This week marks nine years since over 13 inches of rain fell across Middle Tennessee, causing more than $2 billion in damages and claiming more than 20 lives as the Cumberland River crested to over 51 feet. Yet even after the 2010 flood's record devastation, data* collected by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) indicates that less than 2% of Nashville residents have active flood insurance policies. These low numbers are not limited to the mid-state. Only .99% of Knoxville residents, 2.25% of Memphis residents, and 2.15% of Chattanooga residents have active flood insurance policies. Across Tennessee, only 1.14% residents have active flood insurance policies, based on available FEMA data.
"The anniversary of the devastating flood of 2010 serves as a reminder to evaluate your home's risk and need for flood insurance," said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. "There are many misconceptions about flood insurance, so we encourage consumers to do their research and ask questions before selecting a policy or choosing to forgo insurance. 'I'm not in a flood zone' is not by itself a reason to not have flood insurance as more than 20 percent of flood insurance claims originate outside of mapped flood zones. While flood insurance cannot stop flooding, it could help prevent a financial catastrophe."
To help consumers make educated decisions about flood insurance and differentiate between the myths and facts about flood insurance, TDCI urges consumers to remember the following:
BEFORE YOU BUY FLOOD INSURANCE
Before deciding on what type of coverage to buy, it's important to know your risk. The FEMA flood map service allows consumers to determine your home's flood risk. Risk levels are divided into three categories:
• High-risk areas have at least a 1% chance of flooding each year. Homeowners in these areas with mortgages from federally regulated or insured lenders are required to buy flood insurance.
• Moderate- to low-risk areas have less than a 1% chance of flooding each year, but there is still a possibility the area could flood. Flood coverage isn't required in these areas, but it is recommended. Some mortgage lenders still require you to have flood insurance in moderate to low-risk areas.
• Undetermined risk areas are areas where flood-hazard analysis has yet to be conducted, but risk still exists.
KNOW THE FACTS
MYTH: "Homeowners or renters insurance will cover my home and belongings if they are damaged by flood waters."
FACT: Most homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover damages to a structure or contents in the event of a flood. Only a flood insurance policy will cover flood damage.
MYTH: "I don't need flood insurance because FEMA assistance will cover my damages."
FACT: Not everyone will qualify for FEMA assistance after a disaster. Even if a federal Disaster Declaration is made, post-disaster FEMA grants average less than $8,000. Remember: Just 1 inch of water in a home can cause $25,000 of damage.MYTH: "I can't buy flood insurance because my property flooded before."
FACT: If your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you are eligible to buy flood insurance, regardless of flood history. There are a few areas in Tennessee that do not participate in the NFIP. If your community does not participate, FEMA assistance is not available. If flood insurance through the NFIP is not available in your area, contact your licensed insurance agent to ask about private flood insurance. If you choose a private flood insurance policy, be sure to shop around to compare premiums and coverage.
MYTH: "I rent my home. Only homeowners can purchase flood insurance."
FACT: Most homeowners, renters, and businesses in NFIP participating communities can purchase flood insurance. For a list of participating communities in Tennessee, visit FEMA's website.
MYTH: "I can wait and get flood insurance immediately before a storm and still be covered."
FACT: While you can purchase flood insurance at any time, NFIP policies usually have a 30-day waiting period before the policy takes effect. If you purchase a private flood policy, be sure to ask about the waiting period.
For more information about flood insurance, visit tn.gov/insurance or floodsmart.gov. To contact the NFIP, call 800-427-4661.
*Active flood insurance policy information was supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2016.
About the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance:
TDCI protects the interests of consumers while providing fair, efficient oversight and a level field of competition for a broad array of industries and professionals doing business in Tennessee. Our divisions include the State Fire Marshal's Office, Insurance, Securities, Consumer Affairs, Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, Regulatory Boards, Tennessee Emergency Communications Board, Tennessee Corrections Institute, and TennCare Oversight.