Preventing major losses from flood damage
Parts of the Midwest have been experiencing record flooding, caused by rains and the melting snow that fell in the winter.
And as the weather becomes more unpredictable, many areas throughout the country are experiencing flooding with increasing regularity. Moreover, some regions are flooding for the first time in recorded history.
Floods are the leading weather-related cause of property damage. After Hurricane Sandy, the National Flood Insurance Program paid out well over $6 billion in claims.
There are steps you can take to protect yourself.
Use flood maps
These maps are drawn up and updated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They show the locations of flood zones and flood plains, and flood zone risks ranging from high to low. If unsure about the classification of a specific address, ask us.
As part of FEMA's modernization program, most communities are receiving new maps with more details and helpful recommendations. Since flood zones may have changed, it is important that you look at the latest versions of these maps.
Learn base flood elevation
When property owners know their flood zone, they should also learn their property's base flood elevation (or BFE).
This is the point where a building has a 1% chance of flooding each year. FEMA's newer maps typically list the BFE for different properties. If new maps are not available yet, your local building department may be able to help.
When the BFE is known, it is important to determine the elevation of the first floor of the home. Is it below or above the property's BFE? Raising a structure with a main floor below the BFE helps reduce flood risks. This type of floor plan is typical with some split-level homes and buildings.
Purchase flood insurance
When you understand the full risk of flooding for your property, you can decide whether you should purchase flood insurance for complete protection. If you live in or near a high-risk flood zone, you should purchase coverage.
Sometimes you don't have a choice about buying coverage. Most lenders will require homeowners in flood zones to purchase insurance if they want to qualify for a home loan.
Flood insurance is mainly available through the National Flood Insurance Program, although some private insurers offer coverage in selected areas.
Reduce risks on your property
There are several steps to take to reduce risks on the property:
- Raise all electrical system components. A licensed electrician should be hired to complete this task. All wiring, circuit breakers, socket,s and switches should be addressed, and they should all be at least 12 inches above the BFE for the property. This prevents the possibility of fires that occur from shorts after a flood, as well as possible electrocution if someone steps into waters around the house.
- Channel water away from the structure. The slope of the property should be downward in comparison with the location of the main structure. If it is not, this should be changed if possible. A downward slope helps direct water away from the home.
- Raise HVAC equipment. Cooling, heating and ventilation systems can be damaged by floodwaters. Hire a contractor to move the HVAC equipment to a different floor or to create a flood-proof wall that surrounds it.
- Add sewer back-flow valves. In some areas, flooding may result in sewage backing up through pipes. Back-flow valves prevent a return flow into the home by blocking drain pipes.
- Anchor any fuel tanks. If a fuel tank is not anchored outside, it can be swept away in a current in the event of a major flood. To complicate matters, a supply line can be torn and may result in basement fuel contamination.
- Check sump pumps. If you have a sump pump on your property, it should be examined regularly. Make sure the batteries are charged periodically and that the pump is functioning correctly.