Pennsylvania insurance regulators are encouraging homeowners to consider buying flood insurance before the start of spring, citing the higher risk of severe flooding during warmer months.
Pennsylvania is one of the most flood-prone states in the nation and flooding can occur at any time of year.
“Many Pennsylvanians experienced significant flooding damage last year, including some who had never before experienced water issues,” Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine said. “It’s a risk homeowners should reassess in light of last year’s events.”
When Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee hit Pennsylvania last year, more than 400 homes were destroyed, 200,000 residents were displaced and 18 people died. In 2011, there were nearly 67,000 flood insurance claims filed, from the more than 70,000 policies in effect statewide. The payout was nearly $1 billion.
“You need to have flood insurance if you live in a designated flood zone, but flooding can happen inland and away from major waterways,” Consedine added. “If your home could be flooded by an overflowing creek or pond, water running down a steep hill or melting snow, you should consider buying a policy.”
Consedine noted that, importantly, homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Also, it takes 30 days for newly purchased flood insurance policies to go into effect — so the ideal time to buy a policy is long before flooding is forecast.
Flood insurance premiums will vary, depending on the risk level for a flood loss. Consumers can purchase a policy for any physical damage to their property, the commissioner said. A separate policy can also be purchased for the contents inside the home.
Foundational elements and items usually located in a basement for making a home habitable, such as furnaces and water heaters, generally are covered. Finished elements in a basement, such as paneling, rugs and furniture, are not covered.
Backed by the National Flood Insurance Program, flood insurance is available to most homeowners, renters and businesses, and can be purchased through any licensed property-casualty insurance agent.
Information on how to obtain flood insurance and determining risks for flooding can be found at www.floodsmart.gov. The Pennsylvania Insurance Department also offers disaster preparedness information at www.insurance.pa.gov.