When your home is flooded, it’s bad news. Here’s even worse news. Your basic homeowners policy won’t cover your flood damage. If you don’t have the proper insurance, you may find yourself in the midst of a personal finance disaster, not just a natural disaster. This article brings you up to speed on how you can get flood insurance and play it safe.

Flood insurance policies are next to non-existent. Thus, in case of flood loss there are only two things you can do.

You can either pray your area gets formally declared a disaster by the president – this is the only way to receive federal disaster relief – or you can suck it up and buy flood insurance. If worse comes to worse, you are always protected under option number two.

Federal disaster assistance is not that great. It usually comes in the form of low-interest loans from the federal government. But these loans are just that – loans – and must be paid back, with interest. A flood insurance policy offers better protection from flood losses.

According to the National Flood Insurance Program, the federal government’s program that sells flood insurance, buying flood insurance means you’ll be reimbursed for all your covered losses. And unlike Federal aid, it never has to be repaid.

If you’re a homeowner, you can insure your home up to $250,000 and its contents up to $100,000. If you’re a renter, you can cover your belongings up to $100,000. And a non-residential property owner, you can insure your building and its contents up to $500,000. (See the National Flood Insurance Program Web site for price quotes).

There’s usually a 30-day maturity period for flood insurance. Translation: If you’re sitting down watching the news and all of a sudden there is a flood alert and you decide to go out and buy insurance it’s useless. You will not be insured if you buy a policy a couple of days before disaster strikes.

In case of flooding the Insurance Information Institute (http://www.iii.org) says you should:

Make and inventory of everything in you home. Take pictures in order to access post-disaster damage accurately.

Coordinate with your insurance agent in case the damage requires you leave your house and leave him or her new contact information.

Keep all emergency contact numbers with you. Include the number to your insurance company (often different from your agents) and a copy of your insurance policy in case you have to evacuate your home.

For more information on some of the private insurance companies that, through an agreement with the Federal Insurance Administration, sell and service Federal flood insurance policies visit http://www.fema.gov and search for NFIP-Participating Insurance Companies.

July 20, 2005.