At NNINS, we know two things: many Virginians are subject to the effects of flooding and many believe their home is covered for flood damage by their homeowner’s policy. The fact is standard home insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Let us explain, clear up any confusion and help your family be as prepared as possible.
Flooding is the most common, destructive and costly natural disaster in the United States. Not only did we witness extreme flooding last year with hurricanes Florence and Michael, but 2018 was the wettest year on record for dozens of towns and cities in Virginia. From hurricane storm surges and to mountain runoff and excessive rainfall, flooding is a statewide hazard and all Virginians should learn how to keep their families and property safe before the waters begin to rise. The most common exposures to flooding include living near bodies of water, especially low-lying areas, behind a levee, or downstream from a dam. Even very small streams and low-lying ground that seems to be harmless in dry weather can flood from heavy sustained rainfall.
Virginia Watersheds Map courtesy of Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
Congress acknowledged this growing weather issue and the shortcomings of traditional flood relief programs in 1968 and passed the National Flood Insurance Act, a federally backed program managed by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). Today, the NFIP program provides separate flood insurance to U.S. property owners. Virginia's Flood Risk Information System (VFRIS) strives to develop accurate maps of flood hazard zones and improve floodplain management. You can use their handy map tool to locate and see if your property is within the Special Flood Hazard Area.
If you live in a flood-prone area, flood insurance is advisable and may be required through the NFIP. It's important to note there is a 30-day waiting period from date of purchase before your policy goes into effect, with some exceptions. It's also important to know over 2000 homes flooded outside of the identified flood zones after Hurricane Matthew.
So don't wait. Virginia flood maps have recently changed and your property could be at risk even if it's not in an identified flood zone. Contact your independent agent and discuss your risk annually. Remember, your standard homeowner’s policy does not cover flood damage.
The good news is flooding is covered on your car if you have an auto policy. It falls under “comprehensive coverage”, meaning protection for damage to your car from things other than a crash. This not only includes natural disasters like flooding, but also vandalism, deer strikes, theft, and even fallen trees.
Having said that, here’s one safety reminder we can’t repeat enough! Driving through flooded roadways is not only bad for your car, it's also extremely dangerous. In fact, 76% of flood-related deaths are vehicle-related. So when you see warnings on social media or TV urging you to avoid flooded roads, heed the warning! NOAA’s illustration does a nice job of showing this underestimated danger.
We hope this helps you understand your risk for flood damage as well as how flood insurance is provided. Stay safe during flood events in your Virginia community; stay tuned into local alerts, follow advice from local officials and avoid driving through flooded roadways. And if you think you may need flood insurance for your home, contact your local NFIP certified independent agent for assistance or you can contact the NFIP at (888) 379-9531.