The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is showing its importance as hurricanes hit and take aim at the United States.
Former Nebraska Lt. Gov. Dave Maurstad now heads the program for FEMA. Federal law requires homes in flood zones with federally backed mortgages to be covered by flood insurance. NFIP offers coverage of up to $250,000 for structural damage and $100,000 for contents.
Maurstad says about 80,000 claims have been submitted so far, by policy holders in Texas, and many more are expected from Florida.
“Florida is the state with the largest number of policies in the National Flood Insurance Program,” Maurstad tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KWBE. “There are about 1.7 million policies statewide. We’re looking at – just in the Florida coastal counties – over a million properties there with 11,000 right there in the coastal high velocity zone. We’re obviously cranked up looking to support insured survivors and it’s going to be a busy time for weeks and months.”
He says back-to-back hurricanes are testing the system.
Most of the areas that saw damage in Hurricane Harvey, or may be hit by Irma, are in high risk areas where property owners are required to carry flood insurance.
Maurstad says those areas are at a 1% annual chance for a severe storm.
“Many of these events that we’ve seen in the last dozen years have exceeded that type of a storm. Storms have been more severe,” he says. “We just need more people covered for flood insurance so that after events like this, we don’t have as many uninsured survivors as we currently have.”
Maurstad points out that many Houston residents could have purchased a flood insurance preferred-risk policy for about $500 a year.
He says homeowners need to be better educated about getting coverage.
“We need to change the social paradigm where people do everything they can to avoid buying a flood insurance policy, to one where it’s the individual property owner’s responsibility to their family and their community to protect their property from flooding.”
Congress must reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program, which is set to expire at the end of this month.
Doug Kennedy, with KWBE in Beatrice, contributed to this report.