In the wake of some of the worst flooding in Iowa and national history, the Consumer Advocate would like to remind and provide Iowans with some helpful tips and information:
• Flood insurance is a program under the control of the National Flood Insurance Program. The Iowa Insurance Division has no authority over flood insurance policies.
• Property owners in Iowa will want to consider whether to purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.
• People may purchase flood insurance for a home or business, regardless of whether the property is in a flood plain as long as the community is participating in the National Flood Insurance Program. The insurance may be purchased directly from a property and casualty insurance agent or an insurance company. You can find out whether a particular community is enrolled in a program by visiting the FEMA website. However, an insurance agent or company should be able to determine whether a person is eligible for flood insurance.
• It is important for homeowners to make a decision on flood insurance in late winter, before spring actually gets underway, because there is a 30-day waiting period before the insurance takes effect.
• A good flood insurance policy may cost as low as a few hundred dollars a year, but the cost will vary depending on the risk a property has for flood loss, the amount of coverage chosen, the type of coverage needed, and the amount of a deductable.
• If you go to FloodSmart.gov, you can estimate your premiums and calculate your flood insurance rate. There is also an interactive tool that shows you how much a flood can cost you if you do not have insurance. For example, just two inches of water can cost you $7,800 with no flood insurance. Over the past 10 years, the average flood claim has amounted to more than $33,000.
• 25% of flood insurance claims come from low-to-moderate risk areas, so it is especially important to know where you fall in the flood plain.
• If you chose not to get flood insurance and there is a flood, you must be in a federally-declared disaster area in order to get disaster assistance. And even then, it is typically a loan you must repay over time.
Before the possibility of a flood in your area, you can prepare:
• Take a pre-disaster inventory of personal property. Photos and videos are a good way to document the items in your home. Keeping sales receipts and the model and serial number of items will make filing a claim easier. In addition, add insurance information to the inventory of property including company, agent, policy number and contact information.
• Be aware of streams, drainage channels and other areas known to flood suddenly in your area. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without such typical warnings as rain clouds or heavy rain.
• Plan on how to quickly and safely evacuate a home or business. Prepare a "go kit" of items you will need and think about being away for two to three days. Consider any special need items you may need such as prescription drugs, other personal items and some cash.
• If you live in a mapped flood plain, you have a seven times greater risk of having a flood than a fire.
A 100 year flood means there is a 1% chance the flood event will be equaled or exceeded in any given year. A 500 year flood means there is a .2% chance the flood event will be equaled or exceeded in any given year.