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Time to Prepare for Spring Flooding, Including Insurance
By: Tina Titze, South Dakota Public Safety Department - 02/13/2020

Anyone who has grown up in South Dakota can tell you how important it is to keep an eye on the weather. Weather extremes are a part of life here and in fact we take pride in our ability to handle weather that many others cannot. The last year was no exception and many South Dakotans are still feeling the impact of last year's storms that resulted in federal disaster declarations for 63 of our 66 counties.

Unfortunately, with saturated ground and the high river levels we are already experiencing, it is time to prepare for spring flooding once again. This year's heightened risk of spring flooding means it is crucial that we start preparing for spring flooding now.

When it comes to preparing for spring flooding, one thing that concerns many people is whether they need flood insurance.

Too many times last year, I heard people say they didn't think they could get flood insurance, or didn't need it, because they did not live in a floodplain. The truth is that if you live in a city or county that participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, you can get flood insurance, regardless of whether you live in a designated floodplain. And, if you live where it rains, it can flood where you live.

Flooding is the number one natural disaster in the United States, yet less than half of all flooding events result in a federal disaster declaration. In South Dakota last year, the average amount of housing assistance from FEMA was about $4,000 to eligible residents, while the average insurance claim for flooding last year paid more than $29,000. With flood insurance, you're able to recover faster and more fully.

At the same time, there are other things you can do now to help protect your home and family. Here are some steps you can take:

Protect your property. Make sure your sump pump is working properly and consider a sump pump with a battery. Move valuables to higher levels. Declutter drains and gutters. Install check valves to prevent sewer or water from backflowing into your home. If your utility boxes are at ground level or below, consider elevating them.

Be sure your family is ready with emergency supplies in case utilities are cut off or you have to evacuate. Keep extra batteries, charging devices, medications and pet supplies in your kit. Store important documents in a waterproof container and consider scanning them into an email so you have a digital copy.

In addition to preparing your home and family, talk with your insurance agent about flood insurance and your flood risk. Flooding can be emotionally and financially devastating. Without flood insurance, most residents will pay out of pocket or take out loans to repair and replace damaged items.

South Dakota's Department of Public Safety and its Office of Emergency Management are taking steps to prepare as well. We are working with counties to review flood maps, identify areas of concern, and address gaps. We are also working with FEMA to conduct outreach to local floodplain administrators and insurance agents to keep them well informed and answer questions in their individual communities. And in the coming weeks we will be out in individual communities across the state to bring more attention to spring flood preparedness through public meetings.

Together we can use this time well, to be as ready as possible. For more information about flood preparedness and flood insurance, visit

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