OKLAHOMA (KFOR) – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is recommending Oklahoma residents get flood insurance to protect themselves from possible financial hardship, even if they do not live in high-risk flood zones.

“We have seen from prior situations and prior events that rainfall has led to a large number of additional flooding outside of what is normally known as a special flood hazard area,” said FEMA Flood Liaison Gilbert Giron.

“Don’t underestimate the power of water and just ensure that your homes are protected,” he added.

The recommendation comes as other regions of the country have experienced record setting rainfall and flooding; weather experts told KFOR it reflects rapidly changing weather patterns in the U.S.

“These intense heavy rainfalls in short periods [of time] are going to become more and more frequent,” stated OU Meteorology Professor Jason Furtado.

“With that of course comes the risk of a lot of flooding within whether it be in the city or in rural areas that that risk is becoming more and more of a threat,” he continued.

Furtado said while flood plain map typically forecast predict high risk areas, they may not predict future areas of concern.

“[The] maps that we developed for flooding [are] all based on historical data. And a lot of that, unfortunately, is changing and it is changing rapidly; we have to be ready for these more intense, more frequent extreme weather events,” he said.

Anyone’s home has the potential to be damaged by floodwater, even if they do not live in a high-risk flood area, according to FEMA Liaison Giron.

FEMA recommends that renters and homeowners contact a licensed property and casualty insurance agent who is allowed to write flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.

While Oklahoma insurance agent Juan Moore said flooding is unusual in the state, flood insurance is a matter of preference.

“People who live in flood zones [know] they need flood insurance,” said the Farmers Insurance owner and agent.  

“[But] If you don’t live in those areas that are prone to flash flooding, then I mean, I guess it’s a matter of preference,” he continued, adding that he utilizes federal flood plain maps to help customers determine their needs.

“[But] you can talk yourself out of a good policy just because you don’t understand it or because you don’t think you need it, and that leaves us wide open for not being prepared for natural disasters,” he added.

Moore said while he’s only processed one claim for floods in a decade as an insurance owner agent, he said it’s important renters and homeowners to understand what coverage they have.

“If you don’t trust your agent, fine,” he said. “Find one that you do.”

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides the insurance policy, which FEMA officials say can save flood victims from financial devastation.

FEMA officials said a variety of coverage ranges are available, including homeowner policies that cover up to $250,000 for the structure and up to $100,000 for contents, business or nonresidential property insurance for a structure for up to $500,000 and its contents for up to $500,000; and renter’s content insurance for coverage up to $100,000.

NFIP policies typically include Increased Cost of Compliance coverage for structures whose repairs cost at least 50 percent of the structure’s market value.

Flood insurance can cover damage caused by flooding even if the flood was not part of an event that received a presidential disaster declaration.

However, FEMA officials advise Oklahomans to not rely on federal disaster assistance after a flood, because not every event is declared a federal disaster, and disaster assistance covers basic needs and costs to assist in making homes safe to occupy.

““One inch of water can cost up to $26,000 in damage. And if you are in [a] larger disaster, the disaster assistance is available only after the president declares it a disaster,” said Giron.  

“You can buy or renew a flood insurance policy by calling your insurance company or a local independent agent who can write flood insurance directly with the NFIP, administered by FEMA. If you don’t have a provider, visit floodsmart.gov/flood-insurance-provider to be taken to a list of agencies offering flood insurance in Oklahoma,” FEMA officials said in a release on Tuesday. “Visit FloodSmart.gov or call the NFIP at 877-336-2627 for more information.”