A flood is a catastrophic event that can be emotionally and financially devastating. That is why flood insurance exists. And because floods can cause a tremendous amount of damage, the federal government has stepped in to offer flood insurance products in partnership with private sector providers.
The federal government has been involved with helping people recover from floods since Congress passed the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968. The law made flood insurance coverage available to homeowners and established a national program for flood risk reduction.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was officially created in 1979 through an executive order issued by President Jimmy Carter. Today, FEMA stands ready to assist flood insurance policyholders in their recovery by working to settle their flood insurance claims.
A flood event, as described under the policy, is when two or more acres, or two adjoining properties, that are normally dry are inundated with water.
“To understand what is meant by inundation, imagine your front yard. Now, imagine that you can’t see the grass in your front yard,” explains Richard Folkman, Director of Flood-Catastrophe Services at Crawford & Company. “But it must be two or more acres covered by water or two adjoining properties covered by water. That’s inundation.”
The strict rules have been mainly unchanged since the FEMA flood insurance program began in 1979. However, thanks to new technology, FEMA has recently announced the first major changes to the program in 50 years.
“Risk Rating 2.0 implements a new pricing method using cutting edge technology to determine a home’s flood risk far more accurately than in the past. Previously rates were based only on a property’s elevation and location on a map,” explains Richard. “FEMA now looks at the distance of the house from the proximate cause of the flood. That could be a river, for instance. Then FEMA makes a calculation that involves the size of the house, types and frequency of flooding, and the height of the water and cost to rebuild. Based on that calculation, the cost to the home and personal property are combined to come up with the total loss potential.” This will create a more equitable rate for many homeowners.
Adjusting a flood claim in the past was labor-intensive for adjusters. In the beginning, they had to manually write out each claim and would take a few photographs, using Polaroid cameras, to document a claim. Also, adjusters had to look through books to find pricing which was based on regions.
“Technology has made a huge impact on how claims are filed,” adds Richard. “Now we use estimating software, and we have digital cameras to take an unlimited number of photos. We can electronically submit the claim documentation within seconds.”
Often, to prove damage as required by their insurance policy, policyholders will present the adjuster with their photos or movies that they have recorded on their mobile phones. “Even better than that, policyholders can now use an app on their phone to take pictures and instantly deliver them to the adjuster,” says Richard. “That speeds up the process of adjusting claims.”
As technology continues to move forward with 3D scanning and modeling, the flood claims adjustment process will continue to improve for policyholders and adjusters.