Who Needs Flood Insurance?


When your home is flooded, it can lead to financial ruin if you don't have the proper insurance. And note this: A basic homeowners policy won't cover your flood damage! You need flood insurance - a special policy backed by the federal government, with cooperation from local communities and private insurance companies.

About 200 insurance companies, possibly including the company that already handles your homeowners or auto insurance, write and service flood insurance policies for the government, which finances the program through premiums. Although flood insurance is relatively inexpensive, most Americans neglect to purchase protection. Only about one-quarter of the homes in areas most vulnerable are insured against flood loss, according to the Federal Insurance Administration (FIA). In those areas, flooding is 26 times more likely to occur than a fire during the course of a typical 30-year mortgage.

More than 19,000 communities have agreed to stricter zoning and building measures to control floods, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Residents in these communities are entitled to purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a program FEMA oversees.

Purchasing your policy


The average flood insurance premium in 2000 was $353 a year. The average amount of flood insurance purchased in 2000 was $124,089. Policies are available in three forms: "Dwelling" (most homes); "General Property" (apartments and businesses); and "Residential Condominium Building Association Policy" (condominiums). All have limits on coverage. You might be eligible for discounts if you live in a low- to moderate-risk zone.

A Flood Of Data


Wondering what type of policy you should buy and how much coverage you need? Do you simply need a good definition of a flood? The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the National Flood Insurance Program, answers these questions and more on its Web site.
In general, the policy does not take effect until 30 days after you purchase flood insurance. So, if the weather forecast announces a flood alert for your area and you run to purchase coverage, it's already too late. You will not be insured if you buy a policy a few days before a flood.
Insurers and FEMA officials say the national flood program works best for everyone when more people participate. This lowers rates, increases the pool of funds from which to draw in the event of a flood, and lessens the chance that claim payments will have to taken from taxpayer funds.

Picking A Company


Since the federal government sets the rates, private insurance companies that sell flood insurance compete on service, not on price. These "Write Your Own" companies make their profit from service fees allotted by the NFIP. When comparing insurers, one question to ask is how quickly are claims resolved? A company in poor financial health may not be able to pay its claims as promptly as a prosperous company. You can check the financial strength of companies at www.ambest.com

Living on the shoreline? It'll cost you


If your home sits between the mainland and often-stormy, ocean waters, you might not be eligible for federally subsidized insurance. The government limits its liability by excluding property owners in such areas as the North Carolina Outer Banks, sections of the Florida panhandle, and selected areas in Delaware and South Carolina. The reason stems from the Coastal Barrier Resources Act, which is designed to protect wildlife living in valuable ecological areas. The government discourages development by withholding subsidized insurance.
Also, a study released by the FEMA on June 27, 2000, reported that close to 87,000 homes and buildings have been built on land likely to wash away during the next 60 years.
Some insurance companies are willing to expose themselves to higher risks and take on policies in some of the developed barrier areas. Instead of $340 in premiums offered through the government program, a few private companies will charge about $3,000 a year for flood coverage of slightly less than $200,000

Flood insurance: Are you in the zone?


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has placed more than 19,000 communities in the United States into a category of flood zones. Each community is able to participate in the agency's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), with premium rates determined by the risks of flooding. To indicate the risks in different parts of the country, FEMA has assigned a character from the alphabet to each zone.
The major zone categories are V and A, which have the highest risk of flooding. Older maps list B and C as minimal-risk zones, but those characters have been phased out and relabeled as X zones on new flood maps.
There are several ways to find out which zone applies to you. You can go to your town hall or city hall, where employees responsible for issuing building permits in your area have access to flood zone maps. If you are buying a home, your Realtor and your insurance agent should be able to help you. Also, you can order a flood map from the FEMA's Map Service Center for a nominal charge by calling (800) 358-9616 or by visiting the FEMA Web site.

V zones


These are the most hazardous of the Special Flood Hazard Areas, or SFHAs. V zones generally include the first row of beachfront properties. The hazards in these areas are increased because of wave velocity - hence the V designation. These property owners pay more than $1,000 annually and flood insurance is mandatory.

A zones


A zones - the next most volatile of the SFHAs - are subject to rising waters and are usually near a lake, river, stream or other body of water. Flood insurance is mandatory in all A zones, where premiums can be about $895 annually because of the high potential of flooding.
A-zone maps also include AE, AH, AO, AR, and A99 designations, all having the same rates. The different A zones are named depending on the way in which they might be flooded.

X zones


These are minimal-risk areas where flood insurance is not mandatory. Homeowners in X zones (which are labeled B and C zones on older maps) pay as little as $395 annually. In certain cases, property owners may qualify for the $100-a-year preferred risk policy.

D zones


These are areas that have not been studied, but where flooding is possible. Flood insurance is available in participating communities.

Flood Insurance Glossary



Actual cash value


The value of property as figured by determining the cost to replace the damaged or destroyed property (see replacement value) and adjusting the replacement value by subtracting an amount that reflects depreciation. Simply put, replacement cost minus depreciation. Homeowners are entitled to a replacement cost value if they live in their homes at least 80 percent of the time and have flood coverage for at least 80 percent of their home's market value.

Federal Flood Insurance


Coverage made available to residents of a community on a subsidized and nonsubsidized premium rate basis after the community qualifies for protection under the National Flood Insurance Act.

FEMA


The Federal Emergency Management Agency is responsible for coordinating federal disaster response. It oversees the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which was established in 1968 and is run by the Federal Insurance Administration.

FIRM


Flood Insurance Rate Map. Shows base flood elevations, insurance risk zones, and floodplain boundaries. When a community decides to participate in the NFIP, the program makes a FIRM that will help to determine flood insurance rates for buildings in the community. A Pre-FIRM building is one that existed before the community began participating in NFIP. A Post-FIRM building is one that was constructed after flood zones and related regulations were established. Pre-Firm buildings are more vulnerable to flood damage because they were not built to flood-control specifications.

Flood


Outside of fire, flooding is the most widespread natural disaster. Floods are caused by storms, melting snow, hurricanes, and water backup due to inadequate or overloaded drainage systems, dam or levee failure, etc. According to the NFIP, two adjacent properties have to be under water to call the situation a flood. In a rural area, at least 2 acres must be submerged.

Flood Insurance


A standard homeowners policy will not cover damages caused by flooding. You must have flood insurance from an insurer that writes for the National Flood Insurance Program. If your community participates in NFIP's floodplain management program, you should be eligible to buy the coverage no matter if your flood risk is low, medium or high. The only people who may have trouble finding flood coverage are residents of "coastal barrier resource system" areas and communities that do not participate in NFIP's programs. Flood insurance is also available to renters, condominium owners, and co-op owners.

Flood perils


These include the following: the overflow of inland or tidal waters; unusual and rapid accumulation of runoff or surface waters from any source; mud slides caused by flooding; the washing away, collapse or subsiding of land along the shoreline due to erosion or undermining of waves or currents of water exceeding the cyclical levels; and sewer backup caused by flooding.

National Flood Insurance Program


Coverage against flooding for personal and business property under the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, which encourages participation of private insurers in the program through and industry flood insurance pool of private insurers that provide initial flood insurance in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Preferred risk policy


Low-rate flood insurance policy (available for just over $100 a year) for people living in flood zones of minimal and moderate risk (zones B, C, and X).

Replacement value


The amount it costs to replace or rebuild a damaged property. Replacement cost coverage is available only for the building portion of a condominium policy. Owners of single-family homes may be able to buy replacement cost coverage on the building portions of their flood policies. Commercial and apartment buildings will be covered only for actual cash value. Keep in mind that a policy will pay only the replacement value up to the coverage limit. For example, if rebuilding your home will cost $250,000, but you only purchased $200,000 in coverage, your policy will pay only $200,000.

Special Flood Hazard Area


The most hazardous flood zones are V (usually first-row, beach-front properties) and A (usually, but not always, properties near water).

Standard Flood Insurance Policy


This is the name for the flood insurance policy that property owners buy from the NFIP (overseen by FEMA). It refers to the contract between FEMA as the insurer and the insureds named in the policy.

Write Your Own program/companies


Program under which policyholders get their insurance directly from private insurance companies rather than going to the NFIP. Write Your Own companies write and service about 90 percent of flood insurance policies for NFIP. You pay the same amount whether you buy it from the government or a company.

Special Flood Hazard Areas - High Risk


Special Flood Hazard Areas represent the area subject to inundation by 1-percent-annual chance flood. Structures located within the SFHA have a 26-percent chance of flooding during the life of a standard 30-year mortgage. Federal floodplain management regulations and mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply in these zones.

ZONE

DESCRIPTION

A
Areas subject to inundation by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood event. Because detailed hydraulic analyses have not been performed, no Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) or flood depths are shown.
AE, A1-A30
Areas subject to inundation by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood event determined by detailed methods. BFEs are shown within these zones. (Zone AE is used on new and revised maps in place of Zones A1-A30.)
AH
Areas subject to inundation by 1-percent-annual-chance shallow flooding (usually areas of ponding) where average depths are 1-3 feet. BFEs derived from detailed hydraulic analyses are shown in this zone.
AO
Areas subject to inundation by 1-percent-annual-chance shallow flooding (usually sheet flow on sloping terrain) where average depths are 1-3 feet. Average flood depths derived from detailed hydraulic analyses are shown within this zone.
AR
Areas that result from the decertification of a previously accredited flood protection system that is determined to be in the process of being restored to provide base flood protection.
A99
Areas subject to inundation by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood event, but which will ultimately be protected upon completion of an under-construction Federal flood protection system. These are areas of special flood hazard where enough progress has been made on the construction of a protection system, such as dikes, dams, and levees, to consider it complete for insurance rating purposes. Zone A99 may be used only when the flood protection system has reached specified statutory progress toward completion. No BFEs or flood depths are shown.

Coastal High Hazard Areas - High Risk


Coastal High Hazard Areas (CHHA) represent the area subject to inundation by 1-percent-annual chance flood, extending from offshore to the inland limit of a primary front al dune along an open coast and any other area subject to high velocity wave action from storms or seismic sources. Structures located within the CHHA have a 26-percent chance of flooding during the life of a standard 30-year mortgage. Federal floodplain management regulations and mandatory purchase requirements apply in these zones.

ZONE

DESCRIPTION

V
Areas along coasts subject to inundation by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood event with additional hazards associated with storm-induced waves. Because detailed coastal analyses have not been performed, no BFEs or flood depths are shown.
VE, V1-V30
Areas along coasts subject to inundation by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood event with additional hazards due to storm-induced velocity wave action. BFEs derived from detailed hydraulic coastal analyses are shown within these zones. (Zone VE is used on new and revised maps in place of Zones V1-V30.)

Coastal High Hazard Areas - High Risk


Coastal High Hazard Areas (CHHA) represent the area subject to inundation by 1-percent-annual chance flood, extending from offshore to the inland limit of a primary front al dune along an open coast and any other area subject to high velocity wave action from storms or seismic sources. Structures located within the CHHA have a 26-percent chance of flooding during the life of a standard 30-year mortgage. Federal floodplain management regulations and mandatory purchase requirements apply in these zones.

ZONE

DESCRIPTION

V
Areas along coasts subject to inundation by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood event with additional hazards associated with storm-induced waves. Because detailed coastal analyses have not been performed, no BFEs or flood depths are shown.
VE, V1-V30
Areas along coasts subject to inundation by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood event with additional hazards due to storm-induced velocity wave action. BFEs derived from detailed hydraulic coastal analyses are shown within these zones. (Zone VE is used on new and revised maps in place of Zones V1-V30.)

Moderate and Minimal Risk Areas


Areas of moderate or minimal hazard are studied based upon the principal source of flood in the area. However, buildings in these zones could be flooded by severe, concentrated rainfall coupled with inadequate local drainage systems. Local stormwater drainage systems are not normally considered in a community's flood insurance study. The failure of a local drainage system can create areas of high flood risk within these zones. Flood insurance is available in participating communities, but is not required by regulation in these zones. Nearly 25-percent of all flood claims filed are for structures located within these zones.

ZONE

DESCRIPTION

B, X (shaded)
Moderate risk areas within the 0.2-percent-annual-chance floodplain, areas of 1-percent-annual-chance flooding where average depths are less than 1 foot, areas of 1-percent-annual-chance flooding where the contributing drainage area is less than 1 square mile, and areas protected from the 1-percent-annual-chance flood by a levee. No BFEs or base flood depths are shown within these zones. (Zone X (shaded) is used on new and revised maps in place of Zone B.)
C, X (unshaded)
Minimal risk areas outside the 1-percent and .2-percent-annual-chance floodplains. No BFEs or base flood depths are shown within these zones. (Zone X (unshaded) is used on new and revised maps in place of Zone C.)

Undetermined Risk Areas


Areas of moderate or minimal hazard are studied based upon the principal source of flood in the area. However, buildings in these zones could be flooded by severe, concentrated rainfall coupled with inadequate local drainage systems. Local stormwater drainage systems are not normally considered in a community's flood insurance study. The failure of a local drainage system can create areas of high flood risk within these zones. Flood insurance is available in participating communities, but is not required by regulation in these zones. Nearly 25-percent of all flood claims filed are for structures located within these zones.

ZONE

DESCRIPTION

D (unshaded)
Unstudied areas where flood hazards are undetermined, but flooding is possible. No mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply, but coverage is available in participating communities.

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