Most people don’t think of Pennsylvania as a state that experiences major flood events. But the truth is, many areas of Pennsylvania are susceptible to flooding. Across the entire state, there are 83,184 miles of streams and rivers, more than 4,000 lakes, reservoirs and ponds, and about 120 miles of coastal shoreline. In addition, climate experts predict that Pennsylvania will face more heavy rainfall and flooding by 2050 due to climate change. As a result, many Pennsylvania homeowners can benefit from flood insurance.

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Why Pennsylvania homeowners need flood insurance

According to the most recent data collected by FEMA, 99% of U.S. counties have been impacted by a flooding event in the past 20 years. Pennsylvania homeowners are at particularly high risk, with the majority of the state experiencing 50 or more flooding incidents in any given year. Some areas with the highest instances of flooding are Alleghany County, Philadelphia County, Delaware County and Montgomery County.

The average claims payment for flooding in Pennsylvania is more than $20,000, and the most flood-prone regions of the state include its southeastern, southwestern, and northwestern counties. With so much flood activity in the state, Pennsylvania homeowners might want to consider obtaining a flood insurance policy to protect against financial hardship caused by flood damage.

For some Pennsylvania homeowners, flood insurance is not optional. For instance, if you have a mortgage, it’s possible that your lender will require flood insurance as a contingency of the loan. Flood insurance protects the lender financially in the event that your home is badly damaged or destroyed in a flood event before the mortgage is fully paid off.

In 2021, FEMA started using the Risk Rating 2.0 program to determine the unique flood risk of each individual homeowner and to make flood insurance premiums more fair. All new flood insurance policies are priced based on the parameters of the Risk Rating 2.0 program. Some of the flood-related factors used to calculate individual premiums are flood frequency, flood types, distance to a water source, elevation and cost to rebuild.

Cost of flood insurance in Pennsylvania

Many factors dictate the cost of flood insurance in Pennsylvania, including location, home value, claims history and more. While the cost of your individual flood insurance policy will vary based on your home, your location and your policy details, the National Flood Insurance Program reports that the average customer pays $700 annually for their flood insurance coverage needs. Premiums may be more or less depending on the following information:

  • Flood risk
  • Type of coverage
  • Deductible
  • Amount of building/contents coverage
  • Location
  • Design and age of home

When to purchase flood insurance

Many flood insurance policies require policyholders to wait at least 30 days before coverage becomes active. This is why it’s important for homeowners to secure coverage well before a storm is expected to arrive. While there is no “right” time to purchase flood insurance, shopping for such a policy the moment you realize your home falls within a region of increased risk can save you a lot of trouble in the future. In Pennsylvania, residents tend to experience the most flooding during the spring. Therefore, it’s wise to purchase a policy prior to the spring thaw so you can have active coverage when you need it most.

How to purchase flood insurance in Pennsylvania

There are a few ways to purchase flood insurance in Pennsylvania. You can get a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or a private flood insurance carrier.

The NFIP is a federally-funded flood insurance program that issues policies through major carriers in Pennsylvania, like Allstate, Auto-Owners and The Hartford. You can purchase a residential policy with up to $250,000 in building coverage and up to $100,000 in contents coverage. These policies must be purchased separately and have their own deductibles.

With NFIP flood coverage, there is a 30-day waiting period before your coverage will take effect. There are only a handful of situations where the waiting period is waived, such as if you buy a policy on a house that you just purchased.

The other option is to get private flood insurance, which is offered by some Pennsylvania insurance carriers. One of the benefits of private flood insurance is that the waiting period might be shorter than 30 days, depending on the provider. However, with either type of coverage, insurance companies usually require flood insurance premiums to be paid for upfront and in full, rather than in monthly installments.

Frequently asked questions

    • FEMA updates its flood risk map periodically, which may cause your home to be redrawn into a known flood zone. Homeowners can appeal this decision by submitting an online form. If, however, FEMA denies your appeal, it’s a good idea to obtain a flood insurance policy ahead of the spring season so you have the coverage you need in an emergency.
    • No. Standard homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies typically do not include flood insurance. Be sure to carefully review your policy and seek out any additional coverage options that may be available through your existing provider so you can obtain the flood coverage you need.
    • While FEMA provides disaster relief to areas that have been declared an emergency by the President, there are many flooding issues that can arise in the absence of such an emergency declaration. With flood insurance, your claim is paid out regardless of whether or not the President has deemed the situation a disaster zone. Therefore, it’s pertinent that residents purchase a policy — especially if they live in an area that’s considered high-risk for flooding.