FEMA offers answers to survivors with questions about flood insurance

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

One of the most damaging effects of hurricanes and tropical storms can be the flooding they cause. For thousands of Louisianians whose homes and property sustained flood damage as a result of Hurricane Isaac, help is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Since Isaac made landfall, the NFIP has paid out nearly $192 million on 9,736 claims in Louisiana.

The deadline for a flood claim to be filed with a home or property owner's insurance agent or company is 60 days from the date of the actual loss. Because flooding from Hurricane Isaac affected different neighborhoods at different times, the actual deadlines will vary.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers the NFIP, offers the following information to help policyholders understand the flood insurance portion of the recovery process:

  • FEMA has opened a Hurricane Isaac Flood Insurance Call Center for use by storm survivors who have general flood insurance questions or concerns about their flood insurance adjustment. The toll-free number is 1-866-331-1679. Help is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Additional information is available at www.floodsmart.gov.
  • The first step toward recovery is reporting the loss and filing a flood insurance claim with your agent or insurance company. The company will send an adjuster to inspect the damaged home and property.

0 The insurance company or agent needs to be kept updated about how to contact the survivor. That means informing the company or agent about changes to telephone numbers or addresses. If the survivor is not living in their home, the insurance company will need the name of a point of contact.

  • Before the adjuster visits the damaged home, the owner should:

o Separate damaged items from undamaged items. If necessary, place damaged items outside the home.

o Take photographs of any water in the house or damaged personal property. The adjuster will need evidence of the damage to the residence and damaged items.

o Make a list of damaged or lost items. Include the age and value of the items if possible. Have receipts available if possible.

o Have any estimates by a contractor ready to show the adjuster since these will be considered in preparation of the repair estimate.

o Contact the insurance company if an adjuster has not been assigned within several days.

  • During the adjuster's visit, the owner should:

o Be available at the appointment time or during the timeframe when the adjuster is expected.

o Provide the adjuster with the list of damaged or lost items and receipts.

o Show the adjuster any contractor-drafted repair estimates, if the homeowner has had any done.

  • After the adjuster's visit,

o The adjuster will work with the property or homeowner to calculate the value of the damage. The adjuster will prepare a repair estimate.

o File the Proof of Loss form that the adjuster provided. This will be the official claim for damages and needs to be filed with the insurance company by the deadline the adjuster provides. This document substantiates the insurance claim and is required before the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) can make payment.

o The adjuster will inform the claimant of the deadline for filing the Proof of Loss form.

o The claim will be paid after the home or property owner and the insurer agree on the amount of damages and the insurer has the Proof of Loss form.

  • If homeowners' flood insurance policies have lapsed, they may be denied FEMA assistance. Louisianians who received federal disaster assistance for damages to their uninsured home or business during previous hurricane or flooding disasters were automatically issued coverage under a Group Flood Insurance program (GFIP). GFIP is a three-year, nonrenewable group flood insurance policy funded by FEMA. After the GFIP expires, the property's current renter or homeowner must purchase and maintain flood insurance.
  • Applicants who are not eligible for federal disaster loans or grants to repair that same property after Isaac may still be eligible to receive other assistance. Hurricane Isaac survivors who sustained uninsured or underinsured damages from Isaac should register with FEMA to see if we can help, or for referral to voluntary agencies who will work with them to try to get their needs met. They may still be eligible for:

o Grants to help pay for rental assistance or serious disaster-related expenses.

o Transitional Sheltering Assistance, which may allow them to stay in a hotel or motel for a limited period of time. FEMA will cover the cost of the room and taxes in payments made directly to the hotel.