Floods don't just follow riverbeds and the paths of hurricanes—they make trouble in every corner of the country, with yearly damages reaching high-water marks in the billions of dollars. What does this mean for you? Just one inch of water in your home could cost over $7,000 for repairs to carpets, walls, and baseboards. Here are some steps you can take to protect your home and your wallet.
- Study up Know the risks in your community. Western floods tend to come from winter rains and spring snowmelt. Wildfires make matters worse by stripping vegetation that normally anchors soil and water. Go to www.floodsmart.gov  to learn about threats in your area.
- Get insurance Flood insurance can be a good idea, even when it's not required by your mortgage lender. Every year, a quarter of the policyholders who collect on flood insurance live in areas where coverage is optional.
- Make a plan Establish an emergency meeting point for your family. Stash bottled water and canned food in a high place, along with a battery-powered radio for updates. Know where—and how—to shut off electricity and gas in your home.
- Limit your losses Elevate furnaces and appliances to avoid pricey electrical damage. Remove debris from your roof and clean the gutters so that water can drain properly.
- Stay put Be prepared to leave if an evacuation order comes, but stay inside if you're there during a flood. Half of flood-related deaths involve cars.
To learn about flood insurance through AAA, visit www.AAA.com/insurance .
This article was first published in January 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.