Hello, my name is Dusty Bertalot Co-Owner of Growing GOATs; an outdoor family and outcome focused brand that celebrates the journey of becoming and raising your Greatest of All Time, your GOATs. Recently, we experienced a flood in our neighborhood. The outpouring of help and concern from our neighbors was amazing. People reached out from far and wide to help in any way possible. Together, we were able to build a sandbag barrier on our property to prevent our basement from flooding. Unfortunately many were not so lucky and now have to deal with the cleanup and insurance claim process.
For the last 15 years, I’ve been a licensed insurance adjuster and I’ve completed over a thousand catastrophe claims across the country. I’ve worked all kinds of natural disasters, including wind storms, hail storms, tornados, fires, and floods. Based on my experience, below is a guide to help folks through the process of dealing with a flood claim.
Throughout my career, I’ve noticed a repeating pattern that has either helped or hindered individuals and communities from recovering. The most important repeating pattern for success comes from asking a better question.
In this video, I’m going to talk about the Should've, Could've mentality, and the documentation and mitigation of recovering after a flood loss.
What I’ve noticed is that in a disaster situation it's very easy to begin to ask the wrong questions like; Why me? Why didn’t I do this? I should have done this? or I should've done that? You can, should've all day but at the end of the day, you’ll just should've all over yourself. The individuals and the communities that were the quickest to recover were always the ones that started asking better questions like; What can I do now? or How can I help? Research has shown that the way our mind works when we have a negative thought a chemical change occurs in our minds for the first 90 seconds after that it is a choice to continue that thought or emotion.
Now that may be hard to believe but it is important to know from my experiences working claims in disaster areas like Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy and Colorado fires is that the quicker people shifted their mindset the quicker they recovered.
So, let’s just take the next 90 seconds and help clear up and get rid of some of the should'ves and some of the miss information that is out there.
First off, find out if your homeowner’s policy covers flood?* (*Now on all policy questions, I would refer you to checking your policy coverage with your agent), but the short answer is no. Flood damage is not typically covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy and surface water is typically excluded. Writing flood coverage isn’t a profitable policy and that is why most flood coverages are government subsidized policies thru NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program).
Now your homeowner's policy may have an endorsement for backup of sewer and drain so maybe we should define what a flood is.
According to the NFIP, flood is a general or temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more properties (one of which is your property) from: overflow of inland or tidal waters, unusual or rapid accumulation or runoff of surface water of any source, or mudflow.
Ok, I’m sure some your thoughts are, "That’s just great Dusty, we had a flood and I should've had a flood policy!" Whoa, Nellie! Before you can even have that should've you need to ask could've? In order for you to be able to purchase flood insurance from FEMA’s NFIP your community has to participate in the program. You can find out if your community is participating at https://www.fema.gov/cis/WY.html. Ok, (for some of you) that should've is coming back as your noticing that your community does participate in the program. Should I have had a flood policy? According to the NFIP they recommend that everyone who is in a community that participates should have a policy even if you are in a low-risk zone. Statistically, they say that 20% of claims are from low-risk zones and receive 1/3 of disaster funds. But does that mean you should have flood insurance? How much does flood insurance cost and more importantly what does it actually cover? According to valuepegiun.com the average annual flood insurance premium for Wyoming is $888 which is 27% higher than the national average. Now that can vary depending on what zone you’re in, your rating and building construction. In addition to that, it doesn’t include your deductible which is typically a percentage deductible with a separate deductible for contents -- Large additional expense.
One misconception is the principal of a 100-year, or 500-year flood plain and what that actually means. A 100-year flood plain doesn’t mean that it only floods once every hundred years it means that annually there is a 1 in 100 chance that it may flood or a 1% chance (500-year flood plain: 1 in 500 or a .2% chance).
Ok, so what does NFIP flood coverage actually cover? Again, I would refer you to talking to your agent or you can visit https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1449522308118-6752c210f65aed326a9ddf4a0ddaca1f/F-122_Dwelling_SFIP_102015.pdf and download the dwelling form to review coverages. The quick answer is that there are coverages up to a max available limit of $250,000 with limited coverage in basements (as defined by the NFIP) of 17 items plus cleanup (page 4 of 26 and page 5 of 26) and restrictions as to when personal property is covered or not. Bottom Line Flood insurance thru the NFIP is designed to help you get back on your feet, not necessarily put you back in the same position you were before the flood. There are other private options, Lloyds of London for example, that you may be able to purchase coverage thru, if you qualify, that can typically provide broader coverage. Do the math on your scenario to see if having flood is the right solution for you. Now that the should've is out of the way, let's talk about how you can get back on your feet from here.
If you do have a flood policy and coverage, follow these steps:
- Set up your Claim – Call your agent and set up a flood claim
- Document Damages – It's important that you document the damages before you clean and tear anything out. The first thing a flood adjuster is going to do is determine if there is a condition of flooding. This is where having videos and photos of the flood water will make that easy… if you don’t have photos ask your neighbors.
- The next thing will be determining how high the water was both outside and inside your home. Now, there is a good chance that there is going to be a waterline on both the outside and inside of the house. Be sure to take photos of this waterline with a tape measure and showing the tape on the ground up to the waterline. Ideally, don’t clean the line until your adjuster has documented the line.
- Mitigate Damages – It is the homeowner’s responsibility to mitigate damages, meaning if you have wet drywall you will more than likely need to get it removed before it starts to mold.
- Make sure to consult with your adjuster prior to removing anything and be sure to document everything with photos. Take overview photos of every room and waterline photos in every room so the adjuster can easily determine how high the water was. Make sure you can see that the tape measure is on the floor and how high the water line is off the floor.
- If you have contents that were damaged, be sure to document what room they were in with photos, document what the item is and if there are serial numbers write them down for the adjuster. You can remove the items from the room but don’t throw them away until your adjuster has had the opportunity to inspect them or unless your adjuster instructs you otherwise.
- The worst losses I saw occurred when people didn’t mitigate damages, meaning they didn’t remove wet items from their home and didn’t get air movers/fans set up, and as a result mold grew.
- If your elderly or need help, ask for it! Talk to your neighbors or church groups and ask for help documenting and removing damaged/wet items from the home.
*** Most importantly think about your Outcome, How can I get back on our feet? and Be proactive!