. Remember: Where it can rain, it can flood. According to FEMA, an inch of water in a home could cause more than $25,000 in damages. If you experience flooding and have not purchased flood insurance, you might experience financial ruin.

Contact your insurance provider to learn more about flood insurance, to learn if your community participates in the NFIP or to get a quote.

What Should I Do in the Event of a Flood?

Have a plan. Learn the evacuation routes in your community and designate a point of contact in another state in the event your family is separated. If you are staying in your home during a flood event, go to the highest level of your home. If you are outdoors, move to higher ground and take shelter, if necessary.

Prepare your home. Move items you want to protect to a higher floor and prepare to turn off your electricity.

Store your insurance information in a safe place. Regularly update your homeowners or renters insurance and maintain a home inventory to keep a record of your possessions. Also, keep track of records and receipts. (MyHome Scr.APP.book: Apple Store or Google Play)

Keep insurance agent and company contact information handy. In the event of a flood, contact your insurer as soon as possible when it's safe. Your policy may require you to notify the company within a certain time frame.

Take pictures of any property damage. Try to prevent further damage by cleaning and drying wet items.

File a claim. Most insurance companies have a time requirement for reporting a claim, so contact your agent or company as soon as possible. Your state insurance department can help you find contact information for your company, if you cannot find it.

Beware of fraud. Protect yourself by getting more than one bid from contractors and requesting references. Ask for proof of necessary licenses, building permits, insurance and bonding. Record the contractor's license plate and driver's license numbers and check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Tennesseans can verify the license of contractors and other professionals by visiting verify.tn.gov.

Beware of flooded vehicle scams. After a flood, consumers should be alert for scammers who might disguise severely water-damaged vehicles as being perfectly good. Any person selling a flood vehicle is required by law prior to the sale of the vehicle to disclose such to the purchaser. Further, once titling that vehicle, the purchaser will receive a branded vehicle title indicating the vehicle’s salvage history. Remember: A vehicle’s flood history may take up to 30 days or longer to post on traditional consumer reporting sites. As such, the Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission recommends that individuals purchase motor vehicles from a licensed motor vehicle dealer, which they can verify at verify.tn.gov.

You can learn more about disaster preparedness at Insure U, the NAIC's consumer education website. For more tips on consumer insurance in Tennessee, visit TN.gov/insurance.

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