Sunday, March 27, 2011

No surge of demand for flood insurance in Rhode Island

Richard Salit in the Providence Journal: Pictures of submerged neighborhoods saturated the minds of Rhode Islanders a year ago. But the tragedy did not unleash a torrent of demand for flood insurance policies.

“There was a little uptick,” said Michelle Burnett, floodplain manager for the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency and the state coordinator for the National Flood Insurance Program. “Some people think the chances of it happening again are unlikely — which is not the case, of course, with weather changing and climate change.”

The number of flood insurance policies in Rhode Island rose to 15,732 last year, up 3.7 percent from 2009, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA administers the National Flood Insurance Program, established in 1968 to fill a void that private insurers were reluctant to fill. The program underwrites flood insurance policies in communities that agree to manage their floodplains to reduce potential damage.

All 39 communities in Rhode Island participate, but only 3 percent of the state’s flood-prone properties have flood insurance, according to the Rhode Island EMA. In Rhode Island, the small jump in the ranks of the insured was driven largely by the residents who got federal help after last year’s floods. Anyone who received a FEMA grant or a Small Business Administration loan was automatically enrolled in a group flood insurance policy. The coverage provides up to $30,000 for structural damage but does not cover contents.

While these property owners enjoy free coverage for three years, they will be obliged to begin paying for flood insurance after that. “If you don’t,” said Flood Insurance Program spokeswoman Lauren Pawlik, “you may be forfeiting your right [to] disaster assistance in the future.”…

Warwick, RI, April 16, 2010 -- Road damage near the Warwick mall shopping center. Photo: Michael Rieger/FEMA

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