Many insurance plans don't cover flood damage; EMA is asking for damage reports from residents

Posted: May. 2, 2013 9:10 am Updated: May. 16, 2013 12:15 pm

By MATT HOPF Herald-Whig Staff Writer

J.T. Dozier has heard from many customers about basement flooding as a result of the April 17 storm that rolled through the region.

Unfortunately, most traditional homeowner insurance policies don't cover surface water, seepage or sewer damage.

"All but two that were called in were seepage losses not covered," said Dozier, president of Dozier Insurance Agency. "We had two backup of drains. One was insured, but did not have the backup of drains coverage. The other insured had both seepage and backup of drains (coverage)."

Dozier, who had seepage in the basement of his home for the first time in the more than 25 years he has lived there, said some companies do have coverage of sewage backup, or it can be bought as an add-on to the policy.

"However, it's relatively expensive because the people that buy the coverage are the people that have problems with drains backing up and have future problems with drains backing up," he said. "They have a lot losses on that coverage, hence the premium is high."

John Simon, director of the Adams County Emergency Management Agency, said only 21 residents have reported damage from the storms and flood.

"If a tornado comes through and causes damage to your house, we can drive down the road and see the damage," he said. "With this we can't do that. We have to change our tactics on how we do our damage assessment."

"We know there were people that had structural damage to their house from the windstorm. We want to know that, too. I know that there were some areas out by Burton that got hit. We were able to see some of that from the road, but we know we didn't get it all."

Gov. Pat Quinn has declared 40 counties as disaster areas, including Adams, but Simon said he doesn't know if the level of damage will be high enough to get individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

"Just because we're doing (assessments) doesn't necessarily mean that there is going to be assistance, and (residents) shouldn't wait to fix something," he said. "Individuals need to do whatever they need to do to repair ... if that's what they chose to do."

Dozier suggests residents take precautions to avoid future damages.

"Make sure the drains are kept clear," he said. "If you have a sump pump, make sure it is working correctly. Definitely consider the backup-of-sewer-drains coverage if you have a finished basement."

Dozier also suggests to avoid placing valuables on basement floors.

Residents aren't the only ones who are having issues with storm damage. The city of Quincy is looking at a hefty repair bill at its wastewater treatment plant.

"Apparently one of the high-water pumps failed to pump and allowed water to go though underground conduit and flood part of our gallery area at the wastewater treatment plant," Utilities Director David Kent said. "We've been operating that facility on auxiliary diesel generator power since that incident."

Kent said the city is working with its insurance provider to get everything back online, but it may take six to eight months to finish repairs. The plant is managed by American Water.

"(The damage is) extensive enough that we have to do (repairs) in three stages," Kent said. "The first is to get all the unit processes back up in operation, which I think we accomplished now.

"So we are working on the second step -- to try and get some used equipment in there so we can go off diesel generator power to normal Ameren power. Ultimately, we will have to look at replacing switch-gear motor assemblies."