Monday, December 13, 2010

Flooding and insurance: What to do

We're starting to get calls and emails from folks who sustained flood damage from this weekend's heavy rains. Here's some advice about what you can do if you're trying to clean up:

-Document the loss. Take photos, notes, video, etc.
-Contact your insurer as soon as possible. Be aware that standard homeowners coverage does not cover flood damage. But you may have flood coverage without knowing it -- in flood-prone areas, it's often required in order to qualify for a mortgage.
-Mitigate the damage as best you can. Get furniture and belongings up out of the water if possible. Shovel or squeegee mud and water out. Start drying things out.
-Create a paper trail. If you rent a pump, save the receipts. If your electrical system's damaged and you have to move to a motel temporarily, save those receipts.
-Where practical, avoid throwing out damaged items. The adjuster may want to see them.

Also: Standard flood coverage generally doesn't cover basement improvements, like finished walls or floors, or furniture or personal belongings in a basement. It does, however, cover essential equipment like your furnace and water heater.

Winter storm update: Flood insurance

Heavy rains over the weekend raised rivers high throughout the region, but the storms this morning began moving to the southeast. Many rivers in the region, according to FEMA, crested Sunday night, with longer rivers cresting Tuesday or Wednesday.

Our agency's particularly interested in south King County's Green River Valley, where we've set up what's called a "market assistance plan" to help businesses find flood insurance coverage. According to FEMA, the amount of rain falling in that area "is not expected to be of concern for Howard Hanson Dam operations or for flooding on the lower Green River Basin."

Still, this is probably a good time for a reminder: Contrary to what many people think, standard homeowners coverage and business insurance policies do not cover damage from floods. For flood protection, you generally have to buy a separate flood insurance policy. If your property is in a flood hazard area, you'll probably be required by your lender to have this coverage.

Fortunately, flood coverage is widely available through the National Flood Insurance Program. For more on that, and a link to an easy site to check your property's flood-risk profile, see our flood page.