Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman today urged property owners to consider purchasing flood insurance to protect their homes, businesses, and possessions. For many Pennsylvanians, extreme weather, including flooding caused by hurricanes and severe thunderstorms, can be a common occurrence throughout the state during the summer months. As the country enters hurricane season, the federal government is working towards improving the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
"Flooding is a threat across all of Pennsylvania during this time of year due to heavy summer storms. The commonwealth is generally impacted by the high winds and heavy rain that accompany hurricanes, often causing significant damages. Standard homeowners' insurance policies do not cover flood damage, so homeowners should review their policies and consider this added protection, whether purchased through the rapidly growing private market or the NFIP," said Altman. "It's important to be prepared for any potential disaster during the volatile summer weather. Flood insurance protection is a good step to take to mitigate risk to your family and home and can be purchased regardless of whether you live in a designated flood zone."
Consumers should be aware that flood insurance policies are not active immediately. In most scenarios, there is a 30-day waiting period before policies are active; this prevents individuals from purchasing flood insurance solely when a storm is headed in the direction of their property. However, there are a few exceptions:
- If an address was newly added to the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) map and flood insurance is purchased within the 13-month period following a map revision.
- If renewing a flood policy and increasing coverage.
- If a home has been affected by flooding on burned federal land and a policy was purchased within 60 days of the fire's containment.
- If a home was just purchased and the lender requires flood coverage.
Homeowners who live in federally designated SFHAs are likely required to have flood insurance by their mortgage lenders, however from 2014 to 2018, policyholders outside of high-risk flood areas filed over 40 percent of all NFIP flood insurance claims. Individuals looking to purchase new homes and properties should research before buying to determine if the area is prone to flooding. Renters can buy flood insurance protection for their possessions as well, which are typically not covered by either a standard renters' insurance policy, or a landlord's policy which covers the building.
Pennsylvania continues to see strong growth in the number of private market flood policies. As of January 2021, there are now more than 12,800 policies covering owner-occupied private residential properties and secondary/seasonal properties statewide, compared to approximately 1,500 policies only five years ago. Policy counts have increased 17 percent from 2020 and 750 percent over the past five years.
Flood insurance is available through both the NFIP and private insurers. Policies can be purchased through licensed property and casualty insurance agents in Pennsylvania to cover almost any building and its contents, including rental property and condominiums.
"Flood insurance is more readily available than ever and can be much more affordable than you would think," said PEMA Director Randy Padfield. "We are seeing significant flooding in places that historically haven't been flooded, showing us that wherever it rains, it can flood so we're all vulnerable to this threat."
Padfield said it's important for families to have emergency communications plans in place, so everyone knows what to do and where to go in an emergency.
Padfield said free family emergency plan templates and downloadable checklists are available on the ReadyPA website. Consumers can also sign up for free weather alerts from a trusted local media source or AlertPA, subscribe to the monthly ReadyPA newsletter, and download the complete Pennsylvania Emergency Preparedness Guide.
Information on both the NFIP and private flood insurance is available on the Insurance Department's one-stop flood insurance webpage.
"I encourage homeowners to make use of these resources available, talk to some experts, and shop around for the most suitable policy for their particular property," said Altman.