March 20, 2008 11:15 ET

FEMA Urges Residents to Prepare for Possible Spring Flooding

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - March 20, 2008) - This spring marks the 15th anniversary of the Great Midwest Floods of 1993 -- one of the largest floods in U.S. history. During the spring and summer of 1993, nine Midwest states experienced catastrophic flooding that resulted in $270 million in insured losses and more than $15 billion in total damages. It's on the occasion of this anniversary that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is urging everyone to prepare for the serious damage that even an inch of water can cause.

Floods are the most common natural disaster in the U.S. And, the spring months bring unique risks as snow melts and heavy rain storms roll in. But floods pose a threat to every state and occur year round. Flood insurance, which can sometimes be overlooked, offers the best financial protection against rising water. Here are several facts about flood insurance that might surprise you:

--  Only two inches of water can cost $7,800 or more in damage (estimate
    based on a 900-square-foot home).
--  Homeowners insurance typically does not cover flood damage.
--  In a high-risk area, you have a 26 percent chance of being flooded
    over the course of a 30-year mortgage, compared to a 9 percent chance of
--  In 2007, the average flood insurance claims payment was nearly

"Too many Americans do not realize that flood damage is not usually covered by their homeowners insurance," says David Maurstad, FEMA's Flood Insurance Administrator. "And flooding is not just an issue for those who live in the highest risk areas. Twenty to 25 percent of all flood insurance claims come from areas with a low to moderate risk of flooding, and the majority of residents in those areas do not have flood insurance coverage."

U.S. residents are reminded that protecting themselves from flooding requires simple action, including: storing important documents, adhering to local evacuation plans and purchasing flood insurance to protect their financial investment. FEMA also offers the following tips to prepare for flooding:

Before a Flood

--  Have a safety kit with drinking water, a first-aid kit, canned food, a
    radio, flashlight and blankets.
--  Know safe routes from home, work and school that are on higher ground.
--  Protect your property. Most homeowners insurance does not cover
    flooding. Make sure that your flood insurance policy is up to date.

During a Flood

--  If flooding occurs, go to higher ground. Get out of areas subject to
    flooding. This includes dips, low spots, canyons, washes, etc.
--  Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast.
    Do not attempt to cross flowing streams.
--  Roadbeds may be washed out under flood waters. NEVER drive through
    flooded roadways. If your vehicle is suddenly caught in rising water, leave
    it immediately and seek higher ground.

After a Flood

--  Do not turn electricity back on in your home if you detect gas or if
    the electrical system has been flooded.
--  Clean and disinfect everything that was touched by floodwaters or
    mudflows and throw out any such foodstuffs.
--  Follow directions from local officials regarding the safety of
    drinking water.

Flood insurance is available through approximately 90 insurance companies in more than 20,400 participating communities nationwide. The average flood insurance policy costs around $500 a year. Everyone can purchase flood insurance -- renters, business owners and homeowners -- and last year one-third of all claims paid by the National Flood Insurance Program were for policies in low- to moderate-risk areas. In low- to moderate-risk areas, lower-cost Preferred Risk Policies (PRPs) start at less than $120 a year. Individuals can learn more about their flood risk and how to protect their property by visiting or by dialing 1-800-427-2419.

FEMA coordinates the Federal Government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or manmade, including acts of terrorism.