Posts Tagged ‘flood insurance’

More Lessons from Harvey

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Hurricane, downed power lines


And now from Irma and Maria . . .

[Note: Please consider using this Advisory as the agenda for a meeting of your neighborhood emergency response team, and include this information in a neighborhood or church newsletter. Share it online. This is information we ALL need to consider!]

The last couple of weeks have been so full of stories about and from hurricane victims that I hesitate to add to the outpouring. But I feel I can’t just sit back and wait for things to settle down. So, here is a continuation of my earlier Advisory on Lessons from Harvey – The First Week.

This Advisory adds observations from Irma and Maria, too.

1. Still the most likely emergency: no power

Texas update: A week after Harvey, I checked the Entergy Texas website. The recurring language (my italics!):

“Power has been restored to all customers in the area impacted by Hurricane Harvey except for customers served by flood damaged equipment, areas that are still flooded, and areas impacted by [specific] substation outages.”

Even as late as last week – nearly 4 weeks after the storm struck —  4,000 were still without power.

Florida update: The outages in Florida from Hurricane Irma were even more widespread. At its height, the power outages affected “62% of the state’s 10.5 million households.”  News reports from five days ago (9-17-2017) say that about 20,000 homes are still dark.

Puerto Rico update: “Puerto Rico’s entire power grid was knocked offline during the storm and the island is facing months without power.”

You have got to be asking yourself,  “How would we fare without power?”

First, it’s important to realize that as an ordinary resident, even after the rain is gone YOU CAN’T FIX YOUR OWN POWER PROBLEMS. That’s why utility teams came to Florida from as far as California to help! These teams have to . . .

  • De-energize dangerous fallen power lines, remove trees from lines, put up new poles, etc. The image above is typical of the mess to be cleared up.
  • Inspect and repair or replace meters that have been flooded.
  • Wait for YOU to get repairs made to your house – repairs that pass inspections — before they can turn the power back on.

All this takes days and days, if not weeks.

Last week, we looked at how to choose battery-operated lanterns for emergency lighting. If you haven’t got your emergency lighting in place yet, head there now. Shelves will be empty if you wait until something happens.

Turning to a generator for longer-term power needs is a completely different decision. We’ve studied this option a number of times, and our neighborhood emergency team purchased a generator some years ago. Questions we had to answer:

  • What would be the limited PURPOSE of the generator? It can’t run everything in a home or office.
  • What size is best? Where would a generator be kept? (Remember in Texas that the back-up generators for the chemical plant were themselves destroyed by the flood.)
  • How much fuel would it need, and where would fuel be stored?

Get professional assistance before making this decision. Here’s an Advisory from earlier this year, with more background information.

And another Advisory focusing on preparing for a power outage in a business setting.

2. Hidden water problems?

Whenever a disaster involves water, there are additional concerns besides simply having enough water for survivors to drink.

Health care professionals are watching in the aftermath of Harvey and Irma for longer-term health issues including . . .

  • Pollution from sewage. Every image we see of people wading through flood water should make you cringe! These people may be coming directly into contact with sewage. Even the entire water system may have been contaminated. Diseases from sewage pollution can result in death.
  • Chemical pollution. In Texas we all got a powerful lesson about the dangers associated with oil and chemical pollution of water supplies. These dangers are usually not immediate, but could emerge as cancer years after the incident.
  • Mold. Again, when flood water finally withdraws, mold can grow. It’s the danger of mold that prompts people to throw out not just furniture but entire floors and walls, or to abandon their home altogether.
  • Mosquitoes. Standing water after the flood is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and thus increases the chance of viruses like Zika and West Nile and fevers like dengue and chikungunya. Patrol your property and neighborhood and get rid of standing water.

Emergency preparations thus include not just supplies of clean water but also knowledge to help you identify a potential health problem related to polluted water.

3. What about rebuilding after the power comes back on?

Do you have enough money to rebuild your home if it is destroyed by floods? Probably not. That’s where insurance comes in.

Check out this lengthy Advisory about flood insurance.

If there is any chance that you could be hit by heavy rains, flooding or storm surge, you should be asking:

  • What does my Homeowner’s Insurance cover?
  • Do I have to live in a flood plain to get flood insurance?
  • Where do I get flood insurance?
  • Does the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) have maximum limits? (Hint: YES)
  • What is covered by NFIP?
  • What isn’t covered?

Whether or not your flood insurance is adequate, given what we’ve seen lately, or whether you should even get insurance, depends on YOUR answers to the questions above.

Note: There’s a lot in the news lately about the flood insurance program being CUT BACK. I’ll try to keep you up to date.

If you have questions about flood insurance for your home, start with the Advisory mentioned above and then talk to your insurance agent.

4. How will businesses fare?

Even if you’re not a business owner, the impact of a huge storm on the local economy will impact you, too.

According to Scott Teel, Senior Director of Communications for Agility Recover Solutions, in most cases it takes a business about 14 days to recover from a natural disaster. FEMA ads some more, and very sobering, statistics: about 40 percent of small businesses will never reopen after a disaster.

It’s not hard to imagine why. Fourteen days is a long time . . .

First, there’s the flood or the rain that causes the business to shut down, sometimes even a couple of days before the storm actually hits. Then the storm hits; over the three-five days of these recent hurricanes we’ve seen restaurants flooded, fishing boats tossed and destroyed, hotels torn apart.

Even if the building itself isn’t damaged, any business that requires electricity to operate or accepts payment via credit card – like that restaurant, a bank, a gas station, you name it! – will lose revenue during a power outage.

During the shut-down, the business will likely lose employees unless it has funds to pay them for this down time. It will likely lose customers, who are forced to look elsewhere for suppliers to keep their own enterprises going.

What can a business do to protect itself?

  1. Some businesses have a disaster plan that gives owners and employees an understanding of what it will take to carry on essential functions. Naturally, these folks have a better chance of making it through.
  2. Other companies’ plans go so far as to maintain arrangements for the company to move to an alternate location to carry on these essential functions. (As you can imagine, these plans can become pricey.)
  3. Some businesses carry special Business Continuation Insurance that will help, although too great a delay in getting payments can still mean the demise of the business.

If your company doesn’t yet have a disaster plan, you can get started building one using our Guide to a Simple Business Continuation Plan. Request your free copy here.

OK, that’s enough for now.

Our first look at recent disasters talked about immediate issues – having enough water, supplies, and an evacuation kit. This second look brings up some of the longer-term issues that may arise: power outages, health concerns, insurances.

It all goes to reinforce what we have learned at Emergency Plan Guide – when the emergency hits, it’s too late to do any planning or preparing!

Do what you can now to prepare. Whatever you do will serve you better than having done nothing.

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Again, thanks for sharing.



Flood Damage Not Covered by Insurance

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

The devastating floods being shown on TV are often accompanied by this voiceover:

“And most of these people have no flood insurance.”

flood damageWhen you see the piles of ruined possessions out on the curb, as in the photo, you get a better idea of what “no insurance” really means. And, I hope, you are prompted to take another look at your own insurance coverages.

After all, it seems as though in the last 12 months we have seen multiple floods labeled “thousand year floods,” so even if you have never been flooded before it’s possible you’ll experience one for the very first time. And it could be any time.

Last year we were threatened by unusual rain from El Niño, so I took a closer look at flood insurance. Here’s some of what I found out about it.

Of course, you should check with your own insurance agent to confirm how YOUR home fits into the world of insurance coverage. Questions to ask:

What does my Homeowner’s Insurance cover?

Your standard homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover flood damage at all. It may cover some water damage from rain coming through a hole in the roof punched in by a storm, but if rising waters fill the house, you are out of luck.

Do I have to live in a flood plain to get flood insurance?

Well first, do you know if you even live in a flood plain?

Find out by going to FEMA’s map service at 

If you do live in a flood plain, obviously flood insurance will cost more because the chances are higher that there will be a claim. (If you have been required to obtain flood insurance as part of a mortgage, the map can be a good “second opinion.”)

The fact is, though, that something like 1 in 4 claims is for a home not on a flood plain. So this shouldn’t be your deciding factor.

And, to answer the question, anyone can get flood insurance, flood plain or not.

Where do I get flood insurance?

Start by checking with your current home insurer. Some of them have flood insurance available, as a separate policy. Most will refer you directly to the National Flood Insurance Program, administered by FEMA. NFIP was set up in back in the 60s, and it has been updated regularly so be sure you check for the latest limits and costs.

How does NFIP work?

Like all insurance programs, the NFIP must be financially sound, so its policies are priced based on the likelihood of a claim (“Are you in a flood plain?”) plus the amount of coverage selected by the homeowner – whether for the building, the contents, or both.

Does the NFIP have maximum limits?

Yes. (That’s why I included that question here!)

While limits have increased over the years, and coverage has been refined, there are distinct features to the policy. You will need to watch for:

  • Maximum for the structure – currently $250,000
  • Maximum for possessions – currently $100,000

If you have a more expensive home, you can get “excess flood insurance.” You’ll get it from a private carrier, and it will function rather like “a flood policy with a $250,000 deductible!”

What is covered by NFIP?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, “Flood insurance covers direct physical losses by flood and losses resulting from flood-related erosion caused by heavy or prolonged rain, coastal storm surge, snow melt, blocked storm drainage systems, levee dam failure or other similar causes. To be considered a flood, waters must cover at least two acres or affect two properties.”

Note that last sentence. An overflowing storm drain just in front of your house might not count!

What isn’t covered?

Read the following exceptions carefully, and confirm whether they apply in your case.

  • First, flood insurance doesn’t cover that build-out to your basement (although it may cover some of the air conditioning or heating systems) or anything you may have stored down there. No basement coverage!
  • Second, it may pay replacement cost for your home, but it will only pay “current value” on possessions. This means the family “heirlooms” may be worth almost nothing as far as insurance coverage is concerned.
  • Third, this insurance doesn’t help cover living expenses during the time your home is being rebuilt.

And while I hesitate to say it, you may find that the way your insurer defines “not covered” is likely to be confusing and/or downright misleading. You need to become your own expert.

Should I get flood insurance?

I’m not going to recommend one way or another, but I would certainly consider it. The average price is somewhere around $600 a year for maximum coverage. (I looked into it for our house here in Southern California, built in what is essentially a desert landscape. Our quote was $371/year.)

What else should I know?

Here I WILL make some recommendations.

  1. Be sure to maintain your house whether or not you get a flood policy. Some water damage coverage on your current homeowners policy may be denied if you haven’t installed or maintained gutters, kept up with roof repairs, etc.
  2. No matter what kind of insurance you carry on your home and/or possessions, charge up your phone and do a deliberate walk through, video-taping the contents of every room. Having this record will be incredibly valuable in helping you remember what is missing or damaged in any kind of emergency. Put the footage on a flash drive and store it with a family member or at work, somewhere “off site.”
  3. If you are thinking to wait until the “real” rainy season hits before you buy flood insurance, remember that there is a 30 day waiting period after you sign up before the coverage goes into effect.

Finally, as with all insurances, I recommend you get at least two quotes. Flood coverage, just like earthquake coverage, is something the average insurance professional may not be experienced with. You need to become your own expert – after all, it’s your house we’re talking about!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. I can hear some of our readers saying, “Heck, I know all this.” If that’s your case, how about forwarding the article to a family member or friend who might NOT know it all!  Thanks!

P.P.S. And if you haven’t already, subscribe to our Advisories below. Just let us know where to send them. You never know when one will come that has some new information perfect for you that week!





Last-Minute El Niño Checklist

Monday, October 26th, 2015

28 Sensible Things To Do To In and Around Your House.


It’s another balmy 80-degree day in Southern California.

Although Halloween is approaching, it’s hard to even imagine any rain. With an average year bringing us only 23 inches in all, a “rainy day” usually means some drops and some drizzle, just a percentage of an inch . . . and then it all disappears.

El Niño promises to be different.  As the strongest storm pattern in 65 years, it looks as though El Niño will bring not only more downpours like what happened a couple of weeks ago — six inches (15 centimeters) of precipitation per hour! – but also day-long heavy rains. (“Heavy rain” is defined as between .39 and 2 inches per hour.)

El Nino RainstormThis amount of rain will have a big impact – at the very least resulting in gutters rushing with water, small urban streams and canals overrunning their banks, and even larger scale flooding.

We normally make no “winter” preparations.

This year should be different. So here’s a checklist for Southern California residents, assembled from a number of sources.

Before the rains and winds come, check out your home.


Outside and around the house:

  1. Clean out drains; keep ditches and other water ways clear of leaves and debris.
  2. Check your landscaping for areas where water may pool. Can you re-grade, or at least add mulch or other absorbent material?
  3. Turn off your automatic sprinklers if rain is threatened.
  4. Be sure your vegetables are planted above ground in raised planters.
  5. If you have fences, lights, fountains, etc., store or tie them down. Fasten outdoor furniture so it can’t blow away.
  6. Move potted plants to a secure spot.
  7. Check with your neighbors if you think water may drain from their property onto yours. They are responsible for making sure water from their property flows into the gutter or other drain.

The house itself:

  1. Check for leaks or weak spots in your roof. Make sure no debris is caught in flashing.
  2. Clean out gutters BEFORE it rains and be prepared to clean them again after the first downfall.
  3. Seal holes in the walls/roof made by cables or wires.
  4. Check around window glass and on trim; fill in any gaps with sealant or paint.
  5. Check porch and porch roof slope; make sure water flows away from the walls.
  6. If your property is low-lying or likely to be impacted by run-off, know where to find sandbags, how to fill them, and how to position them.
  7. Store plastic sheeting and heavy clips for emergency covering.

Put together emergency provisions to get you through short or extended power outages.

  1. Store water, non-perishable food and batteries to power flashlight or other lanterns. NO CANDLES; they cause fires.
  2. Have warm clothing and blankets for when the temperature falls and you have no heat.
  3. Be sure to have a back-up battery or other back-up for electrical medical equipment.
  4. Emergency items will disappear off store shelves before or immediately after the storm, and afterwards you may not even be able to travel due to downed trees, power lines, etc. Do your shopping early.

Communications may be interrupted.

  1. Your phones may not work if cables are cut, towers topple as the result of landslides, etc. An “old-fashioned” hard-wired phone is a good back-up.
  2. Prepare a list of emergency numbers. (Your computer or cell phone may be out of battery.)
  3. Know where to tune for emergency broadcasts and official information.
  4. Know the non-emergency number for your local police and/or fire. Use it, not 911, unless it is a matter of life and death.

Prepare your car, too.

  1. Do you need new tires? Bald tires are even more dangerous on wet roads.
  2. Check whether your tires are properly inflated; lessen the risk of hydroplaning.
  3. Do you need new wipers? Don’t wait until you’re caught in a downpour to realize you can’t see clearly.
  4. Need a new battery? Don’t get stranded because the car won’t start.
  5. Put together a survival kit for the car: water, food, flashlight, blanket, emergency radio.

Consider flood insurance.

As with all insurance coverages, the devil is in the details. However, here are some general observations that may help you to decide if you need flood coverage, if only for this year . . .

  • Flood insurance is not generally covered by regular homeowner policies.
  • A separate flood policy covers damage from flood waters to property and/or contents. (Check on the definition of “water.”)
  • Prices depend on the assessment of risk based on where you live. Premiums may range from $150 to over $1,500/year.
  • “Twenty percent of people who file claims come from non-high-risk areas,” says Mary Simms, spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region IX, which includes California.
  • Federal policies have limits that would easily be overtaken in California, where property values are high. Separate “extra value” policies would be necessary to cover the full value of an expensive home.
  • A policy doesn’t cover living expenses if you have to leave your home while it is being renovated.
  • FEMA makes flood insurance available through a number of partners. Its website is
  • It takes 30 days for any flood policy to become effective.

This is specialty insurance. Do your homework, starting with your regular agent. Then find and speak to someone who specializes in flood insurance, and finally get a third opinion.

One last thing to protect against the rain.

Oh, and don’t forget. Have a good umbrella handy! How could you go wrong with an umbrella with the name “RainStoppers?”?!

RainStoppers Auto Open Windbuster Sport Umbrella, Black, 48-Inch

There are bigger “Rainstoppers” too – 54, 50, 62, up to 68 inches! Just click the link or the image above to get to the right place to start your search!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

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Tornado – An Ounce of Prevention

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

An Ounce of Prevention Equals More Than a Pound of Cure.

Heartbreaking is a strong word but it isn’t adequate to describe the collective grief we all feel when viewing the devastation in the aftermath of the massive tornado that swept through the outskirts of Oklahoma City recently. Your heart goes out to the young mother who asks, “Why didn’t we have better protection for our schoolchildren?” Why indeed.

Home damaged by storm


Where were the voices of prevention before the storm? There’s a reason this area of the Midwest is called “Tornado Alley!”

Why indeed weren’t there underground or interior shelters in the schools and pre-schools? It’s a very interesting question and a curious commentary on the workings of the human mind.

Tornadoes versus earthquakes and floods.

I recall vividly a visit I made to some relatives living in Baxter Springs, Kansas, a few short weeks after a tornado tore through the area and took the lives of a few residents, including some of my remote American Indian relatives. My own experience of getting tossed out of my upper bunk bed in 1953 (or was it 1954?) by an earthquake in the Tehachapi Mountains in Southern California had burned into my brain the need to take precautions against the natural risks.

Yet my relatives’ attitude about the tornadoes could only be described as nonchalant. At the same time, I had to wonder about their reluctance to even visit California because of their fear of earthquakes!

These same people chose to live with the yearly risk of tornadoes . . . the natural disaster risk they’ve become accustomed to. Their fatalistic attitude (“. . . if it’s God’s will,” etc.) seemed to work for them with tornadoes, but not with earthquakes.

I guess it’s a lot like buying insurance.

Would we agree that “responsible people” purchase insurance against recognized risk? Many responsible people who live in flood prone areas do seem to take out flood insurance . . . but not all. And the fact that less than 20% of California residents have earthquake insurance – despite the near 100% probability of a major earthquake over 6.7 on the Richter scale in the next 20-30 years – seems a bit incongruent.

The good news, however, is that 40% say they have taken at least some actions to prepare themselves and, in the case of CERT organizations, have expanded their efforts to include their neighborhoods and businesses. Hopefully, we are having some impact on these wider preparations as well.


Joe Krueger

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team