I come from a pretty educated family. My dad was a physicist, my mom was a school teacher, my brother is an engineer, and all my siblings have at least a masters degree.

However it wasn't suppose to be that way for me. If you have read my other blogs then you know I grew up with a learning disability and college was not even suppose to be in the picture but because of two special educators and determination I was able to graduate top of my class for my masters degree.

However sometimes it feels that this education can hurt people in life. I remember when i was in college all of my college professors had no real work experience.

 

Books on desk in library at the elementary school

What I mean by this is they went straight into teaching and many from a book they wrote. For example I had this college professor who had written every book on management but had never managed a single person in his life.

This is one reason I have always said I would one day return to be a college professor and teach based on the experience I had gained in life.

Enough about that let's look at a recent article by AL.com that ranks the education across the state. This article ranked each county based on college experience and degrees. Overall the state fell about 9 points below the U.S. average.

There were three counties that ranked above the U.S. average which where Shelby, Madison, and Lee county.

I am sure no one is surprised by Lee county War Eagle!

However today we want to take a closer look at Shelby and Madison counties. These two counties represent a portion of the two largest cities in Alabama. Shelby county which is a part of the metro Birmingham area is home to some incredible schools like the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Madison which is near the NASA Rocket Center and the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

Something else these two areas have in common is they are some of the most flood prone areas in the state. It feels like since 2019 the Huntsville Alabama area has had a flood warning every other week. Then areas of Shelby county like Pelham and Alabaster have been threatened by flooding for years.

So knowing this you would think that these areas have a higher amount of active flood insurance policies?

Right....

Not exactly according to FEMA these areas do not even make up a combined 10% of the states active flood policies. In fact Shelby county is less than 1.6%.

Pretty crazy right?

When it comes to understanding flood awareness you need a little bit of book smart and common sense. Yes its a numbers game but its important to understand that everybody is at risk of flooding.

Common sense says if you are near a source of water you could flood.

I can't tell you how many people we talk to Alabama every week that say there is no way their property will ever flood.

Then there was the property owner in Centre Alabama that said if he knew his lake house was going to flood he would not have stored his wife's wedding dress there without coverage.

It's important to know if you have a college degree, a high school diploma, or not even a GED that every property is in a flood zone it's just a matter of how much water it takes to get to you.

So maybe you have more questions about how to protect your Birmingham or Huntsville Property from flooding? How to purchase flood insurance or if you have enough coverage. Then make sure to visit our website. You can also check out our daily flood education videos on YouTube.

 

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Chris Greene

Author

Chris Greene

President of The Flood Insurance Guru
M.S. in Emergency Management with a focus in Flood Mitigation
flood@communityfirstagency.com

It has been almost 5 wonderful years since my wife and I adopted our beautiful daughter Lydia. This kid sure loves life as you can see below.

lydia 1

I wish my mom had lived to see her be born. For many years my mom watched our struggles as we tried to have children and when the day came she wasn't here to see it.

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As parents we all want what's best for our children. We want to get them on the best sports teams, we want them to have the best teacher, and we want them in the best schools. Most importantly we want them to be happy even if that means we aren't in the drivers seat.

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I know this story probably better than anybody. Growing up with a learning disability I watched my parents fight for me to have the best schools and resources.

Recently we were looking for homes in a certain area where the city, county, and school each charge their own tax. It made living in this particular area very expensive but the schools were also very good. I also think this tax may have also kept the enrollment level at the school at a manageable area.

Human hands holding model of dream house

These are some of the challenges good school systems face. You have an influx of people who move to an area to get their kids into a certain school system. This exact thing is happening in Franklin Tennessee and Madison Alabama.

Challenges written on desert road

It's also the same thing that happened in Shelby county Alabama the last 20 years. Shelby county was one of the fastest growing counties in the country for a long time. Maybe it should not be any surprise that Pelham, Helena, and Alabaster all struggle with flood prone areas.

Some areas are trying to find a way to manage this growth.

Madison Alabama has even looked at charging a one time fee for buying home in a certain area to help slow down some of the growth.

As we mentioned before when you have great schools in an area you have a lot of people that want to move to that area and many times that means building new housing to support that.

It's not unusual to drive through parts of Madison Alabama and Franklin Tennessee and see 6 different builders with signs on a corner.

So are these school systems and our best intentions as parents causing flooding?

Detail of a modern academic building

As crazy as it seems this could be one of the major factors in the increase of flooding in some of these areas. In a natural setting 90% of rainfall is consumed by the soil. However when this area is developed 90% of that rainfall now becomes runoff.

It has been proven that land development is a leading factor in flood maps changing and the risk of flooding increasing.

So you may ask why is my area getting flooded more often or more flood warnings at least?

Well this massive growth in these school systems can lead to quick land development leaving limited space for the water to go.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

Well it takes FEMA a while to catch up on doing flood insurance study reports. I mean some flood maps across the country were just updated for the first time in 50 years.

Even if your property is listed in a minimal risk zone or a flood zone x it is recommended that you carry flood insurance.

 

Almost 30% of flooding occurs in these areas and even regular flooding. Just ask the residents of Nathans Estates in Muscle Shoals Alabama who found their homes under water in 2019.

Want to find out where to obtain coverage and what the best coverage is for you?

Click here

To find more information on flood insurance you can also visit our website. You can also check out our YouTube channel where we do daily flood education videos.

 

Contact Us

Chris Greene

Author

Chris Greene

President of The Flood Insurance Guru
M.S. in Emergency Management with a focus in Flood Mitigation
flood@communityfirstagency.com

We are now into about week 4 of the stay at home order as part of the Coronavirus pandemic. Protecting our families is probably at the top of most of our minds right now. You are probably concerned about health and what the financial future holds.

Arizona sunset Saguaro cactus (binomial name Carnegiea gigantea) in silhouette in Saguaro National Park West, Tucson, Arizona, with copy space at left

We have all had to make changes in our lives especially those of us that have young children. I know I have a four year old that my wife is currently home schooling. My afternoons use to consist of grabbing a late lunch at a local eatery. However this week it was filled with reading classic fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel to Lydia, learning to make a fresh strawberry cobbler, and helping property owners get 2nd opinions on elevation certificates.

Fresh berries in close up on wooden table

 

Now that I have bored you with all these changes let's discuss the real reason why you are reading this blog and that is 2nd opinions on elevation certificates in Arizona.

When we hire a surveyor in Arizona we trust that they are giving us the right information about our Arizona Property. However remember everybody can be wrong and have a different opinion.

You have heard that all FEMA flood insurance rates in Arizona should be the same but many times agent knowledge leads to different rates. Just today we saw where an insurance agent had given a customer a grandfathered policy when the property did not qualify. It resulted in a $2000 rate increase for the customer.

The same thing goes for elevation certificates. Something we have seen the last few weeks in Bisbee Arizona is that one surveyor may describe a property differently than another surveyor. This could result in two things happening

  1. Different diagram numbers
  2. Different elevation numbers

One surveyor may say a Arizona property is elevated while another says it is on a slab. Remember surveyors are strictly responsible for the elevation numbers.

Diagram numbers being wrong is probably one of the most common mistakes on an elevation certificate.

 

elevation_certificate

So could the numbers be wrong?

Just this week we saw a significant difference in elevation numbers on elevation certificates done less than a month a part in Arizona.

These small errors on the elevation numbers resulted in a customer saving $1800 on their flood insurance.

So is a second opinion worth it?

As you can see in many situations it can be but it can also cost you more money. First of all if you are in a rural area of Arizona elevation certificates may cost more money. Most elevation certificates in Arizona can range from $500-$1000. You could try to get the first surveyor to make corrections like this property owner did in this situation. However this particular surveyor refused. I will tell you most of the time we have seen that most surveyors in Arizona are willing to make reasonable corrections.

So then which elevation certificate do you turn into FEMA?

We recommend turning in the more favorable one with documentation like photos that will support the diagram number and elevation numbers.

Maybe you want to see if there are any inaccuracies on your elevation certificate? Make sure to visit our website where we can review this for you and help you make any corrections with FEMA.

 

Chris Greene

Author

Chris Greene

President of The Flood Insurance Guru
M.S. in Emergency Management with a focus in Flood Mitigation
flood@communityfirstagency.com

 

 

Elevation certificates can help you understand many things on properties in the St. Louis area. Flood Insurance rates in the St. Louis area can sometimes be higher. Some of the causes of these are flood claims on a property and risk of flooding because of the Mississippi River.

Today we want to discuss why it is so important to get an elevation certificate when building a house in the St. Louis area. We speak with people everyday who are close to completing their dream home, then BAM!

 

They get hit with the news that they are in special flood hazard area and their flood insurance is going to be $3000.

What if they could have avoided this terrible news?

Well an elevation certificate could have very well done that.

You see an elevation certificate tells you alot of things when done correctly.

We say correctly because many times these are filled out incorrectly. Before we get to that lets talk about some things that an elevation certificate can tell you

  1. The flood zone
  2. The foundation type
  3. FIRM date
  4. Negative and positive elevations
  5. Date certificate was completed

Remember how we said if sone correctly well technically surveyors are only held liable for the elevation numbers. This means if they put the wrong foundation type or flood zone they are not responsible. This is why its always recommended that you reach out to someone like The Flood Insurance Guru that can help you verify the other information.

So let's talk about flood zones first. The elevation certificate should list the flood zone this will tell you if you are in a mandatory or non mandatory flood zone. This will basically tell you if flood insurance is required or not.

The next thing an elevation certificate in the St. Louis area can tell you is what the foundation type of the property is.

  1. Basements
  2. Crawlspaces
  3. Slabs
  4. Elevated Buildings

Foundation type can play a major role in your flood insurance rates when the elevation numbers are known. Which leads us to elevations on an elevation certificate.

This will tell you if your property is positive or negative on elevations. Usually the more negative the higher the flood insurance rate.

One the last things that an elevation certificate can tell you is when it was completed.

The date of this elevation certificate can play a major role in future flood insurance rates.

So now let's get to the real importance of getting an elevation certificate when building this dream house.

One day you will see this house and this is when it could play a mjor role. There is this thing called date of compliance. This means that when your home was built it was built within compliance at the time.

Two things normally used to prove this are an elevation certificate and the original flood insurance rate map. This will show the original flood zones and the elevations of the home.

So let's look at an example.

I purchased a home about 10 years ago. When I went to buy it I found out it was in a flood zone. I was given rates of $3000 a year. However I knew something was not right. I was able to find the original elevation certificate and the original flood insurance rate map that showed the home was built within compliance at the time.

As a result my home was grandfathered to what the flood zone was when the home was built. So you are probably wondering what was the flood insurance rate?

It was $350 a year, thats a big difference on a mortgage payment.

Its important to know that FEMA is working on phasing out grandfathering properties. One of the reasons is to make sure the risk of properties meet the appropriate premium. Also a property can only be grandfathered once so if you let the policy lapse there is no way to get that flood insurance rate.

So if you think your property may qualify for the date of compliance rule in the St. Louis area then make sure to visit our website. You can also check out our daily podcast and our YouTube channel where we do daily flood education videos.

Chris Greene

Author

Chris Greene

President of The Flood Insurance Guru
M.S. in Emergency Management with a focus in Flood Mitigation
flood@communityfirstagency.com

Happy smiling elder senior man portrait

We all remember that crazy family member who could put just about anything together. It was probably a grandfather or uncle for most of us. I remember my wife telling me stories about her grandfather. You see they had a farm off of Pleasant Hill Road in Lithonia Georgia. Before the days of kids playing with electronics all day and still catching lightening bugs in a mason jar. When she was a little girl her grandfather used parts of a chevy truck and a ford truck to make one truck. I think they called it a Cheford.

 

As a kid my grandfather would increase the speeds on his riding lawnmowers. He always had extra batteries sitting in the back yard for the go cart he was going to build one day. I remember my grandmother always getting on to him. She would say "Harold clean up that junk". What he didn't didn't realize was my two brothers would one day flip the snapper and almost lose their legs. It's still a miracle that blade stopped.

These stories might just be why the National Flood Insurance program has set guidelines for building structures when it comes to changing buildings and insuring things with wheels. They know we all have a little bit of an imagination and determination.

When we are talking about insuring things with wheels we could go on all day. We could argue that we need flood insurance on our moped all the way to our camper.

The National Flood Insurance Program has set some strict but simple guidelines when it comes to things with wheels.

As FEMA states If it has wheels its a no go

 

Senior couple relaxing in camping folding chairs, camper in background

So what about motor homes and travel trailers?

Well this type of coverage would normally be covered under the comprehensive coverage on the traditional insurance policy.

So then what happens if you decide to get some crazy ideas like we have discussed above like the Cheford?

Well the National Flood Insurance Program states coverage can become available on things like a motorhome or travel trailer if the wheels are removed and they are placed on a permanent foundation.

This is a common practice in campgrounds across the United States. Just last week we had a customer who had changed 17 travel trailer foundations from wheels to permanent foundations in Kansas to complete a campground site.

We recently had a property owner convert is camper at Weiss Lake in Centre Alabama into a traditional home.

So when considering flood insurance for these types of structures just remember if it has wheels it's a no go.

If you have further questions about how to get flood insurance on these types of structures or any structure make sure to visit our website. You can also check out our daily flood education videos on our YouTube channel and our daily podcast.

Remember we have an educational background in flood mitigation. So we are here to help you understand your flood risks, understand your flood insurance, and mitigate your property to minimize flood losses and flood premiums.

 

Contact Us

 

Chris Greene

Author

Chris Greene

President of The Flood Insurance Guru
M.S. in Emergency Management with a focus in Flood Mitigation
flood@communityfirstagency.com

 

action flood photo

Disasters can impact businesses and peoples lives in many ways, it doesn't even have to be a major disaster for things to be impacted. As a business owner many times you have many more people to think about than your own family.

Through the years we have seen a wide range of disasters strike the United States.  Natural disasters through the years, Terrorists attacks in 2001, and now a pandemic in 2020.

 

 

We are going to have a series of blogs that address what you can be doing during this terrible pandemic to help your business and individuals.

We will discuss the four core areas of disaster planning

  1. Disaster preparedness
  2. Disaster response
  3. Disaster recovery
  4. Disaster mitigation

 

In 2011 when the United States was hit with a terrorist attacks it basically shut the entire country down for a short while. Air travel was completely grounded for the first time ever, Stocks plummeted, and businesses were hurting. This was the first time a terrorist attack disaster of this level had occurred in the United States.


The same thing is currently occurring with the Coronavirus pandemic in the United States. You have a service industry that has basically been shutdown for a minimum period of at least 6 weeks. This will cause many businesses to go out of business and force many individuals into bankruptcy. You could see unemployment claims at an all time high.

So what can be done or what could have we done as business owners to help prepare for these things?

First of all let's make one thing clear no one could have fully prepared their business or individual life for what the Coronavirus is currently doing to the United States economy and world economy.

Being a small business owner I know these are uncertain times and you have to manage the best way you can.

One way is through disaster preparedness. The purpose of preparedness is to hopefully have the things in place that you never have to use. Whether we are talking about the flooding in Tulsa Oklahoma, Nashville Tennessee, Knoxville Tennessee or the Coronavirus the first step is preparedness.

Having a disaster preparedness plan in place can go along way to minimize the impact that a disaster has on your business. There are two things we want to talk about that should be part of this place.

  1. Insurance coverage
  2. 3-6 month emergency fund
  3. Business adaptation  plan

Insurance coverage can be a first line of defense to protecting a business and preparing for a disaster. Let's look at the flooding that occurred in the midwest in 2019. You had areas in Iowa, Nebraska, and Oklahoma that were hit with one flood after another closing many businesses.

So how could insurance help protect a business in this scenario?

In this situation the right commercial flood policy could go along way in protecting you. If you own the building it could help repair or replace the building. If you have large amounts of inventory that was destroyed it could help replace it.

So what if your business could not open back up for a while?

How could you possibly cover expenses if you can't generate income? This is where loss of income comes into play. This coverage could help cover those expenses while your business can't generate income.

So how much coverage do you need?

We normally recommend keeping 6 months of expenses on your flood insurance policy for this.

So while having insurance is great certain coverages may not always be available.

This why we recommend having a business emergency fund as part of your disaster preparedness plan. The emergency fund could help cover your expenses like payroll for a short period of time. Being a new business owner it can be hard to save this kind of money, because you are putting everything into the business.

When possible its recommended that you put a minimum of 10% of the business income into this plan. Some people recommend putting more but as new small business owners every dime counts.

Business emergency funds can also play a major role in helping lower stress during these disaster times. One reason is it can be the difference between going out of business and staying in business.

Adapting to and preparing for changes in business is crucial. In 2020 many businesses have already shown us that they don't have the ability to adapt to major changes. One of these changes that many businesses have faced is shifting their workforce to work from home. Working from home will not work for every industry. For example it just would not work for the food industry. However many businesses in the food industry have shown us their ability to adapt to rapid changes in a crisis environment. Many food establishments that were traditional sit down places have now shifted to curbside and delivery services. This ability to be able to adapt to some of these changes will be why many businesses continue to grow in such a difficult environment. 

Businessman showing computer screen to coworkers in creative office

Remember a plan is not any good if it is not put in action or practiced. Ever seen kindergarten kids do a fire drill for the first time? Its pretty rough

This is exactly what could happen to your organization if this plan is not rehearsed. Maybe it's having people work from home once a quarter to make sure they have a set up that would work. Maybe as a restaurant owner its making sure that your kitchen staff can handle dine in orders and curbside delivery services.

We have talked about some recommendations on how to prepare a business for potential disasters. Maybe you have more questions about disaster plans or flood insurance for your business. Then make sure to visit our website for more information. You can also check out our daily flood education videos on our YouTube channel.

 

Contact Us

 

Chris Greene

Author

Chris Greene

President of The Flood Insurance Guru
M.S. in Emergency Management with a focus in Flood Mitigation
flood@communityfirstagency.com