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Flood Protection 101: Is my house in a flood zone?

Protect your home and wallet from flood damage

Who should get flood insurance?

Flooding is one of the most costly types of natural disasters in the U.S., resulting in $4.6 billion in damages per event on average, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. For those living in high-risk areas, floods pose a serious threat to their homes and personal belongings – even just one inch of water can cause more than $25,000 in damage, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported.

Despite the prevalence of flooding in the U.S., many homeowners are unsure whether their property is truly at risk, especially those that live far from the coast and large bodies of water. In this article, we’ll tackle some of the most common questions about flood protection: “What causes flood events? Is my home in a flood zone? And should I get flood insurance?”

Flooding in the U.S.

In many cases, flooding is the result of severe weather events like hurricanes, tropical cyclones, heavy rainfall and storm surge. This explains why coastal regions are often classified as high-risk zones, along with areas that are in close proximity to lakes, rivers and streams. According to the Penn Institute for Urban Research, floods in the U.S. typically fall into one of three categories:

1. Coastal flooding: Tropical storms and hurricanes can produce heavy storm surges, which may disrupt the tide and push ocean water inland. Homes that are located along the coast can quickly become inundated with tidewaters, which is why FEMA considers these areas high risk.

2. Riverine flooding: Rivers and streams are also common sources of flooding, though these events are much harder to predict. Riverine floods occur when a body of water overflows its banks, either slowly or rapidly (flash flooding). 

3. Surface-water flooding: Also known as stormwater or rainfall flooding, this type of event is common in low-lying regions where rainwater and runoff can pool together. During periods of above-average rainfall, local drainage systems can be overwhelmed and fail to direct water away from residential and commercial areas.

While it’s true that flood hazard zones are more likely to experience a major flood event, almost everyone lives in an area with at least some risk. In fact, almost 20% of all flood insurance claims and one-third of federal disaster assistance go to homeowners who live outside of high-risk zones, according to FEMA. But how can homeowners determine whether they live in a flood zone and what level of risk they face?

Reading FEMA’s flood zone maps

FEMA regularly creates and updates detailed flood zone maps that outline risks at the community level. To check if your home is in a flood zone, simply enter your address or ZIP code into FEMA’s online flood map service center. Once you’ve located your neighborhood, you may notice it falls under one of FEMA’s flood zone classifications, which range from low- and moderate-risk to high-risk areas. Here’s a quick breakdown of common flood zones and what they mean:

  • Zones B, C and X: Flood zones that begin with these letters face low to moderate flood risk in any given year. This does not mean that your home is completely safe, however, which is why FEMA still recommends purchasing flood insurance if you live in one of these zones.
  • Zones A and V: These Special Flood Hazard Areas are considered higher risk for seasonal and weather-related events. Under the National Flood Insurance Program, residents located in these regions are required to buy flood insurance as part of their mortgage agreement. Zone V commonly refers to coastal regions, while Zone A is usually near a lake, river, stream or other body of water.

Once you’ve verified whether your home is located in a flood zone, the next step is to gauge how much risk you actually face. According to FEMA, there is at least a 1-in-4 chance of flooding in Zones A and V over the course of a 30-year mortgage. It’s also important to consider local drainage and water management systems, as faulty infrastructure can lead to sudden and unexpected flooding.

Is flood insurance worth it?

One of the best ways to protect your home and personal property against flood-related losses is to buy flood insurance. That’s because homeowners policies don’t cover damage caused by flooding. The average premium for flood insurance is around $700 per year, according to FEMA. However, insurance premiums vary by state and flood zone, meaning your monthly payments would likely be higher if you’re living in a high-risk area (Zones A or V).

A standard NFIP flood policy offers $250,000 in coverage for the structure and $100,000 in contents, and flood-relation claims filed through the NFIP pay out an average of $52,000 per household, FEMA reported. Without flood insurance, you may need to cover home repairs, property replacements and rebuilding costs completely out of pocket.

We can help protect your home from flood-related losses

At Amica, we believe that home insurance is essential to protecting against all types of natural hazards, including floods. That’s why we help homeowners obtain flood insurance backed by the NFIP, along with other endorsements that can safeguard your home and personal items against sudden and unexpected disasters. We’ll work with you to assess your level of flood risk and purchase the right amount of insurance for your specific needs.

To learn more, contact our representatives today at 844-395-4419.

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