With higher than average snowfalls throughout Minnesota and the Red River Valley, the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is advising residents in affected areas to start preparing now for spring flooding. While there’s no way to predict the severity of floods at this point, many indicators point to a high risk of widespread flooding. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), flooding is the nation’s number one natural disaster.
“Looking around, the spring thaw may seem a long way off,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB. “But it’s not, and there are things people can be doing today to help ensure they’re as prepared as possible should flooding occur in their area.”
The first thing people should consider “ even those in low-risk flood zones or areas which have never flooded before,” is purchasing flood insurance. Flood insurance comes under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.
Since most homeowner’s insurance policies don’t cover flooding, Congress created the NFIP in 1968 to help property owners protect themselves from the financial toll of a flood. The NFIP doesn’t actually write the policies, but can refer you to an insurance agent or company who can. According to an interactive tool on NFIP’s website just 2 inches of water could cost you $7,800 in cleanup. And over the past 10 years, the average flood claim has amounted to over $33,000.
You may figure that if you are in a serious flood that federal disaster assistance will pay for your damage, right? Wrong! Federal disaster assistance comes in the form of a low-interest loan, not a grant, and only if the President formally declares a disaster.
Not a homeowner but worried about flooding? Renters, condo unit owners and business owners can also buy flood insurance as long as their community participates in the NFIP.Can you buy flood insurance if you live in a high-risk area? Yes, in fact if you are in a high-risk area and have a federally-backed mortgage you will be required by your lender to have flood insurance when you obtain the mortgage. If you’re in a moderate-to-low risk area you may wonder if you should bother. However the NFIP says that almost 25 percent of all flood insurance claims come from areas with low-to-moderate flood risk. Those in low-to-moderate flood risk areas may qualify for the Preferred Risk Premium, which can be as little as $119 per year.
To find out if your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, visit http://www.fema.gov/fema/csb.shtm. Consumers should be aware that flood insurance policies generally take 30 days to go into effect. For more information on flood insurance, and to find out your flood risk, visit www.floodsmart.gov or call 1-800-427-2419.
In addition to purchasing flood insurance, here are some other things people can do to prepare for spring flooding (from www.fema.gov):
- Move valuable items or keepsakes from your basement to the highest floor of your home or business; keep in mind the possibility of main and upper floor flooding.
- Install backflow valves in waste lines to keep water flowing in one direction.
- Make sure you have the right insurance for your property. Review what is and isn’t covered, and learn the difference between replacement cost coverage versus standard coverage, which only pays the actual cash value of insured property.
- Make sure your gutters and drains are cleared. Clean and maintain storm drains and gutters and remove potential debris from your property to allow free flow of potential floodwater.
- Plan and practice a flood evacuation route.
- Inventory your household possessions for insurance purposes. Be sure to keep a written and visual (videotaped or photographed) record of major household items and valuables, even those stored in basements, attics or garages. Create files that include serial numbers and receipts for major appliances and electronics. Have jewelry and artwork appraised. These documents are critically important when filing insurance claims.
- Build an emergency supply kit: food, bottled water, first-aid supplies, medicines and a battery-operated radio. Visit www.ready.gov for a complete disaster supply checklist.
The mission of the Better Business Bureau is to promote, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill public confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, protect and assist the general public. Our hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact the BBB at www.bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.