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Know your Flood Insurance

May 27, 2011

By Monica J. Lindeen, Commissioner of Securities and Insurance

Floods can happen anywhere, at any time. It’s been over a month since floods along the Milk River washed away roads and damaged property from Hinsdale to Glasgow, and now we’re seeing floods all over Montana, from the Clark Fork to Pryor Creek.

Residents who live in and outside of a high-risk area should know their risk, and consider protection. Approximately 20 to 25 percent of all flood claims occur outside of a Special Flood Hazard Area. Even if you live outside the high-risk zone, and thus are not required by law to purchase flood insurance, you may still be at risk for flooding and should consider flood insurance. Flooding usually is not covered by homeowners insurance. However, flood insurance can be purchased through the Federal Government through their National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Typically, a policy does not take effect until 30 days after you purchase flood insurance. For example, if the weather forecast announces a flood alert for your area and you purchase coverage, it is already too late. You will not be insured if you buy a policy a few days before a flood.

If you do find yourself fighting back floodwaters, following these simple tips will make filing your flood insurance claim faster and easier:

• Immediately call your agent or insurance company. Have the following information with you when you place your call: the name of your insurance company, your policy number, and a telephone number or e-mail address where you can be reached. When you file your claim, ask for an approximate time frame during which an adjuster can be expected to visit your home so you can plan accordingly.
• Once you have reported your loss, an adjuster will work with you to calculate the value of the damage and prepare a repair estimate. Keep your agent advised if your contact information changes. If you are still in a shelter or cannot be easily reached, please provide the name of a designated relative or point-of-contact person who can reach you.
• A base flood insurance policy doesn’t cover the contents or property inside your home, and a regular homeowners policy won’t cover items damaged by a flood. However, you can purchase contents coverage through the flood insurance program for an additional premium. If you have contents coverage, take photos of any damaged personal property before you dispose of it. Local officials may require the disposal of damaged items before your adjuster arrives, and the photos will help your adjuster prepare your repair estimate.
• Make a list of damaged or lost items and include their age and value when possible. If possible, have receipts for all items available for the adjuster. If you have damage estimates prepared by a contractor, provide them to your adjuster since they will be considered in the preparation of your repair estimate.
Contact your insurance company if an adjuster has not been assigned to you within several days. If you have difficulty with your agent or your company, call one of our CSI insurance experts at 1-406-444-2040 or toll free at 1-800-332-6148. You can also visit www.floodsafe.gov or call 303-299-7873 for more information about preparing for floods and to find a flood insurance agent near you.