Flood Insurance and Storm Damage Coverage: How to Protect Yourself from Costly Devastation

In the light of a devastating hurricane season, flood insurance has been a topic of discussion as home and business owners figure out how they’ll rebuild structures or recover valuables.

However, OII member Allstate (@Allstate) reports that only 12% of U.S. homeowners have flood insurance. That means the vast majority of U.S. residents hit with flood or water damage due to hurricanes (or other natural disasters) are left to clean up the wreckage on their own.

From Hurricane Harvey to Irma to Maria, the 2017 tropical storm season was reported to be more intense than normal, leaving residents across the U.S. with damaged properties, missing belongings or the need to relocate altogether. And while we’ve been enjoying a mild summer season here in Ohio, recent reports of flood damage further south leave many of us wondering if we’re properly covered.

Read on to learn how you can protect your home, business and investments from the emotional and financial costs of storm damage with flood insurance or similar coverage.

How is flood risk calculated?

Many Ohio residents may feel that they are immune from the threat of flooding, however, flood and storm precautions should be observed throughout the entire year, not just hurricane season. Flood risk is dependent on a number of factors, including rainfall, riverflow and your proximity to other bodies of water like lakes. Most importantly, remember that flooding can happen anywhere, anytime.

In fact, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) states that more than 20% of flood claims come from properties outside the high-risk flood zone. Because of this, insurers suggest investing in flood insurance regardless of where you’re located on the map.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has reported that all 50 states have witnessed flash floods in the last five years. And, Ohio is no stranger to these situations.

Below, see how floods have affected Ohio according to data from NOAA’s Storm Events Database between the years 1996-2016.

Note that counties that are home to Ohio’s major cities have experienced some of the highest number of flooding events, including Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton and Montgomery counties.

What does flood insurance cover?

To understand what flood insurance covers, you must first know that flood damage isn’t typically covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. And since flooding affects every state, flood insurance is necessary to cover you from storm damage.

The most common flood policy—NFIP—covers direct physical damage by flood to your building and personal property, also known as contents. These items include the following:

  • Electrical and plumbing systems.
  • Furnaces, water heaters, heat pumps and sump pumps.
  • Refrigerators, cooking stoves, dishwashers and microwave ovens.
  • Permanently installed carpeting, paneling, wallboard, bookcases and cabinets.
  • Window blinds and curtains.
  • Foundation walls, anchorage systems and staircases attached to the building.
  • A detached garage, used for limited storage or parking.
  • Fuel tanks and the fuel in them, solar energy equipment, and well water tanks and pumps.
  • Personal belongings such as clothing, furniture and electronic equipment.
  • Portable and window air conditioners.
  • Clothes, washers and dryers.

To review all the items that are covered, refer to the Standard Flood Insurance Policy Form.

What doesn’t flood insurance cover?

While flood insurance covers the structure of your home and its foundation, it does not cover any of the following property items:

  • Personal property not inside the fully enclosed building.
  • Open structures or personal property located in, on, or over water.
  • Recreational vehicles, whether affixed to a permanent foundation or on wheels.
  • Self-propelled vehicles or machines, including their parts and equipment.
  • Land, land values, lawns, trees, shrubs, plants, growing crops or animals.
  • Accounts, bills, coins, currency, deeds, evidences of debt, medals, money, scrip, stored value cards, postage stamps, securities, bullion, manuscripts or other valuable papers.
  • Underground structures and equipment, including wells, septic tanks and systems.
  • Decks, driveways, patios and other surfaces, all whether protected by a roof or not, located outside the perimeter, exterior walls of the insured building.
  • Containers or tanks containing gases or liquids.
  • Fences, retaining walls, seawalls, bulkheads, wharves, piers, bridges and docks.
  • Aircraft or watercraft.
  • Hot tubs and spas that are not bathroom fixtures, and swimming pools. 

For more information on what is and isn’t covered by FEMA’s flood insurance program, visit the National Flood Insurance Program Dwelling Form: Standard Flood Insurance Policy or FEMA Fact Sheet.

What should I talk to my agent about when it comes to flood insurance?

So you’re thinking about getting flood insurance, but you don’t know where to start or what questions to ask. Don’t fret; we’ve got you covered.

When purchasing flood insurance, ask your agent the following questions:

  • Why do I need flood insurance?
  • How can I buy flood insurance?
  • What will and won’t be covered?
  • Does my community participate in the National Flood Insurance Program?
  • What flood zone do I live in?
  • Is flood insurance mandatory for my property?
  • What policy do I qualify for?
  • How much coverage should I purchase for my building and its contents?
  • Are there any additional expenses or fees?
  • Is there are 30-day waiting period?

For additional help, check out FEMA’s frequently asked questions page.

What’s the difference between storm damage and water damage?

As mentioned earlier, standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flood damage, but what about storm damage? Or, how about water damage?

The short and simple answer—it depends on your homeowner’s policy. While storms including hail, tornado and wind damage are typically covered, coverage for water damage varies, according to the National Storm Damage Center.

For example, if a strong storm rolls through, you may find damage to your siding or roof caused by hail and wind. In this scenario, homeowners insurance typically covers the hail and wind damage.

But what about water damage? Under most standard home insurance policies, if the water damage occurs suddenly or accidental—like a frozen pipe bursting—your insurance policy will likely provide coverage. However, homeowners insurance doesn’t cover all types of water damage.

OII member organization Nationwide (@Nationwide) provides two instances in which your homeowner’s policy will not provide coverage for water damage:

  • Maintenance problems that have not been attended to. For example, your homeowner’s insurance will likely not cover water damage that is the result of a faulty sink that has been leaking for several months.
  • Repair or replacement of the actual source of the water damage. If your washing machine caused water damage to the floor of you laundry room, your homeowner’s insurance will not cover the costs to repair or replace the machine. However, it will typically cover the costs to repair your floors.

Knowing these scenarios, it’s important to talk to an insurance agent near you about the possible implications of flood, storm and water damage. No home is completely safe, so why risk it?

Additional resources:

See these resources for more ways our members and partners educate others on the importance of flood insurance: