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Floods: Don't get swept away by losses

Whether the danger comes from a rising tide or a thunderstorm, flooding is a risk homeowners face across the United States. Yet basic property policies don't insure against flood damage, leaving many people vulnerable to a potential catastrophe.

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Homeowners must turn for coverage to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its National Flood Insurance Program.

"Floods can and do happen at anytime, and they can happen anywhere,'' says Lena Thompson, a program analyst with FEMA in its bureau of federal insurance administration. "We all live in a flood zone; it's just what our degree of risk is within that.''

In fact, the United States is divided into low, moderate and high-risk or special hazard locations, Thompson says. In the most serious-risk locations, all home buyers are required to have flood insurance before they can obtain a federally insured mortgage.

But flood insurance isn't just for protecting against water from an overflowing river; it also covers damage from water that builds up during storms. In that way it differs from standard homeowners' policies, which insure against damage from rain that comes through a broken window but not against water from something like a hurricane's tidal surge.

Nationally, flood insurance averages around $432 a year, and premiums vary widely depending on the zone in which the house is. It can be purchased through companies such as State Farm, which sells policies through its network of agents even though the coverage is technically financed by NFIP.

To obtain coverage, homeowners must live in one of the nearly 20,000 communities that have an agreement with the federal government, Thompson says.

 

Bankrate.com's corrections policy
-- Posted: August 29, 2005
 
 
More stories by Michael Larson
 
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