FEMA: Property Owners Aren’t Prepared For Disaster

REALTORS® have the best opportunity to teach homeowners about the necessity of being properly insured, according to the agency.

REALTORS® are best-positioned to help educate property owners about taking a smart approach to disaster preparedness, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Friday at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Boston.

Too many property owners are caught unprepared when a natural disaster strikes, said FEMA Administrator Brock Long. They assume the federal government will step in and make them whole after a disaster, or they feel they don’t need protection because they’re not at risk. Both those thoughts are misguided, Long said.

First, the financial assistance the federal government provides after a disaster is far less than what property owners would get if they are properly insured—whether it’s for fire hazards, earthquakes, flooding, or another type of disaster. The typical federal assistance is about $2,500 compared to more than $100,000 from insurance companies.

Second, many properties located outside federally designated flood zones or in areas that haven’t been affected by a disaster in years are at risk. Fault lines, for example, may remain inactive for decades, but that doesn’t mean the risk of an earthquake has disappeared.

Long said proper disaster insurance is cheap compared to the cost of rebuilding and should be part of any prudent homeowner’s cost calculus, even if the insurance isn’t required to get a mortgage. Natural disasters, after all, are increasing in number and severity.

Long asked real estate professionals to talk with their customers about the need to have insurance and send them to FloodSmart.gov and other resources so they can learn about insurance and steps to mitigate their disaster risk. He also said practitioners can help reduce the impact of disasters by supporting stronger building codes and getting familiar with mitigation strategies so they can pass those on to customers.

To help his agency get the word out that property owners should step up and protect themselves, Long and Elizabeth Mendenhall, 2018 president of the National Association of REALTORS®, signed a memorandum of agreement calling for the two organizations to work more closely on preparedness communications.