Help Burst those Flood Insurance Myths
An important component of promoting flood insurance is dispelling the myths that persist about it. Below are a few of the most salient misunderstandings about flood insurance and some straightforward explanations of what is really true. Your community may find it helpful to use the linked materials to address mistaken beliefs among your residents. Also, there are several “myths” articles in the linked materials that could be reprinted to highlight some of the ideas below.

MYTH My homeowner’s insurance covers flooding.
This may be the most prevalent misinformation of all. In fact, almost no homeowner’s insurance policies cover flood damage. That is why the federal government created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Flood insurance is sold as a separate policy, so even if a person’s regular agent doesn’t handle flood insurance, it can be obtained from another agent who serves that area. To find one, people can contact the NFIP call center at 800-427-4661 or
Communities can distribute FEMA’s palm card, “Your Homeowners Insurance Does Not Cover Flooding.” One flood survivor who had that separate policy- and was glad he did – tells about it in a one-minute video from FEMA.

MYTH I don’t need flood insurance, because I’m not in a high-risk zone. The reality is that it can flood almost anywhere, and it doesn’t take much water to cause expensive damage. In fact, about 1/3 of all flood disaster assistance and 1/3 of all flood insurance claims payments go to people who have been flooded even though they were outside of the mapped high-
risk zone (Special Flood Hazard Area). With a changing climate, scientists say that extreme weather events—like the tremendous rain that accompanied hurricanes last summer and caused localized flooding—will be more likely in the future. So living in a location that so far has been thought to be at low risk does not mean that is safe now. Why Do I Need Flood Insurance? helps people understand the need for flood coverage. Know Your Risk focuses on the potential for flooding in low-lying coastal areas. A one-minute video from FEMA tells the story of a family who were relieved that they had bought flood insurance even though they had already been through hurricanes without sustaining damage.

MYTH I can’t get flood insurance, because I’m not in a high-risk zone. Virtually anyone who lives in or owns property in an NFIP-participating community can buy flood insurance for a residential building, business, condo, or apartment, and the contents can be insured as well (or instead). Flood insurance through the NFIP has never been restricted to people located in the high-risk zone (Special Flood Hazard Area). In fact, for people outside the high-risk zone, flood insurance is an even better deal, because the premiums are lower. An overview of the availability, coverage, and costs of flood insurance- in clear language and with sources of more information – can be found on the FloodSmart website. Communities can also use the brochure about the preferred risk policy for low-hazard areas.

MYTH Even if my house did flood, it wouldn’t be by much.
There may not be very much water, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be much damage. Only one inch of water in an average home can cause more than $25,000 in damage. A handy visual representation of this is the Cost of Flooding tool developed by FEMA. It is a simple interactive device to help people see how the depth of flooding translates to damage costs. This link is a good addition to a community’s flood awareness website.

MYTH I don’t need flood insurance because FEMA gives disaster assistance. The truth is that FEMA can only provide disaster assistance when the president issues a disaster declaration—this happens for less than half of all floods. Even if there is a disaster declaration, FEMA can only provide small grants, not enough to cover all losses and certainly not enough to rebuild. For example, in Hurricane Harvey the average individual grant FEMA distributed was only$7,000. Most other federal disaster assistance comes in the form of loans, which much be repaid. By contrast, in Hurricane Harvey, the average NFIP claim payment was over $100,000—that’s a payment from the insurance policy and of course never has to be repaid. And, a flood insurance policy pays for any covered damage, even if it results from a small (not disastrous) flood. Use the two-page handout, “The Benefits of Flood Insurance vs. Disaster Assistance,” to compare the two.

Plan, Adjust, Recover—Flood Response Preparations

While parts of the country are bracing for frigid temperatures and icy conditions, the next flood might not be at the top of the “worry” list.


Proactive communities send messages to the public well in advance of the next flood, so citizens don’t become complacent. People tend to think outreach should ramp up before hurricane season and, although that may be true on the coast, most communities are vulnerable year-round, and everyone needs to be ready for the next flood. Messages before a flood can range from flood safety (Turn Around Don’t Drown) to property protection techniques to how to gather information for insurance purposes. People who’ve never been flooded before usually believe they never will, and reminding them of past local disasters drives home the point that you never know when it could happen.


The National Weather Service keeps residents apprised of current conditions and forecasts while local television stations compete to produce the best coverage and latest information. Municipalities can take this a step further and send messages that are community-specific, for example, explaining why a particular neighborhood should expect more accumulation of water because of insufficient drainage, narrow channels, and/or “choke points.” Social media like Facebook and Twitter can be invaluable for outreach during the flood. Even when the power is out, people will get in their cars to recharge their phone batteries just so they can stay connected.


Recovery after the storm can be a little easier if both the citizens and the community were prepared beforehand. Still, people can be overwhelmed by where to start. Communities can turn their websites into a one-stop shop for disaster information—from the locations where utility repair crews are working on a given day, to places where ice is being distributed, to tips on handling mold and mildew. Recovery won’t be the same for everyone, so it’ll be important to get the right messages to the right people.

When it’s safe, city inspectors and others will make damage assessments. This is an opportune time to also place door hangers at flooded properties to advise owners of the next steps in their recovery process—everything from what their insurance adjuster will need to how to get a permit for repairs. But recovery is more than permits and repairs. It goes hand in hand with a community’ s mitigation efforts to reduce the impacts of the next flood. And that leads back to preparation. A community that engages in outreach through all three stages of a flood will fare better in the long run. A prepared community is a resilient community and can come back stronger after a flood

August 2018 Flooding Event update from PEMA

October 19, 2018

Governor Wolf Announces Federal Aid Availability Following Severe Storms in South-Central Pennsylvania

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today announced that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) approved his request to declare a disaster in Lancaster and York Counties after significant flood damage to homes and businesses was sustained due to severe storms on Aug. 31, 2018

“Residents throughout the commonwealth are still recovering from the record-shattering storms that disrupted their lives this summer,” said Governor Wolf. “Loan programs like these provide a low-cost and accessible lifeline to individuals starting the rebuilding and recovery process.”

Homeowners, renters and businesses impacted by the storms in Lancaster and York Counties, as well as neighboring counties Adams, Berks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin and Lebanon may be eligible for low-interest disaster loans through the SBA Disaster Loan Programs.

Low-interest loans of up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. SBA regulations permit loans up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property. Businesses and nonprofits can borrow up to $2 million to restore damaged or destroyed buildings, inventory, equipment and assets. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial qualifications.

The SBA will establish Disaster Loan Outreach Centers (DLOC) to assist anyone who wishes to apply for a loan. The DLOC’s will be open at the following locations and times:

York County Department of Emergency Services Training Room
120 Davies Dr. York, PA 17402

Lancaster County Public Safety Training Center
Conference Room
101 Champ Blvd. Manheim, PA 17545

Opening: Monday, Oct. 22, 10 a.m.
Closed: Sunday, Oct. 28
Days: Monday – Friday: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 27: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Closing: Monday, Oct. 29: 6p.m.

SBA customer service representatives will be on hand at the disaster loan outreach centers to issue loan applications, answer questions about the disaster loan program, explain the application process and help individuals to complete their applications.

Individuals and businesses unable to visit the centers in person may obtain information and loan applications by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 (1-800-877-8339 for the hearing impaired), or by e-mailing

Loan applications can also be downloaded at Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via the SBA’s secure website at Completed applications should be returned to the local DLOC or mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage is Dec. 17, 2018. The deadline to return economic injury disaster loan applications is July 18, 2019.