Shared from the 5/23/2016 The Miami Herald eEdition

Why we all need flood insurance

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I’m often faced with a situation that I hope you will never have to experience. It’s the one where your neighborhood has just flooded, and we’re standing in your living room or business, staring at a high water mark and trying to figure out how to get rid of the remaining mud and developing mold. And then you tell me that you don’t have flood insurance.

At that point, I know that you are going to have a hard time recovering. Your homeowner’s insurance policy isn’t going to cover the damage. You may be eligible for some assistance from the state or federal government, but it’s not going to be enough to cover the cost of your flood damage. Charitable organizations will step in to help, but their resources may be stretched thin, depending on the magnitude of the disaster.

Flood insurance is the only way to ensure you will have the necessary financial resources to recover from flooding. Hurricane season starts on June 1, and when a storm hits Florida almost every part of the state is susceptible to flooding. Even those areas that are outside mapped flood zones can be inundated when we get the heavy rain that comes with a tropical cyclone.

Unfortunately, I have seen a disturbing trend in the last two years. Because of congressionally-mandated increases in the cost of flood insurance, more than 10 percent of Floridians who had flood insurance policies have chosen to cancel them. It’s a choice that leaves those families vulnerable the next time their communities flood, and in Florida it’s a matter of when, not if, that flood happens. Each year, significant flood damage occurs in areas which were never designated as flood zones, when there’s no tropical storm activity at all.

My advice? Don’t cancel your flood insurance.

Typical homeowner’s insurance policies won’t cover flooding, and you have to wait at least 30 days after you purchase flood insurance before your policy takes effect. Hurricane season is only days away, and waiting to buy flood insurance until a storm is headed toward you sets you up for a total and devastating loss.

There are several steps you can take to reduce the cost of your flood insurance. First, ask your agent about ways to lower your premium by making your home more flood resilient, or investigate some of the new private-market flood insurance options that have entered the Florida market over the last year.

Next, encourage your community to actively participate in the Community Rating System (CRS). The CRS rewards communities by offering discounted NFIP rates based on their flood resilience, and policy-holders in CRS communities can save up to 45 percent on their premiums. Go to floridadisaster.org to determine if you are in a CRS community.

If you live in an area that doesn’t participate in CRS or hasn’t maximized your discount, contact your local officials and ask why. Open-space preservation, flood response planning, and posting flood protection information can qualify your community for discounts.

It’s possible that qualifying improvements have been made, but weren’t documented to the standard needed to earn your flood insurance discounts. Encourage your local officials to contact the Florida Division of Emergency Management to discuss methods to improve your community’s standing in CRS and reduce your insurance costs.

Please don’t put yourself in a position to say you never thought a flood would happen to you. Get your family ready for hurricane season by obtaining or maintaining flood insurance, and visit Floridadisaster.org or Floodsmart-.gov for more information on how the Community Rating System can lower your NFIP premiums.

Bryan W. Koon is director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

See this article in the e-Edition Here