My House Is In a Flood Zone: What Should I Do?

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 25, 2024

Have you ever considered what you and your family would do if your neighborhood was flooded?

If you’re living in a flood zone, you probably understand the vagaries of flooding after heavy rainstorms, sustained rain events or snow thaw in spring.

Flooding causes untold misery for property owners and millions in property damage not to mention loss of irreplaceable items.

Clearly, we need to have a plan of action and recovery strategy in place in case of a flooding event.

This article outlines what you should ask your insurance agent if you’re living in a flood zone.

Am I Living in a Flood Zone?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has prepared flood overlay maps to indicate areas where weather-related floods are most likely, so search for your home and determine what your flood zone classification is.

These map overlays serve as the basis for flood insurance rates. The FEMA flood maps specific to your area provide valuable information about the likelihood and the potential extent of a flooding event.

Flood insurance is mandatory in FEMA-designated flood zones. If you have a mortgage, you will need to show proof of flood coverage, or the mortgage company will obtain one for you without rate shopping on your behalf.

Even if your home is mortgage free, you should still carry flood coverage for practical purposes.

If You’re Living in a Flood Zone, Ask Your Agent These 11 Questions

1. Should I Get Flood Insurance?

If you’ve never faced water rushing over your doorstep and pouring into the house, you might assume you don’t need flood insurance. But keep this in mind:

Severe weather can slam the region almost year-round, so flood coverage is something everyone needs to consider.

You may also think that your homeowner’s insurance policy includes flood coverage.

This is incorrect.

In most cases, homeowner’s insurance will cover loss or damage to property due to various causes except flooding.

This is a typical provision for homeowners’ policies providing coverage for homes in flood-prone, and your flood policy may be carried by a different agency, so you need to understand your coverage.

2. How Do I Purchase Flood Coverage?

Most agencies that sell homeowners insurance also handle flood coverage. While flood insurance is only available from the National Flood Insurance Program, you still have to purchase it through a licensed insurance carrier.

If your insurance company doesn’t offer this type of policy, contact the NFIP Referral Call Center at 1-800-427-466. They can put you in touch with qualified agents in your area.

Buying flood insurance isn’t a decision you make overnight. However, a policy doesn’t become effective until 30 days after purchase, and you don’t want to be caught off guard.

If the worst happens, you know you’re protected with flood insurance.

3. Should I Get Flood Insurance If I’m Not in a Flood Zone?

You don’t have to live in a flood zone to experience severe flooding. Still, you need to weigh the expense of a policy against the possibility of paying out of pocket for repairs and recovery.

If you decide against coverage, consider setting aside the monthly cost of a policy and depositing it into an account for quick access in case of emergencies.

4. Why Can’t I Rely on Homeowners’ Insurance?

Your current homeowners’ insurance policy covers most water damage to the house, but it doesn’t cover losses from storm flooding. When you purchase NFIP insurance, you have two options: one policy that applies to the house and a separate policy that covers personal belongings.

It’s important to understand the difference, so ask your insurance agent to help you sort out the fine print.

5. How Much Flood Insurance Should I Get?

You want to find a comfortable balance between your budget and your potential loss during a flooding event. Calculate your risk by figuring the total cost of replacing all your belongings and rebuilding your home.

It’s up to you to decide on how much coverage you want for the house and personal items. We recommend discussing the details with your insurance agent.

6. Can I Save Money on Flood Insurance?

By reducing the risk of home flooding, you can often lower flood insurance costs. Structural modifications like elevating the ground floor or installing flood vents can reduce premiums. You can also make improvements to the grading and drainage around your house.

Documentation can be an important tool in holding down costs too. Think about getting an Elevation Certificate or a Letter of Map Amendment as proof of your home’s lower risk factor.

7. How Are My Flood Insurance Rates Determined?

Your flood insurance premiums are based on the Flood Insurance Rate Map or FIRM created by FEMA.

Areas are designated according to flood risks with each area assigned a classification code. The codes correspond to the estimated risks of facing floods and determine which properties should have mandatory flood coverage.

8. What Are the Coverage Limits on My Flood Policy, and How is Replacement Value Calculated?

Insurance coverage is capped based on the type of coverage you get and the premium you commit to paying on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.

Should an event trigger insurance compensation, the maximum insurance payout allowable has to be commensurate to the rate you are paying and the replacement value of your property and chattels.

Ask your insurance agent how the company determines replacement value for all covered item, and make sure to document the condition of your property with photos or video recording.

9. Under What Conditions Would Exclusions and Limitations Kick in After a Flood Event?

Insurance policies are written to specify what should be covered and the circumstances under which coverage would be paid out, but water damage may be due to reasons other than flooding.

For instance, rain water seepage into basements could cause serious damage to walls, insulation and carpets. However, damage from water intrusion that was not technically caused by flooding under your policy definitions may be covered by your homeowners’ insurance policy.

The issue of water damage to property becomes complicated when a bunch of events contributed to the damage. Sewage backup into your home’s plumbing could flood your property, which is unpleasant to deal with and requires professional flood cleanup services.

This type of damage should be covered by backup insurance, which is separate from your homeowners’ and flood policies and does not usually include coverage for mold either. Complications arise when the sewer backup was due to factors that may be flood-related such as ground saturation from heavy rains.

Ask your insurance provider to explain policy exclusions clearly so that you can consider how your specific risks are well covered. Property insurance is complicated and has become more specialized, but you have the option of using one agent to arrange coverage for all your needs, streamlining the process of buying property insurance.

10. What Structural Improvements Have Proven Effective in Minimizing Flood Damage in this Area?

To minimize flood related property damage, take precautionary measures. In Chicago and the suburbs, a flood warning system is in place but even that won’t give you time to batten down the hatches.

The best defense against flooding is to make sure that the elevation of your property exceeds the flood level or the expected height of rising water in your area if flooding occurs.

After years in the industry, the insurance agents and we know of various measures that have worked successfully and others that are not worth your money.

Safeguard water-sensitive components such as electrical systems, parts of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, and any appliances and furniture by raising them above flood level on fixed platforms.

Most likely, your insurance agents have first-hand experience of flooding issues in the area, so tap into their expertise for strategies you can use to protect your property.

11. What Safety Precautions Have Other Residents Implemented?

Other property owners who have been in the area for a while would have developed some coping strategies to mitigate flooding damage.

These practices may include installation of an interior or exterior backflow valve to address sewer backup, anchoring ground equipment on elevated platforms or complete retrofitting to raise the level of the structure completely, which is an expensive project.

How to Be Proactive When Living in a Flood Zone

  • Tap into the expertise and local knowledge of your insurance agent by asking the right questions.
  • Understand what flood maps are, and know your flood zone classification.
  • Pay attention to changes in FEMA’s flood maps and changes to flood insurance premiums.
  • Review your flood policy provisions with your insurance agent to make sure you have sufficient coverage for flood damage as well as expenses that may arise from mold remediation.
  • If you have the means, consider some retrofitting projects such as raising ground-level equipment above flood level. Prevent flooded basement cleanups by patching cracks in the foundation of your home.

Living in a flood-prone area means that you should be proactive about loss prevention and mitigation.

If you currently live in areas subject to flooding, ask us your questions as we at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba are the passionate local leader in flood damage restoration for Chicago and its suburbs.

Remember These Facts & Act Now

  • Floods have affected all 50 states in the past 5 years
  • Flood-related fatalities are on the rise
  • Homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage

flood facts infographic

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