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May 14, 2024

How to protect your property from flooding

headshots Doug Willett and Lynnsey McDonough, Paquin & Carroll Insurance Photo / Courtesy, Paquin & Carroll Insurance Doug Willett and Lynnsey McDonough of Paquin & Carroll Insurance

It was a strange winter for Maine. While we had plenty of precipitation, it was much more wet with much less white than usual. 

The catastrophic flooding during the ‘Grinch storm’ in December, a round of damaging storms in January and higher-than-average rainfall throughout the season left many Mainers dealing with flooding issues. 

Although both the state and federal government have approved funding to help people pick up the pieces after these events, it can take months (or longer) to financially recover from flood damage. Not to mention, while those funds can cover everything from temporary housing and low-interest loans to cover uninsured property losses, to equipment replacement — it doesn’t guarantee that more flooding won’t happen in the future. 

That’s why it’s crucial that every property owner in Maine should be having serious conversations with their insurance agents about flood insurance. So what should you know to be best prepared before the next storm? 

Understand what flood insurance will cover

First and foremost,  you need to know the definition of a flood. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, defines a flood as, "a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres or normally dry land area of two or more properties.” 

As you go through the process of exploring your options for flood insurance to protect you from such events, it’s important to understand what flood insurance does (and does not) cover. 

Some common claims that insurance agents see for items that aren’t included in your insurance include decks and seawalls, finished basements, and anything that would be considered damage from the wind, rather than damage from the water. Make sure you understand what you can claim and what you can expect to be covered if you do need to file a claim. 

Everyone should be educated in and offered flood insurance. 

What to do if your property is flooded  

Pictures, pictures, pictures. If you realize that your property has been damaged because of flooding, the first thing you want to do is document that water damage with photo evidence. 

Next, work on protecting and preserving your property, and then start the dry-out process. Finally, be sure to keep all of your receipts, invoices, and any other documentation for materials or services used to fix your property. You’ll need to present all of these as part of your claim. 

Another helpful tip: Many flood policies cover "loss avoidance" — materials you remove from your property or store in high places ahead of a storm to keep them protected. Policies can also cover items purchased and implemented ahead of time to try to protect your property — anything from sandbags and plastic sheeting to boxes and packaging material for stowing items away. 

Make insurance work for you

Every property in America is considered to be in a flood zone, because any area is capable of flooding. The rate you’re offered from your insurer is based on what flood zone area you are in — these areas are set by FEMA, and you can find yours at

It’s a good idea to check this every few years, as flooding zones (and therefore rates) are continually being updated.

However, there is wiggle room. If you’re in a high-risk flood area, for example, but your property sits on a hill in the center of that area, you can debate your rating with FEMA. A lender might still require coverage, but an elevation certificate verifying your lesser risk can help bring down your costs. 

You’ll also want to work with your agent to craft a policy that works well for you. You don’t necessarily need to insure your entire property — it might be enough to have a policy that covers your basement and first floor but doesn’t cover anything on the second floor or above. Here in Maine, your proximity to the coast should be taken into account when considering those limits.

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