In contrast to the measured flood risk in the U.S., residents significantly underestimate their personal exposure to flooding, a new consumer survey finds.
Results from Neptune Flood’s inaugural “Neptune Consumer Survey of Flood Awareness Survey” reveal critical insights on Americans’ perceptions of their personal flood exposure and feelings on flood insurance. Conducted in partnership with the University of South Florida Institute for Data Analytics and Visualization, the Neptune Flood survey sampled roughly 1,000 consumers across 36 states.
Summarizing the conclusions of the survey results, Jim Albert, chairman and founder of Neptune Flood, says the survey highlights “a significant underestimation of flood risk, despite years of climate change-driven extreme flooding throughout the country.”
With these insights into consumer perceptions, Albert and Neptune Flood researchers say the survey results help offer a potential roadmap for the insurance industry and government to work together to address and improve flood insurance coverage across the U.S.
Americans vastly underestimate their flood exposure
In a key finding, nearly two-thirds of survey respondents (63%) believe that they have a “low risk or no risk” of flooding. This widespread misperception of flood risk contrasts available data measuring flood risk in the U.S.
According to a 2019 Verisk study, 62 million homes, representing over 50% of the total homes in the U.S., are considered to have “moderate to extreme risk” of flooding. In Florida, 65% of residents perceive themselves to be at “low to no risk” of flooding.
Albert offers one explanation for the gap in flood insurance coverage to U.S. exposure, saying for many, the risk is often “out of sight, out of mind.”
“The highest uptake in insurance we see is in areas that just had a big flood,” Albert said. “Naturally, people see flooding around them and say, ‘Whoa, this is much riskier than I thought it was,’ and you see an uptake of insurance. But, year after year after that, you see a reduction in insurance uptake.”
Misperceptions on flood insurance cost
Consumers also widely believe that flood insurance is expensive, despite the average policy costing roughly $700 in 2019.
Approximately 45% of survey respondents that did not renew flood insurance policies and 45% of those that never bought flood insurance say they opted not to purchase coverage due to perceptions or concerns about cost.
“The survey shows that people think flood insurance is a very expensive product because they hear the horror stories of somebody’s $14,000 policy, and they think that there’s will be $5,000 or $10,000. But the average policy in the U.S. right now is $708,” Albert says.
“At Neptune, for example, 60% of the time for the addresses given to us, our quote will be lower than the NFIP rate. So, it’s actually far more affordable than they think, but they perceive it to be expensive, and they perceive their risk to be low.”
Where insurers can step in
University of South Florida Professor Dr. Philip Trocchi helped design and conduct the Neptune Flood/USF survey and points out an important implication of its findings.
Trocchi says this survey on flood risk awareness in the U.S. highlights the challenge of consumer adoption of an important but mostly non-mandatory product.
“The data indicate that the low level of demand for flood insurance is largely driven by a misunderstanding of risk, lack of knowledge of cost, and confusion around private versus government flood insurance,” Trocchi says.
To address this, Albert says it will take a concerted effort from both the government and the insurance industry to solve the large flood insurance coverage gap and end “the recurring tragedy of uninsured homeowners suffering permanent losses from flood events.”