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Flood Recovery: Safety Issues and Flood Insurance

As homes and businesses along the flooded Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota start recovery efforts, special attention is being paid to health hazards and safety concerns that are common to flooded areas, and the importance of understanding homeowners insurance policy coverage when it comes to floods and other natural disasters.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers health tips for homeowners who are digging out after a flood, including keys to avoiding water-borne bacteria, cleaning a flood-damaged home to prevent the growth of toxic mold, avoiding raw sewage contamination, and securing septic systems and private wells. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides advice for homeowners returning home after a flood -- on everything from cleanup of flood water to immunizations and protecting your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Unfortunately, cleanup may be particularly costly for some in the Red River flood zone because, as the Associated Press is reporting, less than 800 homes in the areas hit hardest by the flood have homeowners insurance policies that cover flood damage.

It is important to remember that most homeowners insurance policies DO NOT automatically cover damages caused by natural disasters. The fact is that, if you want to make sure that your home is protected (at least financially) from disasters like floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes, you'll need to purchase additional insurance that is specific to those events. But keep in mind that some private insurance companies won't provide coverage for natural disasters even if you're willing to pay extra, so you may need to seek assistance from federal programs like the National Flood Insurance Program, especially if you live in a flood-prone area.