W. Va. Residents Look for Flood Coverage Answers

February 24, 2005

Following the January 2005 floods, many West Virginians are reportedly asking government officials and insurance representatives about flood insurance availability and coverage.

Misconceptions are common say officials from the West Virginia Office of Emergency Services (WVOES) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“Many residents, and even insurance representatives, still believe that only those individuals living in a floodplain can purchase flood insurance coverage,” said WVOES Director Stephen Kappa.

“That is incorrect. We need to correct these inaccuracies and empower West Virginians to better protect themselves from flood disasters.”

Flood insurance is available to any West Virginia property owner located in the 268 communities participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This encompasses more than 99 percent of all West Virginia residents. The WVOES continues to work with non-participating communities to help them join the program.

Renters in participating communities also may insure their belongings, because content coverage and structure coverage are separate.

“Another mistaken belief is that those who live in high risk flood areas cannot purchase flood insurance,” said FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Bolch. “In reality, the National Flood Insurance Program was created in 1968 to provide flood insurance to people who live in areas with the highest risk of flooding.

In fact, under the National Flood Insurance Act, lenders must require borrowers whose property is located within a Special Flood Hazard Area to purchase flood insurance as a condition of receiving a federally regulated mortgage loan.

People can find out if their community participates in the NFIP by:

* Checking the NFIP Community Status Book online at http://www.fema.gov/fema/csb.shtm
* Calling their community’s planning, floodplain management, or building permit office
* Contacting the WVOES National Flood Insurance Program Coordinators at: (304) 965-2331, or by e-mail: robperry@wvoes.state.wv.us or tkeaton@wvoes.state.wv.us.

“Another harmful misconception is that only residents of high-flood-risk zones need to insure their property,” said Kappa. “There is no guarantee that your house will not flood, because there is no record of previous flooding.”

Between 20 and 25 percent of the NFIP’s claims come from homes or businesses outside high-flood-risk areas.

One of the worst flood misconceptions is that FEMA assistance is going to pay for all flood recovery costs,” added Kappa. “This misconception is wrong in two ways.”

First, there must be a Federal Disaster Declaration for FEMA Individual Assistance to be available to help with flood recovery costs. Federal disaster assistance declarations are approved in less than 50 percent of flooding incidents.

Second, FEMA Individual Assistance is not intended to restore residents to their pre-flood standard of living. It is intended to provide people with assistance to get back on their feet following the flood, and a base from which to repair or replace what was damaged or lost.

People with flood insurance coverage are reportedly more likely to fully recover from a flood than those who do not have insurances.

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