MIAMI - Recent heavy rains over South Florida remind us that we are indeed in the rainy season. And the rainy season is also hurricane season.
The National Hurricane Center initiated advisories Tuesday on Tropical Storm Chris, the third named storm of the year. Chris is currently over the North Atlantic and no threat to land, but it is interesting to note that only twice before, in 1887 and 1959, has the third storm of the season formed before June 19, according to records going back to 1851. And some computer models suggest another tropical cyclone may form over the Gulf of Mexico during the next few days.
As South Florida residents prepare for whatever this hurricane season has to offer, we should make sure that we have appropriate insurance on our homes. Lessons from past hurricanes have convinced me that a lot of people don't understand that standard insurance policies do not cover flood damage.
In my opinion, it would be nice if a homeowner could purchase one insurance policy to cover all hazards. But that is not the way it works in our country. Standard insurance policies do not cover damage from storm surge or heavy rains from a tropical cyclone or from any other type of flood for that matter. That means that without flood insurance, homeowners are responsible for the entire cost of repair from flood damage.
In 1968, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP offers flood insurance to homeowners, renters, and business owners if their community participates in the NFIP. Participating communities agree to adopt and enforce ordinances that meet or exceed FEMA requirements to reduce the risk of flooding.
Floods are actually the most common natural disaster in the United States. According to data from the NFIP, people in low- to moderate-risk areas file over 20 percent of NFIP claims and receive one-third of disaster assistance for flooding. For homes and businesses in these moderate- to low-risk areas, lower-cost policies are available for as low as $129 per year. It is important to note that there is typically a 30-day waiting period between the time you write a check for the flood policy and the day that policy goes into effect.
A wealth of information on how to prepare for floods and how to purchase a flood insurance policy can be found at the official site of the NFIP, FloodSmart.gov. You can even determine your individual flood risk by entering your address. After doing a little research at that website, I encourage people to contact their agent who carries their homeowners or business insurance and ask about flood insurance. Don't wait until it is too late. Floods can happen almost anywhere, and they are not limited to coastal areas or to tropical cyclones.
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