An insurance wake-up call from Hurricane Irene
My heart goes out to all of you still dealing with the repercussions of Hurricane Irene. Oddly enough, a flood is one of the natural disasters that isn’t covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. What you may need is flood insurance.
If you were affected by Hurricane Irene, upping your insurance now won’t help pay for your damages, since there’s usually a 30-day waiting period before it becomes effective. But you can and should prepare for the next time. If a circumstance like this hits again (which it very well could, if Irene is a harbinger of climate change to come), here’s what you can do:
- Look up your home’s flood risk. Aside from New Orleans, where 67% of homeowners had flood insurance prior to Katrina, there are high-risk areas in surprising places. For example, towns in the hilly region of New England are susceptible to runoffs from melting snow in spring. And every inch of poor Vermont is currently flooded, courtesy of Irene. Check your home’s flood risk by going to the National Flood Insurance Program’s website, floodsmart.gov, and filling out the One-Step Flood Risk Profile.
- Consider buying flood insurance. The federal government offers flood insurance in an effort to protect people and their homes. This is especially critical if you live in a flood-prone area. But even if you’re not in a high-risk area, look into it. It’s low-cost and could protect you from losing everything in a total disaster. Get a cost estimate and find insurance agencies that offer flood policies in your area at floodsmart.gov, or call your homeowners insurance company.
- Look into specialized insurance for other natural disasters. Homeowners’ policies won’t cover earthquake damage either, so people in California in particular should buy earthquake insurance through the state’s Earthquake Authority, earthquakeauthority.com.