Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

Flood Insurance: What Good Is It?

Flood Insurance: What Good Is It?
Flood InsuranceGUESTS:Nancy Kincaid, press secretary, California Department of Insurance Courtney Pendleton, PIO, Red Cross of San Diego and Imperial Counties

Our top story on midday addition, last week rainstorms were a godsend to a state trying to get loose from the drought. In San Diego they were also lots of trouble. At the height of two storms San Diego fire rescue responded to 75 emergency calls when the waters trapped people in their cars or homes. Some people are still looking at the financial hardship for fixing the damage plus get to their property. We will look back on the reins and see what people can do to prepare and protect their property. My guests are Nancy Kincaid , and Courtney Pendleton. Cortnee joystick in the studio. She is public information officer for the Red Cross in San Diego. Nanci Kincaid's press secretary for the California Department of insurance. Thank you for joining of Nancy. Cortnee why don't you tell us what the Red Cross did to respond to the floods. I think you had some disaster action fees. The Red Cross on call has volunteer disaster teams. Will respond to an average of a local disaster every 24 hours in the county. Last Tuesday when the floodgates opened that was no exception. We actually had between about 4 PM and 7 PM last Tuesday when the rains first began, we had a total of eight disaster calls in that time. Our first responders that us know who might be displaced because of something like a flood. The Red Cross response and helps that family. What is an emergency disaster -- it sounds like you have quite a few? It ranges from a single family home buyer to the most common disaster -- last week it was all about flooding. Because we had that amount of people that we heard from our first responder partners, we total at least 50 people initially that needed some assistance. Informed of a shelter, maybe it was in form of assistance -- because of generous donations we were able to provide people with a debit card to get immediate needs faster. We will get further into that. Tell us a few stories. What were the kinds of situations you responded to? One example of people heard about one of the apartment complexes in the Clairemont Mesa area. That had about eight unit affected because of flooding. A lot of those cases there are attempts to find a place in that same structure for that family to be able to go to those they want not able to return to their home. If we are unable to find a location the Red Cross can step in and help some of those families. Find another place for them to stay even if it is a hotel for a couple of days until they can get their insurance and go through the process to begin a new place for them. And Clairemont, I guess there were a number of people who were flooded out of their homes. Maybe they were in the basement of the building. I don't know all the details right now in total basket -- week we assisted 45 individuals and 20 different families where we were able to provide them with necessary emergency basic human necessities. If they don't have friends or family they can go stay with you put them in a hotel? Just -- on an average basis we are able to put them in an individual hotels for a few nights until they can keep -- get things going. We also open a shelter. There is at least 25 people displaced, that is a triggered for the Red Cross to open a shelter. At a safe place for people to go. I suppose the shelter was on higher ground. It was -- not too far from your studios. It was at college Avenue It was at College Avenue, Baptist Church. In total there were only about six people are so ended up going to the shelter and needing assistance. But overall, for those six people it meant a lot to them. Nancy you have a brother who lives in Ocean Beach. Did he have a story to tell about last week's plots with my They were concerned. Preparing and getting flood insurance -- my brother and his fiancée left about four houses up. There is a 4 foot sand to keep water from going into homes. He asked me should I buy flood insurance and I said absolutely. If you have never bought it before, I get this year. Many of these houses in the area have been flooded before. There is not much help except for the Red Cross. Or if FEMA comes and there is a waiting period from the government. So flood insurance is definitely helpful. Here we have a process which we call 10 worries. We set of questions to some of our listeners to find out their experiences were. Here are a couple we heard back from. Jan Phillips wrote -- I home office and converted garage was flooded during the last El Niño. I spent $6000 on new landscaping, drainage systems from preventing this from happening again. Though thousands of dollars did nothing to prevent another flood in my office. Nothing floating the carpet so, furniture which, nature wins. Here's another one we got from and from Morrow -- home prep work of installing rain gutters and caulking windows help a lot. I rate as many leaves as I could to reduce obstacles for draining. Maybe I will come back to you Cortnee on this other things people can do to prepare? Absolutely -- the last example that you mentioned, there's always stuff anyone can do to be a little more prepared. From the Red Cross perspective we talk about getting a kit and getting informed. That is really your only personal preparedness. That is just your basic emergency kit. Maybe you already have one because we do experience fires in San Diego and a lot of people have gotten emergency kits for that. But there are such things you can add to help you -- even something as simple as making sure you have Ziploc bags to keep your cell phone drive. Nancy I think you have a story you like to share with us about flooding in [Indiscernible] beach orange county. With us a few years back was my Was last year -- our team responded after the same type of storm hit the beach. Several homes up from the beach were inundated by water. I think people were unprepared for how difficult it is and what it does to your belongings. It is almost impossible to get them out of your belongings but imagine it on your carpet in your living room. It is extremely difficult. It is quite a mess to pick up and clean up. Responding to those homeowners -- they were surprised and some of them had sandbags. Those people did not the flooding. We talked to some others who had flood insurance because they had been through this before. They had assistance. There were a few who had done nothing to prepare escort me mentioned and had no flood insurance. It is a daunting task to recover. One of our reporters told me -- fire stations in San Diego were given -- giving out sandbags. They were just getting the backs, you had to fill them with sand on your own. I guess maybe that was a trip to the beach to get them filled out before you try to prevent the floodwaters from coming and. You are listening to the date addition on KPBS. My guests are Nancy Kincaid, and Courtney Pendleton. Cortnee is the public information officer for the Red Cross. Nancy Kincaid's press secretary for the California Department of insurance. This talk about flood insurance. Nancy -- does home owners insurance cover flood damage? It depends on what causes what we're defining as a flood. (Example what was left of the -- a couple of days we had heavy winds. If when driven rain with tiles or shingles off the roof and causes damage or a tree is uprooted and falls through your windows and causes damage or wanted to get inside your home and create a flood, that is typically covered under your home owner insurance. However inundation where water is rising either because of landscaping or grading issue or just because there is so much water and not enough time for it to drain, that is typically not covered by your home owner insurance. What if flooding is caused by a clot storm drain. It depends -- sometimes it needs review by an engineer or litigation. Because there is a thought that maybe municipal or county authorities are responsible. That depends on what actually caused the storm drain to back up. Typically if it is just so much rain in a short period of time, in my experience that is not covered. You would need flood insurance to recover from that. If it is caused by some type of malfunction or engineering issue it might be that a municipal or county authority could be responsible. But you are on your own to recover until all the litigation is settled. Where do you get flood insurance was my What insurance is usually typically available through the federal flood insurance program which is administered by FEMA. If you go to plots you can get all the information and the best way to get to that site and learn about flood insurance. Is not typically offered in the open market. For bigger companies like State Farm where people are used to having home owner policies, that is not covered for floods, you need to get a separate policy flood insurance. That is through that federal flood insurance program. That is true FEMA Correct We are all pretty sure where flooding is going to happen in San Diego, we know it will be at Mission Beach, Mission Valley -- in terms of ensuring your homes does it matter if you are in a flood zone was back It does not matter in that one of the things we know has changed with the development over the years, people who lived somewhere they be 10 years say I've never flooded here before and suddenly they see rising water they are not used to sing in the area. What we have seen is that increasingly developed areas have more sought in concrete, there are fewer naturally grown areas that can absorb the water coming in. When it is black you have no way for the water to go it goes up. That is dangerous. Just because you never flooded before does not mean you won't in the future. If I owned a private insurance company I would be very reluctant to ensure people who live in Mission Valley. But FEMA will ensure those people. Yes -- the federal flood insurance program is available to everyone. The federal flood insurance program even places that have flooded in the past. They can still get insurance. If you have not ever flooded before -- you might have a preferable rate. If you're in an area that has flooded repeatedly, is going to be more expensive because the price is based on the risk. You will get insurance but it might be more expensive? It could be especially if the area you are in is already rated by engineers as being one that is vulnerable for floods. Cortnee is there anything you want to say about flood insurance? From a Red Cross perspective being informed is one of the biggest things. I just want to echo, to our El Niño planning process, I find it surprising to find that everybody lives in a flood zone. It depends on the degree to which it might flood. The office of emergency services have a good website you can visit to see where you fall into those flood zones. You can also go to prepare San One of the things I want to mention is San Diego County assessor last week said you can't get a reduction in property taxes if your home has been damaged significantly at the floods. It has nothing to do with the content of your home because that is not insured by homeowners insurance. If your home has been damaged you might be able to get a cheaper rates. Week after next the national weather service is expecting another series of rains -- do we expect more of the same? Over the last several months many of the other agencies have been waiting for it. So it is here. Last week was a preview. We're just going to keep adjusting to the situation. Courtney Pendleton is public information officer of Red Cross in San Diego and Imperial Counties. Thank you Courtney. And Nancy will join us from Sacramento the secretary for the California Department of insurance -- thank you Nancy.

The first of the big El Niño storms has passed over San Diego County. Any sense of relief may be short-lived, however. Like ships waiting to be unloaded in Long Beach, more big storms are lined up in the Pacific.

In spite of preparations in advance of the predicted January storms, the usual areas -- Mission Valley, low-lying beach cities -- were flooded. Other inundated areas came as an ugly surprise, courtesy of collapsed storm drains or blocked sewers.

Some homeowners and renters got flood insurance, available almost exclusively through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Others had wind- or rain-driven damage covered through their homeowners' or renters' insurance.


But homeowners' insurance does not generally cover real flooding -- or inundation, where water and sand enter your apartment and stays there. It's not cheap to get it out, either. On average, says Nancy Kincaid of the California Department of Insurance, removal of sand and water can cost $5,000 to $10,000.

She advises those in the market for flood insurance to visit a FEMA website: and look around. And do it soon. Flood insurance must be in place 30 days before a claim is filed.