4 things to know about navigating flood insurance policies, claims

Even those outside of designated floodplains can purchase flood insurance.

Even those outside of designated floodplains can purchase flood insurance.

As of Sept. 24, over 17,000 insured vehicles in Texas sustained damage during Tropical Depression Imelda and the tally is expected to continue climbing as more insurance claims are filed, said Mark Hanna, a spokesperson for the Insurance Council of Texas.

In Harris County alone, close to 2,000 homes were reported damaged as of Sept. 23 at the start of the county damage assessment process.

Residents are now tasked with navigating the flood insurance claims process, applying for financial assistance for the uninsured or considering purchasing a policy ahead of the next storm.

"It's just been happening so often in Southeast Texas," Hanna said. "If you can afford it, flood insurance is one of the least expensive insurance products out there."

Here are four things to know about recovering from flood damage and preparing for the future.

How to file a successful claim

  • For both home and auto claims, documentation is key, Hanna said. Take photos and videos that depict the water level and amount of damage sustained as soon as it is safe to do so.

  • If possible, document the damage while flood waters are present and after it is cleared out.

  • Take notes about dates and time of damage and phone calls with insurance agents.

  • For auto claims, Hanna said policy holders should file quickly even if they are unsure of the extent of the damage. If the vehicle is inaccessible, take note of its location so adjustors can evaluate the damage in that specific area. Visit www.findmytowedcar.com to locate a vehicle that was recovered by police.

  • Report damage for county record keeping at www.imeldasurvey.com

How to minimize further damage

  • After a storm, clearing out flood waters quickly using wet vacuums or fans can minimize the extent of damage and reduce the potential for mold growth, Hanna said. If necessary, remove carpet.

  • For clean up assistance, visit www.ghcf.org/imelda

  • Some vehicles may remain operational after flood waters recede. Do not turn on a vehicle until it has had a chance to dry out. This will minimize damage to electrical systems, Hanna said.

What to do if you're uninsured

  • Document everything

  • Apply for aid through Imelda Assistance Fund. It organizes and distributes donations from corporations and non-profits.

  • If Texas receives a federal disaster designation, which Hanna said is likely, apply for aid through the Federal Emergency Management Administration. These funds come in the form of reimbursements as well.

How to plan for the next storm

  • Flood insurance is mandated for those who live in floodplains but Hollis said those people should consider relocating. The Harris County Flood Control District operates a home buyout program using FEMA funding.

  • Flood damage still presents a threat to those outside of floodplains. Homeowners and renters alike can purchase policies. For homeowners, policies cover the property and personal items. Hollis said renters who live in ground floor apartments or houses can purchase policies that cover damage to personal items.

  • Negotiate a fair price. The maximum policy amount through the national flood insurance program covers $250,000 in home damage and $100,000 in personal property damage. "You may not have a $250,000 home and you may not have $100,000 in personal property. So check with your agent and make sure you know you get a good deal. Try to make it worthwhile and affordable," Hanna said.

  • Homeowners can also consider landscaping projects that direct water away from the home, Hanna said.

By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


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