Get ready for winter | Plan ahead with flood insurance to avoid a devastating loss
October 18, 2011 · Updated 3:05 PM
With forecasters predicting a hard winter, homeowners should consider flood insurance coverage in the event of a disaster. But insurance alone isn’t enough. Proper planning is also vital to avoid major headaches, extra expense or tragic losses during a flood.
Agents with Valley-based Hauglie Insurance advise residents to make a flood plan, which includes making sure family members know how to shut off utilities, get out of the house and neighborhood, where to meet up and how to contact each other.
Flood planning also includes readying the home for a disaster. A good exit plan will ensure that contents are protected and valuables removed or stored out of harm’s way.
Vital medications, for example, should be accounted for early on. If medicine needs to stay refrigerated, have a cooler handy, because floods often mean power loss.
Antiques are covered, but only at functional value. That means that your grandmother’s antique table may wind up being replaced by just another new table. Homeowners should ensure that valued antiques are safely high and dry or on the truck out of a flood zone.
Homeowners also need to ensure that invoices, receipts and flood claim documentation are kept in a waterproof bag and, if possible, in a fireproof safe. Documentation is needed to prove to FEMA that repairs were completed.
Time-stamped photos are also a good way to document before-and-after realities.
“Photos are the least expensive and most valuable thing you can do in protecting your home and contents before a fire or flood,” says Farmer’s Insurance agent Angela Donaldson. After a disaster, “not only are you emotionally stressed, but now you have to remember where everything was and what it looked like—and you have to articulate that an adjustor.” All that stress can be saved by having photos on hand.
Homeowners who live outside a flood zone can still face floods from accidents and human error as well as natural events. The National Flood Insurance Program offers a preferred risk flood insurance policy to provide an extra level of protection for an average cost of $354 for $250,000 of dwelling coverage and $100,000 of content coverage.
Early fall is the time to buy a flood policy. Flood insurance has a 30-day waiting period, and Valley storms and floods have been known to hit before Thanksgiving. While the annual premium must be paid up front, agencies typically offer payment options, including a credit card choice, to fit buyers’ budgets.
Homeowners should also discuss with their insurance agent whether having their residence surveyed would be of benefit.
Separate outbuildings need separate flood coverage. If a homeowner has built a detached office, garage or guest house on his property, that building may need its own policy.
Wind and water can also take their toll on fences, which are covered by flood insurance. Fence repair or replacement is handled on a cash value basis, not replacement cost.
Lastly, if you have a policy in force, review the names on the policy. If there has been a recent death, marriage, or divorce it is a simple phone call away to modify the policy before a claim. If discovered after a flood loss, it may cause additional delays with claim payments.For more information on flood insurance and emergency preparation, consider attending classes held through the valley this flood season. Many are offered through the cities, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) and insurance offices such as Hauglie Insurance.