The federal government has granted a waiting-period exemption for flood insurance to help homeowners after this summer's devastating wildfires.
Sunday, however, is the deadline for residents to buy flood insurance while coping with mud and debris flows in the area of the Seeley wildfire in Emery County and Sanpete counties.
Under the waiver, a flood claim may be filed before the normal 30-day waiting period if a claims adjuster determines flood damage was impacted by wildfires.
"We're concerned about flooding on homes located near steep slopes affected by the wildfires," said Joe Dougherty, Utah Division of Emergency Services and Homeland Security. "Heavy rains can bring a torrent of mud down a hillside, and areas scared by fire this year are of particular concern. We urge people to be aware of dangers in their own backyards and to purchase flood insurance."
To qualify for the waiver, residents must get insurance within 60 days of a wildfire's containment date. In the case of the Seeley fire, containment was announced July 18 making Sunday the deadline for getting insurance, said Laurie Hassell, spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Residents in other areas may learn of their deadlines by contacting an insurance agent or visiting the National Flood Insurance Program at www.FloodSmart.gov.
The waiting-period exemption was signed into law by President Barack Obama July 6. The waiver is part of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, which allows residents access to insurance whose homes were impacted by flooding from federal land scarred by wildfires.
Flood damage is not typically covered by homeowner's insurance.
Before the reform act was passed, Congress had been extending the National Flood Insurance Program a few months at a time since 2008. Twice this led to shut downs, including one that stalled more than 40,000 home sales in June 2010 alone, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Anyone can be financially vulnerable to floods, so it's a good idea to consider flood insurance even if you live in a moderate- or low-risk area, federal officials say. For instance, people outside of high-risk areas file more than 20 percent of flood insurance claims, and receive one-third of disaster assistance for flooding. But when it's available, disaster assistance is typically a loan that residents must repay with interest.
To qualify for federal flood insurance, residents must live in a community that participates in the National Flood Insurance Program.
Residents also may qualify for the Preferred Risk Policy (a lower-cost flood insurance program), which provides contents coverage beginning at $49 per year and building plus contents coverage beginning at $129 a year. The average policy is about $600 annually.
Cost • The average policy is about $600 annually, less in some locations
Waiting period • 30 days for new policies to go into effect but this may be waived for homes flooded after recent wildfires on federal lands What to do
Contact • Your insurance agent for more information on flood insurance
Call • National Flood Insurance Program help center at 1-800-427-4661
Visit • FloodSmart.gov or for exemption, www.FloodSmart.gov/PRPExtension
Flood outlook • For weather information, visit www.weather.gov