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If it can rain, it can flood: Why flood insurance is a wise bet for homeowners

The federal government considers floods the nation's most common natural disaster. They strike every state and leave homeowners with huge repair costs. Why? Because typical homeowners insurance doesn't cover flood damage.

Those policies may provide protection for water damage when it comes through a hole in the roof or from wind-driven rain. But coverage doesn't extend to damage caused by water from a storm-swollen river, torrential rainfall or other flood-inducing conditions.

Homeowners are required to purchase flood insurance if they have a federally backed mortgage and live in a high-risk flood area as identified by the National Flood Insurance Program.

For others, though, it's optional.

With premiums starting as low as $171 a year for a home and its contents, it's coverage homeowners should highly consider.

"Floods can occur anywhere," says Corise Morrison, executive director of residual markets for USAA. "Low risk does not mean no risk."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) establishes flood-risk ratings for areas based on hydrologic studies and other data. In high-risk areas, a 1 in 4 chance of flooding exists over a 30-year mortgage. In moderate- to low-risk zones, the chance of flooding is reduced but still present.

More than 20 percent of the NFIP's claims come from people with property outside of high-risk areas, according to federal estimates.

USAA sells and services coverage under the NFIP. The program's maximum coverage is $250,000 for a home and $100,000 for its contents, but USAA can refer members to a broker if additional coverage is needed. The program also provides coverage to condo owners and renters.

Homeowners can assess their risk for natural disasters plus get tips on how to minimize them and protect their personal property with USAA's Property Risk Assessment Tool.

But don't wait until an extreme storm is approaching to act. Normally, flood coverage won't begin until 30 days after purchase.

Get a quote for flood insurance at USAA.com.

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