Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Acting Insurance Commissioner Michael Humphreys and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Director Randy Padfield today urged property owners to prepare for the potential of flooding during the springtime rainy season and the summer storm season in Pennsylvania. Spring flooding is a common occurrence throughout the state due to heavy rains, and summer in the Commonwealth brings the potential for storms and sporadic weather conditions. Pennsylvanians should consider purchasing flood insurance before the flood prone season to protect their homes, businesses, and possessions, as just one inch of water can cause $25,000 of damage.
"Flooding becomes a real threat in the spring and summer, and we're urging Pennsylvanians to be prepared in case the unthinkable happens," said Humphreys. "Too often we see homeowners who suffer devastating damages to their properties from flooding, only to realize that the standard homeowners insurance policy does not cover those damages. Homeowners should review their policies now and consider adding flood insurance coverage, because where it rains, it can flood."
In Pennsylvania there are approximately 3.1 million insured homes, but only a little over 50,000 of those homes are covered for flood damage. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) about 40% of flood insurance claims happen outside of high-risk flooding areas. Most people don't realize that their homeowners or business owners' insurance policies do not cover flooding from overflowing rivers, surging tides, or rainfall that can't drain fast enough.
Homeowners who live in federally designated Special Flood Hazard Areas are likely required to have flood insurance by their mortgage lenders, however, individuals looking to purchase new homes and properties should research before buying to determine if the area is prone to flooding. Homeowners who have paid off their mortgages should consider maintaining their flood insurance even though they may no longer be obligated to continue it in case disaster strikes.
Flood insurance is available through both the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the rapidly growing private market. 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. Renters can purchase flood insurance protection for their possessions, which are typically not covered by either a standard renters' insurance policy, or a landlord's policy which covers the building.
FHA home buyers who were required to have flood insurance if their property is in a FEMA-designated flood area are encouraged to shop the growing private flood insurance market as the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development now allows those with mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration to purchase flood policies through private insurers.
As of January 2023, there were approximately 15,900 private residential flood policies written by the private insurance market in Pennsylvania. This compares to approximately 35,600 private residential flood policies written by the NFIP.
"Consumers should be aware that flood insurance policies are not active immediately," added Humphreys. "In most scenarios, there is a 30-day waiting period before policies are active."
"It is important to remember that flooding can be a very real threat, even if your home is not near obvious water features," said PEMA Director Randy Padfield. "Changing weather patterns have brought with them short duration, high intensity storms that cause flash flooding outside of known floodplains. Flood insurance in these situations can be exceptionally affordable and offers financial security from the devastation that flooding causes."
Padfield added that an important first step to preparing for emergencies is for families to create a family emergency communications plan, so that everyone knows how they can stay in touch during an emergency. The plan should be practiced regularly so everyone is comfortable with it when the time comes to use it.
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.
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