Commissioner Donelon Warns Property Owners of Hurricane Season
Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon kicked off his summer storm tour on May 29 aimed at raising awareness for hurricane and flood preparedness with experts predicting an “active” hurricane season for 2011. In light of the approaching hurricane season and current Mississippi and Atchafalaya flooding, Commissioner Donelon is imploring consumers to protect themselves and their property against Louisiana’s most frequent and unpredictable natural disasters – hurricanes and floods.
“Although Louisiana has not been impacted by hurricanes the past few years we should not become complacent this year. We remember the devastation caused by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008, as well as Katrina and Rita in 2005,” said Commissioner Donelon. “It is critical that everyone protect themselves with flood insurance and adequate property insurance.”
Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project forecasters predict that 16 named storms will form during this hurricane season. Of those, nine are expected to grow into hurricanes, with five becoming intense hurricanes, which are Category 3 storms like Rita and Katrina with sustained winds of at least 111 mph. The Atlantic hurricane season runs June 1 through November 30.
“Currently, only 29 percent of the state’s households have flood insurance. This leaves more than two-thirds of our property unprotected from floods, many of those homes in vulnerable areas,” Commissioner Donelon said. Flood insurance backed by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides Homeowners, business owners and renters with the best protection available against flooding. Only 484,000 out of 1.6 million households in Louisiana currently have flood insurance. NFIP reports show that after a hurricane some of the most damaging floods occur hundreds of miles from the coast. In fact, rains associated with Hurricane Gustav caused extensive flooding in areas as far north as Alexandria and Monroe. Almost 20 percent of all flood claims occur in low to moderate-risk areas.
Residents should be aware of their flood risk and take steps before the next storm to protect their home and/or business from potential flood damage. Keep in mind that the NFIP policy does not provide coverage in excess of $250,000 for your house and $100,000 for its contents. If you need more coverage, you can purchase excess flood insurance through private insurers. Storm surge can be a major factor for coastal areas during hurricanes. Flood insurance covers flooding from tidal and storm surge where other policies may not.
Contact your insurance agent who can assist consumers in obtaining NFIP policies to cover homeowners, renters and business owners. The average flood insurance policy premium is around $500 a year. However, if your property is located in a low- to moderate-risk flood zone you may be eligible for a low-cost Preferred Risk Policy, which can start as low as $119 a year. Remember, most policies take 30 days to go into effect so don’t wait until a storm is coming to purchase flood insurance.
Individuals can learn more about their flood risk by visiting www.ldi.la.gov or calling our nationwide toll-free number 1-800-259-5300. Residents can also visit www.FloodSmart.gov or call 1-800-427-2419 for more information about flood risk and the benefits of purchasing a flood insurance policy. Another source of great tips on preparing for hurricanes is the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Emergency Preparedness’ “Get a Game Plan” Web site found at www.getagameplan.org.
In preparation for a potential flood the Department of Insurance shares these tips provided by the NFIP:
1. Develop a family emergency plan.
- Create a safety kit with drinking water, canned food, first aid, blankets, a radio and a flashlight.
- Post emergency telephone numbers by the phone and teach your children how to dial 911.
- Plan and practice a flood evacuation route with your family. Know safe routes from home, work and school that are on higher ground.
- Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to be your emergency family contact.
- Have a plan to protect your pets.
2. Safeguard your possessions.
Create a personal flood file containing information about all your possessions and keep it in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box or waterproof container. This file should have:
- A copy of your insurance policies with your agent’s contact information.
- Conduct a household inventory: For insurance purposes be sure to keep a written and visual (i.e., videotaped or photographed) record of all major household items and valuables, even those stored in basements, attics or garages. Create files that include serial numbers and store receipts for major appliances and electronics. Have jewelry and artwork appraised. These documents are critically important when filing insurance claims. There are a variety of home inventory tools available to assist you including smart phone applications.
- Copies of all other critical documents including finance records or receipts of major purchases.
3. Prepare your house.
- First make sure your sump pump is working and then install a battery-operated backup in case of a power failure. Installing a water alarm will also let you know if water is accumulating in your basement.
- Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
- Anchor any fuel tanks.
- Raise your electrical components.(switches, sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring) at least 12 inches above your home's projected flood elevation.
- Place the furnace, water heater, washer, and dryer on cement blocks at least 12 inches above the projected flood elevation.
- Move furniture, valuables, and important documents to a safe place.