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What Property Owners Should Know about Flood Insurance

Flash floods and slow floods are both contributing causes of weather-related fatalities each year. In addition to this, flooding is the most common weather-related cause of property damage. During the famous Hurricane Sandy storm, many property owners were unprepared and saw their homes wash away, suffered injuries or lost their businesses. Experts say that Hurricane Sandy caused more than $6.5 billion in flood insurance payouts, which come from the National Flood Insurance Program. This number was less than half of the $16 billion or more that Hurricane Katrina brought in insurance payouts. There are several ways people can prepare themselves for these disasters.

Know Flood Risk
Experts say that people should learn the flooding risk of the area where they live or where their businesses are located. They should also take the necessary steps to reduce those risks. One way to start is to find out the local flood zone risk by using maps. To learn more about these maps, discuss them with an agent or visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency's site. They provide maps that allow site visitors to look up their properties by address. People who are concerned about privacy issues with this site can also contact their local or state government offices for information. Even if an area is not listed as a high-risk flood zone, keep in mind that floods are still possible.

Current Flood Maps
FEMA is responsible for redrawing flood maps to show new data and other recommendations. Many communities receive new maps frequently as part of a continual initiative by FEMA to keep accurate and current data. An agent can advise whether or not local flood maps are current or need to be updated. For areas where updates are ongoing or have been recently completed, it is important for people in that area to adjust their insurance coverage as needed.

Base Flood Elevation
After discovering a property is in a flood zone, it is important to find out what the base flood elevation is. This is the location at which a structure has a one percent chance of being flooded each year. The BFE number for a property is listed on flood maps, but it is also possible to contact an agent to look up the number. After a BFE has been determined, it is important to find the structure's lowest floor below or above the BFE level. Buildings that are below the BFE for the area may need to be elevated to lower their chances of being flooded. Buildings should be at least three feet above the BFE level to ensure they are protected against waves or higher-than-usual flooding levels.

Flood Coverage
After finding out what the risks of flooding are, it is important to buy or review insurance. People who have flood coverage should review it to ensure it is sufficient, and people who do not have insurance should obtain it immediately. This coverage is offered by the NFIP, but it can be purchased through private agents. People who have federally-backed loans for their properties should also know that their lenders often require them to buy flood insurance if they are close to or in a high-risk flood area. For those who live in high-risk flood zones, it is helpful to become familiar with changes approved for the NFIP by the government. These can differ from one year to the next, so it is best to discuss recent changes with an agent. Flood insurance rates are required by law to show the true risk of a particular area. The most recent changes mean that a significant amount of property owners will see increases in their flood coverage premiums. For answers to questions, discuss concerns with an agent.

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