Flood Resource Page
Protect Yourself from a Flood
Most Texans aren’t prepared for the most common type of natural disaster: floods. People typically think of floods caused when a lake or river overflows. If they don’t live near water, they don’t think they need to take precautions. But flooding frequently occurs because of storms, heavy rains, or water main breaks. Homeowners and renters insurance policies don’t cover flood damage. To protect yourself from losses caused by most flooding, you’ll need to buy a flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Read more.
Current Conditions, Information, and Resources
- Frequently Asked Disaster Assistance Questions (Spanish version)
- Flash Flood Alert - Take 5 for Safety
- Actual Cash Value vs. Replacement Cost Coverage in Homeowners Insurance
Texas Extension Disaster Education Network
- Texas Flood Recovery Resources (November 2013)
- Mobile Apps (to prepare for a disaster and monitor conditions)
Before the Flood
- Keep an inventory. Fill out TDI's Home Inventory Checklist (PDF) that you can print or save to a disk and keep somewhere secure. Consider e-mailing it to yourself to ensure you'll have it wherever you are. Also take photos or videotape of each room and the exterior of your home to keep with your inventory.
- Gather important documents and insurance cards and policies. Unless they are stored in a safe place, take health insurance cards; auto and home insurance policies; and an inventory of your possessions, including receipts and photos or videos.
- Know what your policy covers. Make certain your homeowners or commercial property coverage is still in force and that it provides adequate coverage to pay the full replacement cost of your property. Check your auto policy to see if you have comprehensive coverage "other than collision." Comprehensive coverage pays if a storm, fire, or flood damages your car. Find out how much coverage you have for "additional living expenses" to cover lodging, food, and other expenses if you're forced to vacate your residence after suffering a covered loss.
- Know your policy limits. Contact your agent and check the limits of your policies. For homeowners policies, ask about limits for contents and buildings. Your limits may be too low if replacement costs have risen because of new additions, improvements, or inflation.
- Review your health coverage. Find out if you'll be able to receive non-emergency care from out-of-network providers, if needed, without accruing additional out-of-pocket costs.
- Consider renters insurance if you don't have it. A landlord's insurance policy usually covers the house or building, but not the personal property of the building's tenants. If you rent an apartment, duplex, house, or townhouse, you may need renters insurance to protect your belongings.
- Consider business interruption coverage. Business interruption coverage compensates you for lost income and certain operating expenses if you are forced to vacate your business because of a loss covered in your policy.
- Consider alternative storing methods for company files. Important documents can be scanned and stored in a safe location. Also consider taking photos of office equipment and furniture.
- Consider purchasing flood and wind and hail coverage. You may have to buy separate policies to cover wind, hail, and flood damage. Homeowners, farm and ranch, renters, windstorm, and condominium policies do not cover damage from rising waters. Use the "One-Step Flood Risk Profile" feature on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) website to determine your relative flood risk. Use the Homeowners, Flood, and Windstorm Policies Comparison chart to see the differences between homeowners, flood, and wind and hail insurance.
Homeowners and commercial property policies specifically exclude coverage for damage from flooding from rising waters. To protect yourself from losses caused by most flooding, you'll need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) administered by FEMA. Flood insurance policies have a 30-day waiting period after the purchase date before coverage takes effect, so if you do not have a policy, you should obtain one as soon as possible. For more information about flood insurance, contact the NFIP
1-888-FLOOD 29 (356-6329)
- NFIP Summary of Coverage (PDF)
- Learn more about the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (including rate increases for some policyholders)
If your property is located in one of Texas' 14 coastal counties, or parts of southeastern Harris County, you will likely only be able to obtain insurance coverage for windstorm or hail damage from a special insurance pool called the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA.) To qualify for TWIA coverage, your property must pass a windstorm inspection and must meet certain windstorm-resistant building standards. You cannot buy or change TWIA coverage once a hurricane has entered the Gulf of Mexico. For more information about windstorm coverage call TWIA or visit its website
Note: If you’re a TWIA policyholder, be aware that your policy recently changed. For more information about the new TWIA claims process, call TDI’s Coastal Outreach and Assistance Services Team (COAST) at 1-855-35COAST (352-6278) or visit the COAST resource page.
Flood insurance requirement. Certain Gulf Coast residents may be required to purchase flood insurance on their property before they are eligible for a TWIA policy. The requirement applies to you if:
- you constructed, altered, remodeled, or enlarged your property (to the extent that a certificate of compliance is required) on or after September 1, 2009;
- any part of the property is located in flood zones V, VE, or V1-V30 as defined by NFIP; and
- flood coverage is available from the NFIP.
Property repairs are excluded from the requirement. Repair is defined as the reconstruction or restoration of a structure that is damaged or deteriorated.
Windstorm insurance inspections. New structures, alterations, additions, or repairs to existing structures, including re-roofs or roof repairs must be inspected by a TDI inspector or an engineer who has been appointed by the Commissioner of Insurance. There is no fee for any inspection conducted by TDI. All inspections must be made during the construction phase. For questions or to find out if your home was previously inspected, contact your agent or TDI’s Windstorm Inspection Division at 1-800-248-6032.
- Protect your property. Years, months, or days ahead, take appropriate precautions:
- Avoid building in a floodplain unless you elevate and reinforce your home. Also consider elevating the furnace, water heater, and electric panel.
- Install "check valves" in sewer traps to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains or your home.
- Construct some type of barrier to stop floodwater from entering your home.
- Seal walls in basements with waterproof compounds to avoid seepage.
- Buy emergency repair items - masking tape, lumber, plastic sheeting, sandbags, and sand. Keep all receipts for insurance or tax purposes.
- Move valuables away from windows and, if possible, to an upper floor.
- Move cars, boats, and trailers to garages or warehouses or tie down boats and trailers next to house.
- Check and strengthen mooring lines of boats still in water.
- Check your tie-downs if you live in a mobile home.
- Bring in outdoor furniture. Move indoor furniture and other items to higher floors or spaces.
- Drain swimming pools at least halfway.
- Decide in advance under what circumstances you'll evacuate your home. Whenever local authorities recommend evacuation, you should leave. The advice of authorities is based on experience and knowledge of the storm and its potential for destruction.
- Keep emergency phone numbers handy.
- Check for weather bulletins. When a storm watch is issued for your area – an alert that a storm has not yet hit, but conditions are likely in the days or hours ahead – regularly check TV and radio for official bulletins.
- Prepare for being away from home. Assemble a disaster kit that you can grab in a hurry. Include the following in the kit:
- Water: Pack enough bottled water for every person to have one gallon of water for three days.
- Food: Non-perishable foods, canned goods, can opener, and utensils.
- Extra clothing: Clothes, shoes, and blankets
- First aid kit: Gloves, gauze, soap, hand sanitizer, antibiotic ointment, bandages, pain relievers, thermometer, and tape.
- Medications: Prescriptions, eye glasses and hearing aids, and items for dentures, and contact lenses. Pack prescriptions in their original containers. Ask your doctor about storing medications.
- Emergency items: Battery-powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries, cash and change, a whistle, shovel, basic tools, baby wipes, garbage bags, toilet paper, and a state map.
- Baby items: Formula, diapers, bottles, powdered milk, medications, baby wipes and diaper rash ointment.
- Personal hygiene supplies: Soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, and cleaning cloths
- Pet supplies: Medical records, medications, ID tags or microchips, current photos, leash and carrier, three-day supply of food and water, can opener, pet beds and toys, paper towels and plastic bags, and a list of hotels that accept pets.
- Important documents: Insurance cards and policies, copies of prescriptions or unfilled written prescriptions, list of all medications, wills, contracts deeds, stocks and bonds, passports, drivers license or other identification, Social Security cards, bank account and credit card numbers, home inventory, important telephone numbers, and family records (birth and marriage certificates).
- Map out safe routes inland or to safer areas. If you live in a low-lying area, know where low-water crossings might make travel to safety more difficult and plan routes that avoid these areas.
- Plan your escape route early. Check with the Red Cross or other authorities for location of the nearest shelter. Listen to the TV and radio to monitor storm reports.
- Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
- Work out a way for family members to communicate if you are separated. Remember that in a severe storm, local phone service may be disrupted. Ask a friend or relative who lives outside your immediate area to serve as a point of contact.
- Make other arrangements for your pets' safety. If you must seek shelter in a community shelter, understand that you might not be able to keep your pets with you. Contact your local humane society for information about animal shelters.
- Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
- If you are leaving your home, lock and secure the premises. Take small valuables and important documents with you.
- Beware of fire hazards as you prepare your vehicle to leave. Obey all restrictions regarding smoking and the use of open flame. Always extinguish smoking material in a safe method and location. Avoid spills and ignition sources when transferring gasoline from one container to another.
- Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
- Be aware of streams, creeks, drainage channels, canyons, and other areas that could flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas without warning.
- Do not drive into flooded areas. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away. Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling. A foot of water will float many vehicles. Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including SUV’s and pick-ups. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely.
- Exercise fire safety when you're at a temporary location. Restrict the use of candles and alternate or portable methods for cooking to well-ventilated areas. Keep combustible materials (especially paper and cardboard boxes) away from open flames, space heaters, and other electrical devices. Keep electrical circuits from overloading by limiting the number of electrical devices plugged into outlets. When staying in hotels and motels make sure the smoke detector is working.
- Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Never use generators, grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage, or camper—or even outside near an open window. Health Alert: Carbon Monoxide Warning!
After the Flood
- Return when authorities have said it's safe to do so. Listen to news reports to find out if the water is safe to drink. Stay out of any buildings surrounded by flood waters. Continue listening to the radio for emergency updates and news reports.
- Do not enter your home if you smell gas, floodwaters remain, or your home was damaged by fire and authorities have not said it's safe to enter.
- Enter your home with caution. Turn flashlights on before you enter your home to avoid sparks that could cause a fire or explosion if there's a gas leak. Do not smoke or use oil, gas lanterns, candles, or torches for lighting inside a damaged home until you are sure there is no leaking gas or other flammable materials present.
- Use caution when walking in your home. There could be hidden foundation problems. Be wary of wildlife or other animals and use a stick to poke through debris to avoid encountering snakes.
- Be cautious of contamination. If the house has been closed up for several days, enter briefly to open doors and windows to let the house air out for at least 30 minutes before you stay for any length of time. If your home has been flooded and has been closed up for several days, presume your home has been contaminated with mold and sewage.
- Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.
- If you have standing water in your home and can turn off the main power from a dry location, turn off the power. If you must enter standing water to access the main power switch, then call an electrician to turn it off. Never turn power on or off yourself or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.
- Disconnect all electronic equipment, appliances, and household items and move them to a dry place to dry. Clean all items, floors, and surfaces with diluted bleach concentration following the disinfectant product instructions on the product label. Allow to air dry.
- Wash and dry all clothing and bedding before use. Examine clothing well before handling as insects could be in the clothing.
- Follow "boil water" alerts. If you boil water for drinking, allow it to boil for at least one minute. Water may also be disinfected with chlorine or iodine
according to package directions, or with household bleach using one-eighth teaspoon or eight drops per gallon of water. Sterilize water containers and drinking utensils with a solution of household bleach.
- Throw out all food and other supplies that you suspect may have become contaminated or come in to contact with floodwater. Do not eat food that has been in contact with flood water, especially foods that will be eaten raw. Avoid eating fish from areas contaminated with sewage or flood waters until notice from local health officials. Babies on formula should be given ready-to-feed formula or powdered formula prepared with bottled drinking water.
- Be cautious of your surroundings outdoors. Watch for fallen objects; downed electrical wires; and weakened walls, bridges, roads, and sidewalks. Report downed power lines to the electric company.
- Do not wade or swim in flood waters, and do not let children with flood-water contaminated toys that have not been disinfected. Flood water has fecal material from overflowing sewage systems, agricultural runoff, and chemicals from industrial areas. Wading in flood waters can be a source of infection or
result in injuries.
- Contact your insurance agent or company promptly. Keep a record of all contacts you have with your company. Be prepared to answer questions about the extent and severity of the damage.
- If your home is not insured, contact your local Red Cross or FEMA Disaster Recovery Center for assistance. Disaster assistance is money or direct assistance to individuals, families, and businesses. It is meant to help you with critical expenses that cannot be covered in other ways. Call FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
- Make a list of your damaged property. Photograph or videotape the damage if possible. Refer to your policy to determine the amount of personal property coverage you have. Don't throw away damaged items until your insurance adjuster has had a chance to view them.
- Make necessary repairs to protect your home and property from further damage. If there is partial damage to your home, take reasonable and necessary repairs to protect your home and property from further damage. Cover broken windows and holes to keep rain out. Don't make permanent repairs until instructed by your insurance company. Keep a record of your repair expenses and save all receipts.
- Know if you have replacement cost or actual cash value coverage. Replacement cost is what you would pay to rebuild or repair your home, based on current construction costs. Actual cash value is based on the replacement cost of the dwelling minus a deduction for depreciation. With replacement cost coverage, the company will pay you the actual cash value initially and after repairs are complete, will pay the remaining amount owed on the claim. If you have replacement cost coverage for personal property when your loss occurs, your loss will be paid on an actual cash value basis until the property is repaired or replaced.
- Ask your agent about additional living expenses (ALE) or loss of use. ALE may provide coverage for some of the expenses you incur if you are unable to live in your home because of damage from a covered peril. Most policies pay up to 20 percent of you home's insured value. Provide your insurance company with documentation regarding your expenses. Keep your receipts. When possible, the documentation should include the vendor, date, and amount. Remember that different insurance policies may have different coverages, limits, and procedures for reimbursement.
- Refer to your policy to know what deductible you'll be required to pay. Most homeowners policies contain two deductibles: one for windstorm and hail losses, and one for all other losses.
- If you hire a public insurance adjuster, make sure the public adjuster is licensed by TDI. Public insurance adjusters work independently and charge a fee for their services. Public insurance adjusters must disclose their fees in the written contract with you. To learn whether a public insurance adjuster is licensed, call TDI.
- Try to be present when the insurance company's adjuster inspects your damage. Be sure your address is visible. If damage forces you to move, leave a note or a plywood sign with your temporary address, phone number and name of your insurance company.
- Resolving your claim. Your insurance company must acknowledge that it has begun an investigation within 15 days of receiving your claim. The company may request additional information to settle your claim. Once it has that information, the company must accept or reject your claim within 15 business days or tell you why it needs more time. If the Commissioner of Insurance designates the event as a major catastrophe, the claim handling deadlines are extended for an additional 15 days. Once a settlement is reached, the company has five business days to mail you a check. If you do not receive your payment promptly, call your agent.
- Work with reputable contractors. Ask contractors for references and verify them. Contact your Better Business Bureau, local police, or chamber of commerce for information. Insist on an itemized contract in writing and pay only as work is completed. The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act prohibits price gouging once the governor has declared an area a disaster area. Call the Office of the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hot Line, 1-800-337-3928, if you suspect price gouging or any other deceptive business practice.
For more information contact:
Last updated: 12/03/2013