Spring Has Sprung—Increasing Flood Risk
Tips about flood insurance and flood-prone areas due to wildfires
As we head into the warmer months here in Colorado, flooding from rapid snowmelt, thunderstorms and overflowing rivers becomes a very real concern. As we saw with Colorado’s historic “bomb cyclone,” the state’s weather can go from high winds, freezing temperatures and drifting snow to rushing water -- all in a single day.
All of this means that now is the time to consider buying a flood insurance policy, especially as flood insurance has a 30-day waiting period before it becomes effective. This is also particularly important if you live in areas that have been affected by wildfires such as the 2018 Spring Fire, the 416 Fire, the Lake Christine Fire and the Bocco Fire.
Many homeowners do not realize that their basic homeowners insurance does not include protection from flood damage, and that flood insurance must be purchased as a separate policy. The Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), offers these tips about flood insurance.
Not just high-risk areas - floods also happen in medium and low-risk flood zones
Floods can happen anywhere, anytime. They often accompany natural disasters such as storms, early or rapid snowmelts or rising rivers, but not always. About 25 percent of all flood insurance claims come from outside of high-risk areas.
And, as the DOI noted in a consumer advisory last summer, wildfires create landscapes more prone to flooding. The fires leave the ground charred, barren and unable to absorb water, making conditions ripe for flash floods and mud flows. And the flood risk stays high for up to five years after a wildfire.
To help people determine their flood risk and the need for flood insurance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers Flood Insurance Rate Maps, which are updated regularly. Homeowners can view the maps at www.floodsmart.gov.
Buying flood insurance
FEMA administers the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federally subsidized program available to any property owner —homeowners, renters, condominium owners and associations — whether or not the property is in a floodplain. National Flood Insurance premiums vary depending on location and the type of coverage chosen. Typically, there is a 30-day waiting period after applying and paying the first premium for the insurance to become effective. Coverage choices include insuring only the structure of a home or also including its contents.
Contact your insurance agent about buying flood insurance. If you do not have an agent or your agent does not sell flood insurance, contact the NFIP at 1-888-379-9531 or go to www.floodsmart.gov to get the name of an agent in your area. Know that to buy an NFIP flood insurance policy, your community must participate in the program, and according to floodsmart.gov, must “agree to adopt and enforce ordinances that meet or exceed FEMA requirements to reduce the risk of flooding."
You can find a list of participating communities on FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program Community Status Book.
If you still have questions, contact the Consumer Services team of the Colorado Division of Insurance at 303-894-7490 / 800-930-3745 / DORA_Insurance@state.co.us. Visit AskDORA.colorado.gov for more consumer tips and information.