March 13, 2009

Department prepares for Flood Safety Awareness Week

Jefferson City, Mo. - Floods are consistently the most common, costly and deadly natural disaster Americans face each year.  Approximately ninety percent of all natural disasters in the nation involve flooding and Missouri residents cannot afford to ignore this threat.  Flood Safety Awareness Week (March 16-20, 2009), is a perfect time to consider local flood risks and learn important information about steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.   

 Missouri residents know firsthand how devastating a flood can be.  In the summer of 2008, the Midwest was hit hard by heavy rains that lasted for several weeks and led to severe flooding in the region, said John Huff, Director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration.  The floodwaters ravaged the agricultural sector leaving thousands homeless and taking the lives of a dozen people.

 The Department gives the following tips to Missourians as we prepare for the spring flooding season:

Before the flood:

  • For personal safety, identify what storm shelter is available to you and prepare an evacuation plan.
  • Make sure you have bottled water, a first aid kit, flashlights, a battery-powered radio, non-perishable food items, blankets, clothing, prescription drugs, eyeglasses, personal hygiene supplies, and a small amount of cash.
  • If you need to evacuate your home, turn off all utilities and disconnect appliances to reduce the chance of additional damage and electrical shock when utilities are restored.
  • Take proactive steps to protect your property from loss. Be sure you don't have loose siding on your home or damaged or diseased trees growing over your home.
  • If you have time, take an inventory of your personal property, such as clothes, jewelry, furniture, computers and audio/video equipment. Photos and video of your home, as well as sales receipts and the model and serial numbers of items, will make filing a claim simpler. In addition, add insurance information to your inventory information - the name of your company and agent, policy number, and contact information.
  • Put important documents, including your inventory list, in a safe location. Take them with you when you evacuate or store them in a safe deposit box outside the area.

After the flood:

  • Check your insurance policies to see if you have any flood-related coverage.  Contact your insurance company or agent if you have questions regarding your coverage.
  • If you do have coverage, your agent or company will assign your claim to an adjuster.  The adjuster will be an insurance company employee or an independent adjuster hired by the company.
  • Your adjuster will inform you of the steps you need to take to file your claim.
  • Clean-up should begin as soon as the flood waters recede.  When it is safe to enter your home, go room to room and separate damaged from undamaged items.
  • Make a detailed list of all damaged or lost personal property.  Do not throw out any damaged property without your adjuster's agreement.
  • Take photos of any water in the house.

 Tips for the future:

  • Most homeowners policies do not cover the backup of sewer and drains as well as the failure of a sump pump.  Heavy rains can trigger a backup of water and a bad storm can cause power outages leading to sump pump failure, so it's important to make sure you have this added coverage.
  • Check to see if you have insurance for food spoilage due to a power outage.  This coverage may not be a part of your policy.
  • Flood damage is not covered under a standard homeowners policy.  Flood insurance is a special policy that is federally backed by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
  • You can purchase flood insurance for your home or business directly from your property and casualty insurance agent or insurance company if your community participates in the NFIP.  To find out if your community participates, visit FEMA's Web site.
  • It is very important to plan ahead.  A flood insurance policy normally will not go into effect until 30 days after you purchase the policy.

In partnership with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the NFIP has developed a Web page featuring an interactive map depicting historical information about how floods have impacted millions of Americans in recent years.  The site also provides tools and resources for understanding your risk and knowing what to do: before a flood, during a flood, and after a flood.  To learn more about Flood Safety Awareness Week and to utilize these resources, visit the Web site.

Missouri consumers with questions about flood and homeowners insurance may call the Insurance Consumer Hotline at 1-800-726-7390.