An often-overlooked threat by homeowners is the risk of flooding. Heavy rains caused by distant hurricanes and thunderstorms could spell disaster for the uninsured.
Businesses and homeowners are encouraged to consider flood insurance due to the upcoming hurricane season. According to a PA Insurance Department press release, Acting Insurance Commissioner Michael Humphreys and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director Randy Padfield, you should consider getting flood insurance. Reflecting on the impacts of Hurricane Agnes 50 years ago, urged property owners to prepare for hurricane season by considering flood insurance to protect their homes, businesses, and possessions. For many Pennsylvanians, extreme weather, including flooding and damages caused by hurricanes and severe thunderstorms. These floods may be occurring frequently throughout the summer months and into the fall.
In 1972, the effects of Hurricane Agnes were widespread, dramatically impacting homes, businesses, and lives from the Caribbean to Canada. At this point in time, the hurricane was the costliest hurricane to hit the United States, causing an estimated $2.1 billion in damages. In addition to the structural damages, this hurricane caused 128 deaths, 50 in Pennsylvania alone, more than in other states in the US. Although much of the east coast was affected, Pennsylvania was impacted the most, with more than 3,000 businesses and 68,000 homes destroyed. Consequently, approximately 220,000 people were bereft of their homes, and 150 bridges were either impassable or destroyed.
“Pennsylvania has experienced its share of historic flooding. Just last summer, strong storms, tornadoes, and flooding in the Commonwealth caused significant damages and cleanup, as well as hardship and stress for the property owners left to deal with the aftermath,” said Acting Commissioner Humphreys.
“We want to urge you now to take the time to review your coverage, prepare for potential hazards, and mitigate the risk to your family and home. Looking to the past to prepare for the future, homeowners should consider purchasing added flood insurance, as standard homeowners policies do not cover flood damage.”
“There are far too few homes insured for flood in the Commonwealth. In a state with nearly 3.1 million insured homes, fewer than 50,000 insured for a flood,” said Humphreys.
“After every storm that includes an element of flooding, we hear devastating stories from residents that thought they had been insured for floods through their homeowners’ insurance policy. That is generally not the case. We strongly encourage insurance agents to highlight the availability of flood coverage when meeting with clients to discuss new or renewal coverage. And because where it rains, it can flood, we also urge homeowners and renters to ask their insurance agents and insurance companies about flood coverage.”
Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the private market, regardless of where you live. Homeowners who live in federally designated Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) are likely required to have flood insurance by their mortgage lenders. Individuals looking to purchase new homes and properties should research to determine if the area has had any previous flooding.
“Flood insurance is one of the best ways to protect yourself from the financial devastation that flooding can bring,” said PEMA Director Randy Padfield. “Knowing that you have that financial protection can bring some peace of mind during your recovery from flooding, which can happen anywhere, whether or not there’s a history of flooding in your neighborhood.”
Consumers should be aware that most flood insurance policies are not active immediately. In most scenarios, there is a 30-day waiting period before policies kick in. Individuals are prevented from purchasing flood insurance solely when a storm is coming in the direction of their property. In a hurricane or storm that causes flooding and damages, the Insurance Department has resources that can help guide the property owner through filing insurance claims and tips to avoid repair scams.
The After the Storm brochure found online at insurance.pa.gov includes tips such as:
- Contact the insurance company as soon as possible after the storm.
- Save all receipts.
- Take photographs or videos before cleaning or making repairs.
- After documenting damage, make repairs needed to prevent further damage to property or live in the home. Do not make permanent repairs before the insurance company inspects the damage and approves the repairs.
- If possible, determine what it will cost to repair the property before meeting with an insurance company representative who will assess the damage. Disagreement on the offer made for the repair of the property, insurees should then be prepared to negotiate.
More information on the NFIP and private flood insurance is available on the Insurance Department’s Flood Insurance page. Severe weather event guidance can be on the Department After the Storm and Disaster Recovery resources pages. Consumers with questions or wishing to file a complaint can contact the Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Bureau or by calling 1-877-881-6388.