Traditional cast-iron air vents used in Gentilly will easily clog with debris and gives homes minimum coverage
Gulf residents received two pieces of good flood insurance news in recent weeks: first, the extension of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) passed the Senate after a period where its fate appeared uncertain; second, the Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon verified that certain types of oil spill damage would be covered by NFIP policies. A recent poll, however, indicates that many homeowners in the Gulf region have a worrying lack of comprehension of the basics of the NFIP.
The poll, conducted by Opinion Research Corp. on behalf of the Insurance Information Institute, included 626 households in Mississippi and Louisiana. It took place in May of this year, right as the fate of the NFIP began appearing in doubt. The poll revealed that residents of these Gulf states—states with among the highest NFIP participation rates in the nation—were twice as likely as the national average to hold potentially ruinous misconceptions. Nearly one-third of those surveyed from these two states, (32%), believed that homeowner’s insurance policies cover flood damage. The national average for this erroneous assumption was 16%. Bafflingly, those who filed insurance claims arising from Katrina damage were even more likely (39%) to believe that homeowner’s insurance would cover flood damage.
These assumptions are dangerous, because residents who believe their property adequately insured against flood damage with their existing homeowner’s policy are less likely to seek out proper flood policies. This is compounded by the perception that NFIP flood insurance policies are expensive—a perception only fostered by widespread failure to comply with some of the most basic elements of the NFIP’s requirements. Esmond Carr, a homeowner in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans, discovered for himself the costs of non-compliance.
Although he did maintain flood insurance on his property through the NFIP, Esmond believed it to be unnecessarily expensive. In the summer of 2009, he consulted his insurance agent, voicing his concerns about the price of his coverage. Mr. Carr learned that nearly the entire cost of his annual premium was due to a lack of flood vents in the structure of his property. Flood openings are required—not just by the NFIP, but by the national, state, and local building codes—in any enclosure expected to experience flooding. By allowing water to flow automatically in through the building’s crawlspace or walk-in basement, they negate the risk of structural damage caused from unequal water-pressure on the interior and exterior of the enclosure. If flood openings are not present, these lowest parts of the building, and the building’s structural integrity, are considered at-risk in a flood event. This risk must be insured against.
Esmond’s property had no existing flood vents. The traditional solution in Gentilly was a cast-iron air vent, in lieu of proper flood openings. Without a valid certification, these vents did not apply any credit on a flood insurance policy. Instead of these, Mr. Carr researched engineered openings. He was pleased to discover Smart Vent, Inc.‘s line of foundation flood vents. These vents carry a certification report from the prestigious International Code Council Evaluation Service (ICC-ES), the industry gold standard for engineered product testing and qualification. Esmond contacted Smart Vent’s local representative, Brian Daschbach, who worked with Mr. Carr to analyze the particulars of his property and design a flood opening plan that maximized the benefit of the company’s vents for Esmond’s property. Though he did employ a local contractor for the actual cutting of his concrete footer, Esmond was able to install Smart Vent’s stainless steel devices into the holes without assistance.
“Yes, I finally got my flood insurance lowered,” Esmond reports. “It went from over $1600 to approximately $300/year,” which saves Mr. Carr “more than $100/month to my escrow.” Esmond laughs: “Also, they refunded the current year flood policy and sent me a check for $1300! I got paid to install [flood vents]!
About Smart Vent Products
Smart Vent Products, Inc. is the worldwide leading manufacturer of foundation flood venting systems and takes pride in having the a FEMA-Accepted and ICC-ES Certified flood vent product line. Founded in 2001, products are made in the United States out of marine grade 316 stainless steel. The company is fully committed to ideals of responsible corporate citizenship, and making efforts to educate consumers, design professionals, and government officials on floodplain management techniques. For more information, visit www.smartvent.com.