One flood can wipe out tens of thousands of dollars of your personal property and damage your home beyond repair. When you look for a home to purchase, a major consideration of whether you buy it will be its location. A home situated in a flood zone can mean higher home insurance premiums and a greater risk of flood damage. Plan your home purchase carefully to ensure that you do not buy a home that can end up costing you almost as much in flood damage costs as it did to initially purchase.
Floods in Australia
Emergency Management Australia notes that flooding along rivers after a heavy rain is the most common form of flooding in the country in its “Floods: Warnings, Preparedness and Safety” brochure. Urban areas are also very prone to flooding from an overflow of drainage systems. This can be a particular problem in densely populated cities. Low areas near the coast are often flooded by storm surges from tropical cyclones. Inland rivers may have floods that last for weeks or even months at a time. This can lead to damage not only to homes and businesses, but also result in loss of drops, livestock, roads and rail lines.
Mountain head water areas of large rivers and rivers that drain to the coast often see quick onset flooding. This type of flooding does not allow much time to prepare for evacuation and preventive action to save property. Flash floods occur when short, heavy rain storms occur. These types of floods happen all over Australia, and they are the most dangerous. People lose their lives when they go into flood waters in vehicles or on foot. Flash floods are particularly upsetting in urban areas where drainage systems cannot keep up with the amount of water. Flash floods also happen in rural places with terrain prone to flash floods and steep streams.
Loss of Life
One of the most devastating risks of living in flood zones is loss of life. People can easily be swept away by strong flood currents as rivers overflow their banks. Entire communities can lose many people, which makes the physical damage from storms, breakage of dams and overflowing rivers appear as nothing.
Water levels rise quickly when floods occur. You may not have time to move furniture or even smaller personal belongings to higher ground when a flood occurs. Appliances, furniture, carpeting, walls, electrical and plumbing systems call all be wiped out in a few minutes of flooding. Pictures, important documents, electronics, computers, clothing and kitchen items are also often lost in floods. The items that recall memories and family are irreplaceable. Floods can destroy them all.
Homes with flood damage that are not properly rebuilt can cause health hazards for their occupants. Mould can grow in walls and cause severe respiratory illnesses. This is especially hard on children and older adults. Anyone who is prone to illness can get very sick from living in a house with water in the walls. Even healthy people become sick living in a house with flood damage. Without flood insurance to properly rebuild a home, homeowners may live in a house that is unsafe structurally and health-wise.
Home insurance costs are also typically higher for home owners living in flood zones. Higher monthly premiums are due to the added cost of insuring a home that is more likely to be destroyed or damaged by flooding than a home that is not located in a flood zone. However, without flood insurance built into your home insurance coverage, you can face rebuilding with no money with which to start over.
Major flooding happens about every ten years in the South-East Queensland area. About 35 per cent of buildings in Australia that are at risk of flooding are in Queensland, and 21 per cent of those are in the South-East Queensland area. Although the statistic is older, it is telling of the devastation flooding can cause when you read that a 1998 study found that the cost of urban flood damage in just Queensland was $100 million per year. With figures like this for an entire region, the costs per year in personal property damage can wipe a family’s savings out and put them in debt for years.
How can you minimise the risk?
To avoid property damage and loss of life when flooding occurs, purchase flood insurance. Try to purchase a house that is not located in a flood zone in the first place. Stay tuned to radio, television and internet weather reports in the event of possible flooding. Also, evacuate as quickly as possible if you find yourself in a flood situation. Have an emergency kit and a packet of all your most important documents ready to go with you in case you must evacuate your home. With preparation and prevention, you can minimize and possibly avoid the high costs of flood damage to your home.