Wednesday, September 22, 2010

U.S. Senate votes to re-authorize federal flood insurance program, insurers urging House to act quickly

The National Flood Insurance Program, which has repeatedly expired this year, only to be reauthorized by Congress for short stints, is slated to expire on Sept. 30. To prevent that, the U.S. Senate yesterday voted to extend the program through Sept. 30, 2011.

Insurers and insurance associations are now urging the House of Representatives to quickly do the same thing.

Congress created the program in 1968 as a way of getting a handle on the increasing public costs of providing aid to flood victims.

Many homeowners assume that flood damage is covered by standard homeowners coverage. It is not. The same is true for standard renters- and commercial property policies. If you want flood coverage, you have to specifically get flood coverage. (There's one exception to this general rule: comprehensive auto insurance coverage tends to cover flood damage to the vehicle.)

Flood insurance has been a major issue in south King County's Green River Valley, where the Army Corps of Engineers says there's a higher-than-normal risk of flooding due to weakness in an abutment to the Howard Hanson Dam. Work by the Corps and its contractors has dramatically reduced the risk of serious flooding (it was 1 in 3 last fall, now the Corps says its about 1 in 60), but we're still urging property owners and renters in the area to seriously consider getting at least the federal flood coverage.

For businesses, the federal coverage (capped at $500k/building and $500k contents) will not be enough. Many insurers stopped writing coverage in the area last fall. To help, our office has organized the Washington Flood Market Assistance Plan, which acts like a matchmaker between Green River Valley businesses needing coverage and insurers selling it.

The Insurance Information Institute has prepared a lot of flood-related information, including a list of major floods, how to prepare for a flood, what to do during a flood, and how to recover from a flood.

(Post modified 9/23 to add the info and a link for the state's flood Market Assistance Plan.)

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