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Flooding can happen just about anywhere it rains or snows. On average, 40% of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) flood insurance claims occur outside the high-risk flood areas. That’s why it’s important to protect the life you’ve built with flood insurance, even if you live in an area with low-to-moderate flooding risk.
Unfortunately, many property owners do not find out until it’s too late that their homeowners insurance policies do not cover flooding. There is usually a 30-day waiting period before the policy goes into effect, with some exceptions: If you initially purchased flood insurance while securing, adjusting, or renewing a loan for your property, there is no waiting period. Coverage goes into effect when the loan is closed.
The government requires that homes in high-risk flood areas designated on flood maps by the letters A, AE, or VE be protected by flood insurance if they are security for loans backed by a federally regulated lender. Lenders must notify borrowers of this requirement, prior to closing, if their property is in one of these areas.
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For the purposes of the City of Valdez, a Special Flood Hazard Area is equivalent to a Zone A, AE, or VE on our Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) The City of Valdez will assist citizens in looking up where the property is in relationship to a mapped floodplain. Office hours are 8:30-12:00 and 1:00 – 5:00 pm at City Hall in the Planning Department. Residents of the City may email the Planning Department (firstname.lastname@example.org) at any time with their property address to determine whether or not the property is in a Flood Hazard area. Residents can also visit the FEMA Map Service Center and type their physical address into a FEMA mapping system, which will pull up the correct panel of the FIRM for where the property is located (but a resident will have to find their approximate location on the map themselves). There are also professional mapping organizations that will examine the FIRM maps and declare a property in and out of the floodplain (these companies are often used by banks when financing mortgages and transferring property).
The first thing to do is know where your property stands in relationship to a recognized flooding hazard. Flooding usually occurs from rivers and streams over topping their banks, when sheet flow forms across relatively impermeable surfaces during heavy rains, or when storm surges coupled with high tides bring more water than usual to the coastline. Keep in mind though, flooding can actually occur anywhere, even when you are far away from any of the usual flooding sources. There are all kinds of ways people who live in areas of low flooding risk can find water sneaking into their basements and the first floor of their homes - blocked culverts, dam breaches, levee breaches can all occur quickly and wreak large scale havoc on homes. After identifying the most likely source of flood hazard (but keeping in mind that floods can come from anywhere), purchase flood insurance for your home and valuables. Work on citizen preparedness – make a plan with your family that includes where to meet if cell phones aren’t working. Build an emergency kit and store it somewhere safe in your house. Make copies of all your very important documents and store them in a safe deposit box or somewhere offsite so you will not lose your valuable information. When building new structures – make sure the structures are elevated above the base flood elevation (if possible, make sure structures are elevated multiple feet above the base flood elevation for good measure). Keep all utilities and electrical boxes above the base flood elevation and safe from flooding. Keep a few sandbags on hand. In a mild flooding situation, one or two sandbags can divert a current away from the foundation of your home and absorb access water in the area.