Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready on Monday encouraged Oklahomans affected by flooding and other natural disasters to document their losses.
“It is critically important that we get those damage numbers in because that helps us with FEMA and everything else in assessing how much damage was here,” Mulready said during a visit to the flood-ravaged Town and Country housing addition near Sand Springs.
Property owners can report damage at damage.ok.gov, or by calling 211.
Mulready heard from property owners in the neighborhood who said they had been told by FEMA and insurance agents that they did not need flood insurance because their property had been moved into the 500-year floodplain.
He noted that there is a distinction between requiring flood insurance and needing it.
“I would never tell anyone not to worry about floods, no matter where you are,” Mulready said.
The insurance commissioner said those people being told not to touch their properties until FEMA can inspect them are not getting sound advice.
“Do not do that,” he said. “What you need to do is take pictures, document everything, document damage well and then get to tearing out and clean up, because you’re going to suffer more damage if you just leave it there and try to wait for someone.”
Homeowners without flood insurance who plan to seek federal assistance should not file a claim with their insurance company, Mulready said.
“Contact your agent,” he said. “They know you don’t have flood insurance. They’ll send you a letter saying you don’t have flood insurance (and) you’ll have a copy of your homeowners policy that will help with FEMA down the road.
“But some companies do change their rates based on claims filed, whether a claim is paid or not — not all of them, but some.”
He cautioned that it would be up to FEMA to determine what level of assistance the agency provides property owners and that the process could take longer than a private insurance company policy claim.
“But, yeah, there will hopefully be some sort of assistance,” he said.
Nearly 1.1 million homeowners’ policies have been issued in the state, Mulready said, but only about 14,000 of those properties have flood insurance.
“I will tell you, unfortunately, as we go without incidents with floods, you can literally watch the coverage drop off of people buying flood insurance,” he said.
To put the flood insurance numbers in context, Mulready noted that he had recently learned that in Tulsa alone there are 13,000 homes in the flood plain.
“So people just aren’t typically taking (flood insurance),” he said.