Anywhere It Can Rain It Can Flood: Calculating Your Home’s Risk

Our home isn’t just a place where we store our belongings and sleep at night. It’s also where we can take a break from the outside world, unwind, and be ourselves. In other words, a place of refuge and safety. 

But disasters like flooding can take that away.

Before anyone thinks to themselves, ‘thank goodness that doesn’t apply to me,’ the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) fact sheet points out that “anywhere it can rain, it can flood.”

Of course some areas are more prone to flooding than others, as FEMA’s online search tool reveals. And factors like climate change can change even low risk areas into higher ones over time. That’s why we shouldn’t just look at our current risk, but also at what is predicted to happen in a particular location in the future.

A good tool is the user-friendly Risk Factor website created by First Street Foundation. It allows someone to enter an address and determine a property’s comprehensive risk from flooding. It’s “a nationwide, probabilistic flood model that shows any location’s risk of flooding from rain, rivers, tides, and storm surge….and forecasts how flood risks will change over time due to changes in the environment.” Just as importantly, the model uses environmental scenarios to calculate how flood risks will change in 15-30 years.

Not just is losing one’s home due to flooding heartbreaking, it’s expensive too. A single inch of water in a 1,000 square foot, one-story house can cause over $10K damage, while for a 2,500 square foot, one-story house that increases to over $26K. Four inches for the same size homes brings the damage to over $15K and over $38K, respectively.

Properties located in high-risk flood areas are usually required to have specialized flood insurance. But even if not federally mandated in their particular area, homeowners are wise to look into purchasing flood insurance anyway. Why? Because regular homeowners and renters insurance doesn’t, as a general rule, cover flood damage. Having to deal with the emotional impact of damage or loss is bad enough without having it compounded by financial hardship.