Q&A: Flood insurance facts
Because the National Weather Service predicts some flooding in the Red River Valley, the North Dakota Insurance Department has been answering a lot of questions about homeowners insurance and flood insurance.
North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread talked with the Herald about best practices to make sure your home and family stay safe.
"There's never a time like the present to talk about home insurance," Godfread said. "Make sure you're talking with your agent and you know what is covered."
Q: Is it too late to talk about flood insurance or think about getting flood insurance?
A: There's a 30 day waiting period before any flood insurance policy can go into effect, so I wouldn't say it's too late, but now is the time to be talking to an agent. A couple of weeks ago would have been the prime time to talk about it. But if you're really worried about it, you still have time to go talk to your agent.
Q: Who should be worried about flooding?
A: Flooding can generally affect anybody. We've seen some pretty devastating floods on the eastern side of the state. I lived in Grand Forks during the 1997 flood; a lot of those homes, those policies weren't protected. Just because you don't live by the river doesn't mean you won't be affected. A lot of the homes that flooded in Grand Forks in 1997 had never flooded before. Floods can happen anywhere. I always encourage people to at least take a look at their homeowners policy and have that discussion.
Q: What was your experience with the 1997 flood?
A: I was still living with my parents in Grand Forks. I was in high school. We lost our basement, and we were some of the lucky ones. After the flood, we had to empty out the contents of our basement, like so many others in Grand Forks. I've never had that conversation with my mom and dad, but I'm pretty sure my parents didn't have flood insurance. We didn't live anywhere near the river and but we were affected by overland flooding.
In the years since the flood, Grand Forks has done a great job with flood mitigation. Grand Forks put up floodwall, and now you just watch the water go by. It has had an impact on the community, on insurance rates, etc. I'm looking forward to a time when Fargo has same protections.
Q: Can you give readers some flood recovery tips?
A: The first step is to mitigate the damage. Get the water out and stop the damage.
Next, you'll need to contact your local agent and get an adjuster out there to look at your property and find out what's covered and what may not be covered. There is always an option to give the North Dakota Insurance Department a call if you have concerns on how you were treated. Insurance can be fairly confusing, and a lot of people don't really read their insurance policy. That's why it is important to have a good agent who can explain what is in and what's not in the policy. These folks are generally at a high stress moment; we don't get a lot of phone calls when people are at their best. They've just gone through a disaster, so it's important that we be a resource that they can trust.
Q: What are the most common questions you get from consumers?
A: The number one question we get is: "Is my damage going to be covered?" And a lot of that is fact dependent; we have to look at each individual's policy. Unfortunately, a lot of times when you don't have flood insurance it is not covered. Flood insurance can be expensive, but it is important to at least talk to an agent. At the end of the day, it's the consumer's decision. You have to think about whether or not this is this a risk worth protecting. That is why we want a private flood insurance market in this state, but we are still a ways away from that. We are rated and risked similarly to coastal cities, but North Dakota floods are easier to gauge than coastal cities, so we feel we should be treated differently.
Godfread also advised watching local forecasts and staying up-to-date on news.
"If things start to flood, if it looks like it's getting bad, get yourself to safety," Godfread said. "Homes can be rebuilt, people can't. Things can be purchased again, people can't."