MOUNT VERNON — The recent redrawing of flood plain boundaries by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Authority, has placed some residents in flood plains that were never there before. This leaves many people with questions about flood insurance.
Is flood insurance mandatory? It is in many cases, but only where required by mortgage companies, according to Kari Ball of the Ball Insurance Agency in Mount Vernon. Residents who have paid off their homes may make their own judgments about the need for flood insurance. According to FEMA, a significant swath of homes and businesses in Mount Vernon fall within the flood plain of the Kokosing River, as past floods have demonstrated.
Flood insurance is not a standard part of a homeowners policy. It is typically a completely separate policy from what is arranged for homeowners insurance. Potential customers should be aware of the fact that monthly rates on flood insurance can be lowered by raising the deductible to be paid in the event of flooding, though this is of course a risk some residents may be more inclined to take than others, based on the peculiarities of their specific locations. Adjusting those rates will not change the monthly rates on the parallel homeowners policy.
Cost and risk concerns can also be balanced through choice of coverage. Required flood insurance for mortgaged properties typically covers only the structure. Customers can also opt for insurance to protect their personal belongings from flood.
Ball said the recent redefining of flood plains hasn’t greatly changed her business.
“Our agency has always sold a decent amount of flood insurance,” Ball said. She noted that her agents are now required to have flood plain customers tick a check-off indicating that they are declining it if they purchase a homeowners policy but not flood insurance.
To determine whether or not one is located in a flood plain, one can enter one’s residential or business address at the Web site www.floodsmart.gov. The site matches the address against the FEMA flood plain maps, which can be viewed as well, and assigns a risk profile of “low to moderate” or “high.”
Many businesses in the flood plain lease their buildings and thus aren’t even aware of whether or not there is flood insurance on the structure, said Carol Grubaugh of the Mount Vernon/Knox County Chamber of Commerce. Located on South Gay Street in Mount Vernon, the chamber is in just such a situation, renting a structure which lies within the flood zone.
FEMA estimates that building-only insurance for an average residential structure in the Kokosing River flood plain in Mount Vernon would run anywhere from $403 to $1701 per year. Adding insurance for the house’s contents is estimated to raise the annual rate to a level from $509 to $2,766.