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Lessons from Hurricane Harvey for the Phoenix-area Homeowner

Friday, September 8, 2017   /   by Ellie R.T.

Lessons from Hurricane Harvey for the Phoenix-area Homeowner

After seeing the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, many of us Valley residents are grateful we live on land that basks in the sun 300 days a year. 

But in the wake of the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, it's important to take a look at what we can learn from afar.

According to an estimate by the Consumer Federation of America, only about 20 percent of Houston-area homeowners who experienced flooding actually had flood insurance when Hurricane Harvey hit. 

You might find yourself wondering how residents so close to the coastline would risk not having that important safety net. But what you might not realize is that many valley residents face similar risks of flooding. 

Remember back in 2014, when remnants of a tropical storm hammered the valley with record-breaking rainfall? There were pockets of flooding across they valley, including 200 Mesa homes adjacent to Emerald park.

Flooding and home insurance: what is covered and what isn't

Most insurance policies will cover water damage when the source is within the home and the cause is sudden and accidental. 

However, many homeowners do not realize that their home insurance won't cover flood damage from unresolved maintenance issues, backup from an outside sewer or drain, or from natural disasters. You will need to get a separate policy to protect yourself in these scenarios.

Do you live in a flood plain?

Luckily, there are tools to help you determine your risk of flooding, like this interactive Maricopa County floodplain map

However, in light of recent events, it is important to point out that this map does not highlight 500-year flood plains, which was the risk level for many of those flooded Houston homes. In fact, one in four flood insurance claims are for properties outside of mapped 100-year floodplains.  

Also, remember that flooding doesn't only occur from heavy rain or overflowing canals and washes. It can also be the result of other issues like blocked drainage or faulty sewage systems. 

How can you prepare?

The recent disaster in Houston is a prime example of how we should prepare and protect ourselves beyond the minimum requirements.

Here are some things you can do:

-Consider flood insurance. If you live in a floodplain and have a federally-backed mortgage, your lender will require you to purchase flood insurance. But obviously, those aren't the only homes that should have the extra protection.

-Maintain proper drainage on your property. Clear obstructions from nearby washes and waterways. Continue to keep an eye on water flow, water marks, erosion, etc. on and around your property to catch any issues before they lead to damage.

-Consider adding floodproofing measures. Install waterproof sealants, watertight doors and window shields, and consider constructing flood walls, if warranted. 

For more information and tips, you can reference this document by the Flood Control District of Maricopa County.