The flooding that caused widespread damage on Sunday night is not covered under most people’s homeowners insurance. Flooding is one of the very few natural disasters that isn’t covered by homeowners insurance.
Flooding insurance has to be purchased through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“This would be a good time for people to get flood insurance,” said CEO of Watagua Insurance Ed Gibbons. “Flood insurance is a separate policy from the homeowners policy.”
Homeowners insurance covers things like wind damage, lightning damage and even caved-in roofs caused by heavy rains. The insurance covers a variety of damage, but it doesn’t cover standing water in homes or damage determined to be caused by a flood.
It is estimated that one-fifth of homeowners in the United States have flood insurance, even though four out of five natural disasters involve some kind of flooding, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The number of people in Tennessee who have flood insurance is 33,901, out of a total population of 6.5 million. That means less than 1 percent of Tennesseans have flood insurance.
“There is a small number of people in this area who have flood insurance,” said agency manager for Farm Bureau insurance Bary Bingham. “Unless flood insurance is required, few people will have it. No one wants to pay a higher premium.”
Bingham said about 15 to 20 people called yesterday about damage to their homes. The most numerous claims had to do with wind and lightning damage. He expects more people to put in claims after they assess the damage to their homes.
Bingham also expects to see more people buying flood insurance in the next few weeks.
“If a neighbor’s house burns to the ground, people would want to make sure they are covered,” he said. “People will double check their policies to make sure they are covered in the event of a fire.”
Even insurance companies didn’t escape the flooding unscathed. Gibbons said Watagua insurance had about an inch of water in its building Monday morning from the city’s water system backing up. Bingham said his company’s trash can is missing.
Gibbons only has two flood policies in downtown. Downtown Johnson City is located within a flood zone. Any company or residence located within a flood zone is required to have flood insurance, he said.
Even with all the calls, Bingham hopes damage is minimal.
“I hope for the customers’ sake that they don’t have problems,” he said. “But if they do, we’re here to help them.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that three insurance agencies in Johnson City offer flood insurance. Numerous other agencies in the city offer flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.