• 34°

Commission urges purchase of flood insurance

In a push to encourage people to purchase flood insurance and increase awareness of flood risks, the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, with support from Suffolk and other cities and counties throughout the region, has launched a new website.

It’s one part of a region-wide public awareness campaign to educate residents throughout South Hampton Roads, including Suffolk.

The website, www.GetFloodFluent.org, includes an interactive challenge to test flooding fluency, video stories of residents who lost homes due to flooding and myriad flooding facts.

One fact in particular the campaign seeks to highlight: flood damage typically is not covered by homeowners’ or renters’ insurance.

“The damage of just one inch of water in your home can cost more than $25,000 in repairs,” said Ben McFarlane, a senior regional planner with HRPDC in a news release. “You could hope you’re never impacted by flooding. Or, you can product yourself from devastating loss by signing up for flood insurance.”

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, there are just 995 flood insurance policyholders in Suffolk as of Sept. 30, 2018. Statewide, there are 105,933 flood insurance policyholders.

The website notes that the average yearly premium for flood insurance is about $737. For those who live outside of a high-risk zone, Preferred Risk Policies that include building and contents coverage can range from $100 to $387 per year depending on the level of coverage.

Richard Stephens, deputy emergency management coordinator for Suffolk Fire & Rescue, said the time to get flood insurance, and the time to prepare for a flood, is now.

“Really, your No. 1 protection against flooding is being able to replace what you’ve lost,” Stephens said. “Flood insurance is separate from normal policies.”

He noted that flood insurance must be purchased at least 30 days in advance of any flooding incident for it to take effect.

“If a storm is coming tomorrow, you can’t call the insurance company today, get insurance for a week and then turn around and cancel it after the storm is gone,” Stephens said.

As a part of the campaign, the city of Suffolk has produced a video public service announcement that aims to highlight how serious flooding is and the need for flood insurance. The video notes that floods are the most common natural disaster in Suffolk.

The new website, besides emphasizing the need for flood insurance, also stresses that anywhere it can rain, it can flood, with rainfalls in the region having become more intense and frequent over the past four decades. It also notes the following:

  • It doesn’t have to rain for flooding to occur. Flooding can come from storm surge, high tides and wind direction, and you don’t have to live in a high-risk flood zone to see flooding.
  • Hampton Roads is experiencing the highest rate of sea level rise on the East Coast.

“We certainly encourage our residents to be aware of the dangers of flooding,” said Brian Spicer, Suffolk Fire & Rescue deputy fire chief/emergency management coordinator, in the release. “In addition, making sure their homes and businesses are covered with flood insurance is critical in helping with the rebuilding process if such a disaster were to occur. Everyone should be flood-fluent.”

More information:

More information about flooding and flood insurance can be found at www.GetFloodFluent.org. The city of Suffolk has produced a video public service announcement at www.suffolkva.us/floodinsurancepsa, and it has flood information on the city website at www.suffolkva.us/712/8418/Flood-Information. Flood insurance information can also be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website at www.floodsmart.gov.