Insurance Agents: Add Value by Helping
Customers Develop a Flood Mitigation Plan
As an insurance agent, you’re one of the most valuable risk management resources your customers have. That’s especially true when it comes to flood mitigation, an area where many homeowners are misinformed and where a little education can translate to significant savings.
So what exactly can you do to help your customers minimize the likelihood that a flood will take them by surprise (and potentially cost them a lot of money)? Follow these steps to guide your customers through the process of developing a flood mitigation plan.
Step 1: Educate Customers about Flood Risks
Homeowners aren’t likely to take steps to plan for and mitigate flood risk if they don’t think they’re in danger. That means your first job is to educate your customers about the risks floods pose to them.
As you probably know, FEMA’s official stance on flooding is that anywhere it can rain, it can flood. One of the most valuable things you can do for your customers is to pass along this message.
When you do, be sure you also tell them that flood damage isn’t covered in standard homeowner’s insurance.
While that may seem obvious to you, fully 43 percent of homeowners think that their homeowner’s policy does cover flood damage.
Step 2: Help Homeowners Evaluate their Flood Risk
Once your customers understand that they almost certainly have some flood risk, it’s time to help them identify their level of exposure. This isn’t, unfortunately, as easy as entering their address in a simple risk-assessment tool, but with help from a few resources on the NFS site, you should be able to give them a good sense of what they’re facing.
Here are three resources to tap into:
- “Know Your Risk” videos: These videos offer an introduction to rain and ice jams, two major sources of flooding for people outside the path of hurricanes – i.e., those who may not think they have much flood risk. Send these to your customers and talk with them about how rain and ice jams might lead to flooding in their area (and their home).
- Flood maps: Flood maps offer a useful starting point for understanding flood risk, but, as you likely know, at least six million homeowners are currently relying on out-of-date maps. What’s more, as much as 46 percent of the nation’s shoreline, along with 3.5 million miles of streams and rivers, have no associated flood map. Unmapped areas are typically sparsely populated, but that doesn’t mean nobody lives there – or that there’s no development. So point your customers to flood maps but also let them know that those maps aren’t the be-all, end-all of flood risk.
- The NFS risk analysis engine: Before you explicitly try to sell a customer a flood policy, you can use our risk analysis engine to help them understand their risk. By entering a customer’s home address, you can tell them what the average flood claim is in their community, plus what their risk score is on a 100-point scale. This individualized information can be a powerful way to communicate the real risks that threaten your customers’ homes.
Step 3: Help Customers Prepare Their Homes
Once you’ve communicated the risk your customers face from floods, it’s time to arm them with strategies for mitigating that risk. As explained in this video on preparing a home for floods, the first step in any flood mitigation plan is making sure the physical structure of the home can withstand rising waters.
Encourage your customers to watch that video, but be sure to reinforce its message in conversation, too (repetition is key to making sure a message gets through). Specifically, mention these seven tips for flood-proofing a home:
- Secure the structure: Raise valuables and electronics, store important documents in waterproof containers, and clear debris that might become dangerous.
- Elevate critical utilities: If electrical panels, switches, sockets, or wiring are low enough that rising waters could damage them, raise them. Ditto appliances and heating systems.
- Waterproof the basement: Make sure the sump pump is working and that it has a battery backup so that it can function in the event of a power outage.
- Install a water alarm: This simple, inexpensive device lets homeowners know as soon as water starts accumulating, which can help them take action fast, when damage is minor.
- Waterproof valuables: This includes medications and sentimental objects like photo albums. Store them in waterproof containers well above ground level.
- Clear debris from gutters, downspouts, and drains: To make sure these structures work, maintain them regularly. If you’re not physically capable of doing that yourself, hire someone who can.
- Secure outdoor equipment and structures: Fuel tanks should be anchored; furniture should be secured or moved to high ground. As a general rule, if something could be swept away by floodwater, it needs to be secured.
These steps can mitigate the potential damage floodwaters can cause the physical structures your customers care most about. But those structures aren’t the only things that a flood will impact, which is why it’s also important to talk to customers about having a plan for themselves.
Step 4: Guide Customers through Making a Family Flood Plan
When a flood is in the forecast, the best protection is to get out of its path. This is particularly true if local authorities issue evacuation orders, which should always be heeded.
The key message to share with your customers is that they should have a plan for where they’ll go and what they’ll do in the event of a serious flood. Generally, a family flood plan should address…
- Where to go in the event of an evacuation order.
- Where to go in the event that they need to seek higher ground (generally for less serious floods).
- How to behave if caught in flood waters.
- What to bring in the event of evacuation and how to gather those items (e.g., in a “go bag”).
- Where pets will go and how they’ll be cared for during a flood.
For more detailed recommendations, point your customers to Ready.gov’s tips for how to behave in various flood scenarios.
Step 5: Help Customers Get Appropriate Flood Insurance
A flood mitigation plan can go a long way toward reducing the damage floodwater can cause. But the best mitigation in the world can’t prevent all flood damage. That’s where flood insurance comes in.
Helping your customers get an appropriate flood insurance policy reassures them that, if a flood damages their property despite their best efforts at mitigation, they’ll have the resources they need to rebuild and return to normal as quickly as possible.
For best results, walk your customers through our online application to help them answer any questions they’re not sure about. As many as 80 percent of Americans aren’t comfortable buying flood insurance online. Offering real-time support can go a long way toward making sure their good intentions in protecting themselves and their families translate to good results in the event of a flood.
Stay Up to Date with NFS Flood Resources
Unfortunately, climate change and current development practices mean that flooding and the damage it causes will be with us for a long time.
The good news is that you can play an important role in keeping your customers safe and helping them protect the people and things that matter most to them. For resources to share and information about flood mitigation, you can turn to the NFS website. We’re constantly updating our resource libraries to ensure that you’ve got the tools you need to help keep your customers safe.