Many Iowans in high risk floodplain areas still lack insurance.
Although the National Weather Service is forecasting a generally low risk of widespread flooding this year, eight of the 14 Presidential Disaster Declaration since 2007 were for flooding. Iowans have experienced major floods during late summer, and heavy rains and flash floods can occur at any time.
Governor Terry Branstad declared March Flood Awareness Month to help inform people about flood insurance and precautions they can take to prepare for floods, particularly in high risk areas like floodplains, the relatively flat areas near rivers and streams.
There are more than 53,000 homes, businesses and other structures in Iowa’s high-risk floodplain areas. However, only 9,636 structures (18 percent) in those areas are covered by flood insurance. Of the 18,923 flood insurance policies in Iowa, about half are for structures located outside mapped floodplains.
The DNR says the time to buy flood insurance is now, because there is a 30-day waiting period before policies are effective. Flood insurance is especially important because most home insurance policies do not cover flood damage. With flooding potential throughout spring and again in the fall, flood insurance is a necessary precaution.
“We can’t always predict where it will happen, but flooding occurs somewhere every year, making flood insurance a priority for Iowans,” said Bill Ehm, DNR’s administrator for environmental services. “Recent floods have shown us we need to be prepared. Acting sooner is better than later.”
Iowans can purchase federally backed flood insurance for homes or businesses as long as the community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). More than 600 Iowa communities currently participate. Visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Community Status Book to see if your community is enrolled in the program.
To calculate estimated premiums and flood insurance rate, visit www.floodsmart.gov. Then check how much flood damage could cost without flood insurance. The yearly premium for a flood insurance policy through the NFIP can be as little as $129. The average flood insurance policy in Iowa currently costs around $775 annually.
The DNR says that while flood insurance is important, there are other ways to minimize the effects of flooding. As part of Flood Awareness Month the Iowa Insurance Division, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division, and the National Weather Service will share safety tips and other important information about floods with the public and media.
To prepare for flooding, it’s best to take pictures of your home and belongings and record model and serial numbers to make filing claims easier. Also, be aware of small streams, drainage channels and other areas known to flood suddenly in your area, and have a plan to quickly and effectively vacate your home in an emergency. For more flood precaution tips, visit www.beready.iowa.gov or the Iowa Insurance Division’s flood awareness website at http://www.donttestthewatersiowa.gov/.