Word of the Day – Floodsmart

Flooding is the single most common natural disaster in theUS, occurring in all 50 states, at most any time of year, and for a variety of reasons. Whether it is the result of a burst pipe that floods part of your home, to a major flash flood that sweeps through entire regions devastating life and property, flooding is a concern that should be on the mind of every property owner, either commercial or residential.

Image of man walking through flood water

Are you covered?

When floods do occur, it is a foregone conclusion that people with flood insurance full realize that they made a wise choice. Flooding isn’t normally covered under the average homeowners policy, and while flood damage may be obtained for an additional premium, it isn’t offered by every provider. This means that at least a percentage of property owners will have to go looking for it.

It doesn’t take any more then one or two inches of water in your home to cause major flood damage, and with that in mind, the federal government established the National Flood Insurance Program in the late 60’s to provide a solution for this problem. It is a federally funded, low cost method of protecting your property, sold through private insurers throughout the country, but particularly in the most flood prone areas of the country. It is available to residents in any community that participates in the program.

As of this year, 21,564 communities participate in the NFIP. Membership requires the community to adopt and administer flood hazard regulations in accordance with federal guidelines. Homes in these high risk areas have a 1 in 4 chance of being flooded during the average 30 year mortgage, significantly higher than most areas of the country, which explains why home buyers in these communities are usually required to purchase flood insurance.

It is important to remember, however, that flooding can occur anywhere, and that 20% of all flood insurance claims come from areas normally deemed low to moderate risk.

Unfortunately, too many homeowners overlook the flood insurance option, believing that it is beyond their reach, and that money might be better spent in the current sluggish economy. The NFIP understand this concern and has worked diligently to alleviate it. The average flood insurance premium is between $600-$700 per year, while coverage through the NFIP averages out around $130-$150 per year (in low risk areas, high risk locations will have higher premiums). It largely depends on how much coverage is purchased, coupled with the area’s flood risk.

Flood insurance can cover up to $250,000 for the structure and $100,000 for contents, while business plans may cover $500,000 for structure and $500,000 for contents.

Too many homeowners make the mistake of thinking that federal disaster aid will take care of them, not realizing the government aid usually comes in the form of low interest loans that have to be paid back, whereas with flood insurance, you’re only out a nominal premium.

Remember that it takes up to 30 days for a flood policy to go into effect, so now is the time to see to this before severe weather season really gets underway.

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Beware the Water Damaged Car

Now just to clear up any potential confusion, we don’t do water damaged vehicles, but we would also be remiss in our responsibility if we failed to warn our customers about something that is becoming a serious problem across the country, namely the proliferation of water and flood damaged vehicles showing up on used car lots, and being sold to unsuspecting customers who have no advanced knowledge of the car’s waterlogged history.

photo of cars in flood water

Flooded cars damaged by water

Every year, the cars that are severely damaged by water number in the tens of thousands, more than half of which will turn up on used car lots somewhere.  Worse, they will be sold without benefit of salvage titles or anything to indicate there may be a serious problem

The problems are obvious.  Water causes the body and frame of the car to rust and corrode, as well as damaging the electrical and computer system found on the vehicle.  Anti-lock braking and air bag systems may also fail to function properly, which can be game changers on a life or death level.  Most cars that have such damage are repaired only to the extent necessary to hide any obvious damage, then usually shipped out of state to be put up for sale. 

Buying a car is difficult enough, so how do you make sure that you aren’t suckered into buying a flood drenched lemon?  Carfax offers the following suggestions:

Check out the trunk, glove box, dashboard and below the seats for any sign of water damage such as mud, silt, or premature rust. 

Inspect the upholstery.  If it appears stained, loose, or doesn’t fit properly, then it may have been damaged, or shoddily replaced to cover up damage. 

Turn the key and make sure all appropriate lights come on, especially the airbag andABSindicators.

Locate wires beneath the dashboard and flex them several times.  Wiring that has been exposed to water will often become brittle and crack. 

Most of us love that new car smell.  If the car smells musty, then it is a foregone conclusion that something is amiss, as no new car, or even late model, should smell musty.  This is a dead giveaway that the vehicle has water problems.

And of course Carfax recommends having a (what else?) Carfax pulled on the vehicle, as this provides the best available record of the car’s service, how many owners’ hands it has passed through, and if any major repairs or body work have been performed.

In the last decade, more than a million vehicles were damaged by major hurricanes and tropical storms that pounded the southeast andGulfCoastof theUnited States.  Even if only half of those vehicles make it onto dealer lots, that is still an incredible number of vehicles per state.  Of course there is no legal reason that these cannot be sold … if you are aware of the car’s history and don’t mind, you can probably pick up a late model vehicle for a song.  In the interest of full disclosure regarding the vehicle’s past water damaged cars should be given the appropriate salvage titles.

Again, we don’t work on cars, but we do want you to be aware that damage caused by water is not confined to homes or businesses.  Make sure the next car you purchase is in great, and preferably dry, condition.

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Flood Water Damage – Sacramento Delta Levees

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is working its way across California, remapping flood zones and re-evaluating areas that have been determined not to have adequate protection against 100 year floods.  This is increasing awareness of people’s risk of water damage caused by flooding. The result for farmers and others living in rural areas could be higher insurance costs and more restrictive building permits, not to mention disaster relief eligibility. 

Remapped Flood Zones across California change the Water Damage game

Some farmers are concerned that the increased restrictions and regulations could drive them out of business, such as rice grower Tara Brocker.   “This is going to impact rural communities throughout the nation; we just happen to be one of the first,” Brocker said. “Californiahas been identified by FEMA as the first state to be remapped, so what happens here is going to set a precedent for the rest of the nation.”

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The initial revisions to be released indicate that a number of the levees found in SutterCountydo not meet current requirements for 100 year flood protection.  As a result, virtually the entire county finds itself designated as a Special Flood Hazard Area.  This means that all mortgage holders would be required to purchase flood insurance, facing higher rates, and agricultural owners would have to verify that all mortgaged buildings on their property are properly insured against flooding.  Residents are concerned about the cost prohibitive nature of the new standards.

Photo of a Scramento delta levee

Sacramento Delta Levees could cause major flood damage

During discussions with local, state, and federal authorities, residents have offered farming as the best use of the flood plains, as opposed to residential or commercial development. California’s rural areas already bear a considerable share of the risk, with upgrades and fortifications occurring in urban or suburban areas well before they do elsewhere, simply due to the increase in population found in those areas.

“We believe most people will agree that agriculture makes sense as the best use for floodplains,” said Elisa Noble, director of livestock, public lands and natural resources for the California Farm Bureau Federation. “However, agricultural and rural communities need to be compensated somehow for bearing this increased risk.”

There is a movement afoot within the National Flood Insurance Program to adopt an “agricultural zone”, which may be taken up by Congress within the coming year.  The move is met with resounding approval by a coalition of county farm bureaus, county governments, flood control agencies, landowners, and others. 

“This is just the beginning of the coalition effort,” aid Elisa Noble, director of livestock, public lands and natural resources for the California Farm Bureau Federation. Noble said. “We plan to have many more groups involved throughout the state and country, as this will eventually affect every rural landowner living in a floodplain.”

All types of floods can occur in California, though 90% are caused by riverine flooding.   Such flooding generally occurs as a result of excessive rainfall, excessive snowmelt, excessive runoff, levee failures, or a combination of these sources. Here in Sacramento levee failure is a big worry. Keep in mind there are 11-hundred miles of levees in the Delta and an earthquake-based levee failure in the Sacramento River Delta will wipe out the water supply for 23 million Californians due to ocean salt water mixing in with Sacramento’s fresh water. Sacramento can only handle 6-10 levee failures per year before it starts to run away from us. Being able to respond is a function of access, equipment and materials. The risk of 6-10 levee failures is 0.5% per year, so that’s 0.5% chance per year of Sacramento becoming for a while a “3rd World Country”.

If you are concerned about the flood risk facing your home or business, contact your local Clean Trust (IICRC) certified water damage restoration service provider.  Determining the threat level and taking steps to prevent future problems can often be the key to avoiding devastating and costly water damage repair bills.

Thanks to the California Farm Bureau Federation for information and statistics contributing to this article.

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Water Damage Warning: Severe Weather Expected Across Midwest

With severe weather season 2012 officially underway, forecasters are watching the southern Midwest this week, as severe thunderstorms, some accompanied by tennis ball sized hail may strike parts of the western Oklahoma and move slowly across northern Texas.  This weather could result in flood damage and water damage to businesses and personl property. This is according to forecasts released from the National Weather Service.

Water damage weather warning

Weather warning for Midwest

Chance of widespread flood and water damage

Beginning this week, Oklahoma has a fairly moderate risk of severe storms, with a near 50% chance of damaging hail and a much smaller (5%) chance of tornadoes. Most of the expected damage will come from strong winds and large hail, but the chance of tornadoes has not been ruled out completely. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman Oklahoma has released a hazardous weather statement detailing to risks posed to residential and commercial properties.

Other areas of the country are under similar watches, with damaging storm systems also predicted for areas of Kansas in addition to Oklahoma and Texas from April 12 through the 14th.

So far in March, 223 tornadoes were reported in the US, down from the average for the month which is up from the average of 80 reported twisters for the same time period. Tornadoes and damaging hail struck the Dallas TX area just last week, causing widespread water damage and the cancellation of more than 1900 airline flights. Aircraft on the ground were also damaged by the storm system. No fatalities were reported.  Another tornado outbreak across the Ohio Valley and the Southeast killed 40 people caused more than $1.5 billion in wind and flood damage. It marked the first time so far this season that a weather related event had caused damage totals to top the $1 billion mark. Last season, the United States had 14 such weather events.

Many states are observing Severe Weather Weeks, with each day taken to highlight a specific aspect of severe weather, such as lightning, hail, rain, and wind. Participating communities are taught how to prepare their homes and businesses against the threat of severe weather, and children are taught what to do and what not to do if they are caught up in an undesirable situation.

Dangers associated with severe storm water damage

In the event of any sort of water or storm damage, it is always important to think safety first. Downed power lines should be avoided, and electricity and gas should be shut off to any damaged structure. It isn’t hard to see why, either, since water and electricity do not mix and leaking gas can be easily ignited. Shutting off utilities is one of the best ways to secure a damaged property.

Your local water damage restoration provider is ready to help you take care of all your water damage restoration needs.  They are available 24/7 and offer same day service in most cases, which means you can have a qualified technician on your property within an hour or so of your call. They will be able to properly assess the situation and begin the water damage restoration process. All work is guaranteed and they will be able to work with your insurance company directly, billing them and sparing you the headache of dealing with it.

It’s severe weather season, so make sure that you, your family, and your home are protected from sudden storm damage and water damage.

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Water Damage Statistics

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, then you know that water damage is a serious business when it occurs.  The common wisdom is that most homes will experience at least one major water damage event during their existence, but available evidence suggests that the problem may be more widespread than originally thought.

Water damage statics

Water damage in your own home

What water damage can do:

The average home loses 14% of the water delivered to it through leakage.  Even more astounding, up to 22 gallons of water are lost daily due to leaks from dripping faucets or malfunctioning toilets.   A 1/8 inch crack in a pipe can release up to 250 gallons of water per day.   Some toilet leaks can account for up to an additional $500 a year in additional costs.  Kinda makes you want to go and inspect your pipes, doesn’t it?

As odd as it may sound, recent improvements in water quality can contribute to the accelerated corrosion and failure of copper piping, with 90% of copper pinhole leaks occurring on horizontal runs of pipe.

Property damage due to water is the third largest cause of homeowner loss, with over $9 billion in losses reported between 2007 and 2009.  This makes up a whopping 23 percent of all reported property loss.  According to the American Insurance Association, water damage is the second most frequently filed claim for homeowners in theUS.

If the preceding isn’t bad enough, studies have shown that up to 93 percent of these problems could have been averted if a detection and shut-off system had been present in the homes affected.  Damage costs averaged $20,000 more than three times the amount required for homes where detection and prevention devices were installed.

Water damage is also the primary cause of rising homeowners insurance rate costs.  The average water damage bill has increased from around $600 or so in the 1970’s to an average of more than $5000 today. 

Some of the most damaging leaks are those that develop and grow slowly over a long period of time, as opposed to those that occur rapidly and without warning.  The reason is that these slow growing problems have more time to set the stage for subsequent problems such as mold and mildew.   All too often, once the problem has been detected, considerable damage has already been done.

Lack of early detection and response from the homeowner can result in loss of the ability to collect from your insurance provider.  Water damage claims are frequently denied if the problem has existed for more than 24 hours, or if it can be traced to any sort of negligence on the part of the homeowner.

Almost 40% of all homeowners have reported loss due to water damage.  If you have a basement, that figure jumps to 98%.  Draw your own conclusions. 

To help prevent water damage to your property there are some things that you need to do. This blog has plenty of tips to prevent this sort of damage. Start by reading this article on water damage prevention.

Your local Clean Trust (IICRC) certified water restoration provider is available 24/7 to properly examine and diagnose your water issues.  They offer same day service and can properly assess the problem and determine a course of action.  Call today for an estimate or phone consultation.

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