Hurricane season is here. And while the most devastating pain has been felt miles away in the Bahamas — with Hurricane Dorian’s powerful Category 5 storm winds of up to 185 miles that demolished communities, caused billions of dollars in damage, and killed dozens of people — we all know that the threat remains real for all of us in New York City. After all, it was in late October that Superstorm Sandy’s damaging floods and winds struck here seven years ago.
With over 520 miles of waterfront, New York City remains particularly vulnerable to flooding. And it can happen even with a downpour that is not caused by major storms. After all, just one inch of water can cause more than $25,000 in damage, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
That’s why, before the next storm hits, we want our neighbors who own homes to buy flood insurance. While it won’t physically stop the storm, flood insurance can speed recovery and help to ensure that the cost of damages caused by flooding aren’t borne by families alone. Just as importantly, if your property has ever received federal assistance in the past — even when owned by someone else — and is not covered by flood insurance, you will NOT be eligible for future federal assistance. And if that isn’t enough, remember that flood damage is not included in homeowner insurance: Only flood insurance provides that protection.
For so many reasons, it makes sense for homeowners to take the important step to get flood insurance. Here’s our advice on how to figure out your flood risk and how to get it: First, check your flood zone by going to FloodHelpNY.org and enter your address. Be sure to not only check the current map, but the advisory map as well, which is how flood risk could potentially look in the future. While you are on the site, you should check to see if you are eligible to apply on the site for free programs to obtain elevation certificates that can ensure more accurate premiums, which can help to lower them.
Once you’ve looked up your risk and are ready to get flood insurance, the best place is to start with your current insurer, since you already have a relationship with them. It’s also a good idea to shop around. Flood insurance policies typically take 30 days after purchase to go into effect, so the time to start is now! If you have other questions, you can contact FEMA’s NFIP Support Call Center at 1-800-621-3362.
If hurricane season isn’t enough motivation to get flood insurance, there’s also the fact that rates are likely to go up once FEMA updates their currently out-of-date flood maps. Also, as they update the maps, they are likely to include more homes in high-risk areas, meaning that an increased number of New Yorkers will be facing these higher costs for flood insurance.
To help ensure that New Yorkers are protected in the event of a flood, the City has set a goal to increase flood insurance enrollment year-over-year. As of September 2019, only 30% of homes in the floodplain have flood insurance policies — meaning there are still thousands of New Yorkers who need protection.
The City of New York and nonprofit organizations like the Center for NYC Neighborhoods are working to make neighborhoods more resilient and increase our overall climate preparedness. With help from proactive homeowners across the city, who take steps to ensure they and their homes are protected with flood insurance, we can together build a city that is resilient for individuals, for families, and for our community at large.