FEMA urges homeowners to consider flood insurance

The average damage expense on a 2,000-square-foot home from six inches of water: $39,150.

The average, annual cost of a preferred-risk flood insurance policy on a $250,000 home and $100,000 in contents in Minot: $425.

Flood insurance is worth the investment, especially when considering 25 percent percent of flooding occurs outside a mapped flood plain, said Barb Fitzpatrick, flood insurance program specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA is encouraging Minot-area residents to consider buying flood insurance if they haven’t already done so, and to do so soon. There generally is a 30-day waiting period before flood insurance becomes effective.

There are 3,461 flood insurance policies in effect in Ward County.

In Minot, there are 3,043 policies in preferred risk zones and 21 policies in the higher-risk A zone, where insurance is mandated. In Burlington, there are 107 policies, and in Sawyer, 27 policies, all in preferred risk zones. There are 248 preferred-risk policies and 39 A-zone policies in rural Ward County.

“I still feel that that’s quite low,” Fitzpatrick said of those numbers. In the spring of 2009, there were almost 9,000 policies in effect.

“People really felt the threat and wanted to get coverage for themselves,” Fitzpatrick said. “We want to try to get the message out to people. There’s a threat. It’s not always just the snow melt. You can have that downpour.”

FEMA defines a flood as a general and temporary condition where two or more acres of normally dry land or two or more properties are inundated by water or mudflow. A flood involves water coming from somewhere not on the homeowner’s property, which could be a neighboring property or a street.

“I always recommend that people protect themselves with flood insurance,” Fitzpatrick said. “Flood insurance is the only thing that covers flooding. Homeowner insurance does not cover it.”

The average policy cost in an A zone nationally is between $700 and $750, but costs will vary depending on housing type and coverage levels.

The Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which would delay many of the higher premium changes coming in the Biggert-Waters Reform Act of 2012, still awaits President Obama’s signature. So at this time, Biggert-Waters is the law under which the insurance program operates, Fitzpatrick said.

Under that law, it is advantageous to hold insurance and not let it lapse, which provides some protection against future premium increases. Until the new act is dissected, it is difficult to say how premiums might be affected for those who have been without previous flood insurance, Fitzpatrick said. However, the new act does not change the requirement for a 30-day waiting period in most cases.

For information about flood insurance, people should contact their regular agent. Additional information can be found online at (floodsmart.gov). People can find links to insurance agents, discover their flood map classification and get premium estimates. Maps also are available at the Ward County planning office, Minot city engineering office and other area city offices.

Fitzpatrick recommends that people who have policies review them.

“If they have questions, go to their insurance agent now, so that they are prepared,” she said.

If a flood occurs, people should contact their agents immediately and photograph the damage. Rather than assume certain damages might not be covered, Fitzpatrick said, homeowners should contact their agents for assessments when flood incidents of any type occur.