Flooding is Alabama’s second-most common natural hazard, occurring on average every 12 days. The state receives about 56 inches of rainfall annually, creating a high risk of riverine and flash flooding. Between the Gulf Coast’s tropical storms and the numerous rivers and streams, the potential for flooding in Alabama is ever-present.
“Flooding due to heavy rains is a serious threat to all residents of our state,” said Alabama Emergency Management Director Brian Hastings. “We often hear after a flood from homeowners who were convinced that because their property had never flooded before, they would never experience flooding. But, then, they did.”
In fact, statistics show that people who live outside high-risk areas file more than 25 percent of flood claims nationwide.
For the best protection, a flood policy available through the National Flood Insurance Program is a wise investment. “Flood insurance will not keep rising water out of your home or business, but it will help protect the investment you have in them,” Hastings says.
“Here are important points about flood insurance people need to understand,” says FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer Thomas McCool, the federal officer for Alabama’s disaster recovery. “First, homeowner’s insurance policies generally do not cover flooding. Second, flood insurance policyholders can file a claim even if a storm doesn’t trigger a federal disaster declaration.”
Many homeowners think that in the event of flooding, FEMA will come to their aid. “That’s an incorrect assumption,” says McCool. “FEMA grants come into play only in major disasters declared by the President of the United States and even then they will likely not cover the cost to rebuild your home,” he said.
Flood insurance is available to homeowners, business owners and renters in Alabama communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program and enforce their local flood damage prevention ordinances.
However, here in Alabama, only about 57,000 of the estimated 1.8 million households have flood insurance. Both Hastings and McCool agree that this is an alarming statistic. And they also agree that having flood insurance is an extremely wise investment.
Flood insurance can save homeowners thousands of dollars in repairs. FEMA calculations show that just three inches of floodwater in a home will require replacing drywall, baseboards, carpets, furniture and other necessary repairs. If you don’t have flood insurance, your out-of-pocket cost is estimated at approximately $8,000. For nine to 12 inches of water, the cost jumps to an estimated $19,000.
Obviously, the deeper the floodwater, the more it will cost – 18 inches or more of water means repairs to the electrical system and the heating and cooling system. It also means replacing doors, appliances and cabinetry. The estimated cost of these repairs? $26,000.
But with a flood insurance policy in force, the homeowner’s out of pocket repair costs drop to hundreds, not thousands of dollars.
Homeowners can insure their homes for up to $250,000 and contents for up to $100,000. Renters can cover their belongings for up to $100,000. Nonresidential property owners can insure a building and its contents for up to $500,000 each.
An interactive guide to determine your flood risk is available online at FloodSmart.gov. The site also provides information on the NFIP.
Homeowners in a high risk flood zone (or Special Flood Hazard Area) must buy flood insurance if they have a mortgage from a federally regulated lender. There is normally a 30-day waiting period when purchasing a new policy. Flood insurance is sold through private companies and agents and is backed by the federal government.