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
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.