Flood Insurance Myths and Facts

25 Percent of Claims Come From non Flood-Prone Areas

Man sitting in flooded living room using phone, low section
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"People who live on top of the hill don't need flood insurance." Not true, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and just one of the many myths surrounding the agency's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). When it comes to flood insurance, not having the facts can literally cost you your life's savings. While floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States, flood damage is rarely covered under homeowners or renters insurance policies. 

Owners of both homes and businesses, as well as renters, need to know the flood insurance myths and facts.

Myth: You can't buy flood insurance if you're in a high-flood-risk area.
Fact: If your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you can buy National Flood Insurance no matter where you live. To find out if your community participates in the NFIP, visit FEMA's Community Status page. More communities qualify for the NFIP everyday.

Myth: You can't buy flood insurance immediately before or during a flood.
Fact: You can buy National Flood Insurance anytime - but the policy isn't effective until a 30-day waiting period after the first premium payment. However, this 30-day waiting period can be waived if the policy was purchased within 13 months of a flood map revision. If the initial flood insurance purchase was made during this 13-month period, then there is only a one-day waiting period. This one-day provision only applies when the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) is revised to show the building is now in a high-flood-risk area.

Myth: Homeowners insurance policies cover flooding.
Fact: Most home and business "multi-peril" policies do not cover flooding. Homeowners can include personal property coverage in their NFIP policy, and residential and commercial renters can purchase flood coverage for their contents. Business owners can buy flood insurance coverage for their buildings, inventory and contents.

Myth: You can't buy flood insurance if your property has been flooded.
Fact: As long as your community is in the NFIP, you are eligible to purchase flood insurance even after your home, apartment, or business has been flooded.

Myth: If you do not live in a high-flood-risk area, you do not need flood insurance.
Fact: All areas are susceptible to flooding. Nearly 25 percent of the NFIP claims come from outside high-flood-risk areas.

Myth: National Flood Insurance can only be purchased through the NFIP directly.
Fact: NFIP flood insurance is sold through private insurance companies and agents. The federal government backs it.

Myth: The NFIP does not offer any type of basement coverage.
Fact: Yes, it does. A basement, as defined by NFIP, is any building area with a floor below ground level on all sides. Basement improvements - finished walls, floors or ceilings - are not covered by flood insurance; nor are personal belongings, like furniture and other contents. But flood insurance does cover structural elements and essential equipment, provided it is connected to a power source (if required) and installed in its functioning location.

According to a recent FEMA press release, items protected under "building coverage" include the following: sump pumps, well-water tanks and pumps, cisterns and the water inside, oil tanks and the oil inside, natural gas tanks and the gas inside, pumps or tanks used with solar energy, furnaces, water heaters, air conditioners, heat pumps, electrical junction and circuit breaker boxes (and their utility connections), foundation elements, stairways, staircases, elevators, dumbwaiters, unpainted drywall walls and ceilings (including fiberglass insulation), and cleanup expenses. Protected under "content coverage" are: clothes washers and dryers, as well as food freezers and the food inside them. The NFIP recommends both building and content coverage be purchased for the most comprehensive protection.

National Flood Insurance Program Basics

The goal of the federal National Flood Insurance Program is to reduce the impact of flooding on private and public buildings. It does this by applying measures to make flood insurance as affordable as possible for property owners, renters and businesses and by encouraging communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management ordinances regulating the building of structures in flood-prone areas. These efforts on the federal level, combined with the cooperation and expertise of local officials, help mitigate the effects of flooding on new and improved structures, including dwellings and non-occupied accessory buildings. As administered by FEMA, the National Flood Insurance Program reduces the socio-economic impact of disasters by promoting the purchase and retention of general risk insurance, as well as flood insurance, specifically.