(StatePoint) When it comes to protecting your family from the devastation of unexpected events, you may think homeowners insurance is all you need to be covered. However, most standard homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flooding — the number one natural disaster in the United States.
“If it can rain where you live, it can flood,” says Jeanne Salvatore of the Insurance Information Institute. “Just because you haven’t experienced a flood in the past, doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t in the future. Flood risk can change rapidly from year to year.”
Experts advise to do your family a favor and prepare for the worst. Here are some tips to help you keep your head above water as you make plans to prepare for a flood:
• Know the causes: Many may not think of flooding in winter, but the season can bring weather that can cause devastating floods, like heavy rains, rapid snowmelt and winter storms. Also, areas that have experienced a wildfire are at a significantly increased risk of flash flooding for up to five years.
• Be proactive: Just a few inches of water can cost tens of thousands of dollars in damage and federal disaster assistance is usually a loan that must be paid back with interest. Additionally disaster assistance is only available if the president signs a declaration of disaster. Not all floods are declared a disaster, so get flood insurance before catastrophe strikes.
• Don’t wait to get covered: Typically, there’s a 30-day waiting period before flood policies take effect. Don’t wait until the storm clouds gather to get insured.
• Insure wisely: Flood insurance, which is recommended for almost everyone, is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to homeowners, renters, condo owners and business owners. While rates are set and don’t differ from company to company or agent to agent, opting for a flood savvy agent means you will get your questions answered properly.
• Stay safe: What’s even more important than protecting your home during a flood, is protecting you and your family. Floods can be life-threatening events, so monitor weather reports to assess impending flood risk and get to a safer location, when needed.
Be sure to know the do’s and don’ts of flood safety. If flooding occurs, go to higher ground, avoiding flood-prone areas on the way. Never attempt to walk across flowing streams or drive through flooded roadways.
Listen to a battery-operated radio for information. Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if advised to do so.
Remember, flood water can contain harmful substances like gasoline and bacteria. If you’ve come in contact with floodwaters, wash your hands with soap and clean water.
More flood safety tips can be found at Ready.gov. To assess your current risk for flooding and to locate an agent serving your area, visit FloodSmart.gov or call 888-226-9499.