Lawyers Journal

Katrina puts northeast homeowners on notice of flooding risks

The Massachusetts Bar Association's flood risk level is moderate to low. To find out your flood risk, go to www.Floodsmart.gov's "Assess Your Risk." Simply enter your property address to see your relative risk, find links to flood maps, and other flood insurance community resources.
The 2005 hurricane season has been catastrophically disruptive, and has made all of us cognizant of the dangers and effects of massive flooding.

Most of us think that flooding related to hurricanes and other tropical disturbances is limited to coastal areas. However, flooding happens everyday in all regions of the country. Here in the northeast, we are affected by remnants of tropical disturbances in the summer and threatened by winter flooding, nor'easters and rapid spring melts. Some of the most damaging flooding can happen well inland and days after a storm makes its initial landfall. In 2004, Pennsylvania, which has no ocean coastline, received more than $175 million in flood insurance payments — second only to Florida.

Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States. They've caused nearly $8.7 billion in U.S. flood losses in the last 10 years. There is a 26 percent chance of experiencing a flood during the life of a 30-year mortgage, compared to a 9 percent chance of fire. However, losses due to flooding are not covered under typical homeowner's and business insurance policies.

The National Flood Insurance Program is the primary source for flood insurance in the United States. The often catastrophic nature of flooding has kept most insurers from writing flood coverage. The NFIP was established to help licensed agents and insurance companies provide affordable flood insurance to homeowners and businesses. Flood insurance covers structural damage and mechanicals, to flood debris cleanup and floor surfaces, such as tile and carpeting. A homeowner's policy doesn't offer this protection.

To learn your risk, prepare for inland flooding and to discover how to purchase a National Flood Insurance Policy, visit www.FloodSmart.gov or call 1-800-427-2419. The toll-free number and Web site provide flood insurance resources and information, including tools to find an agent and estimate the cost of insurance premiums.

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