Tips on Floodplain Safety & Insurance

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Know Your Flood Hazard… The primary flood hazard areas are located within the 100-year floodplain or Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA).  In Saginaw Township, these SFHA’s are generally near the Tittabawassee River. During a flood event, water elevation and velocity greatly increases.  These floodwaters can cause damage to structures and cause harm to their occupants. 

Protect Floodplain Function... Floodplains play a valuable role in providing natural and beneficial functions to the area around, and including Saginaw Charter Township. Floodplains that are relatively undisturbed provide a wide range of benefits to both human and natural systems. These benefits provide aesthetic pleasure as well as function to provide active processes, such as filtering nutrients. Parts of the Tittabawassee River floodplain are used as a means to filter farm chemical run-off, so that these areas can maintain bio-diversity and ecosystem sustainability. The floodplain contains historic and archaeological sites that provide opportunity for education and study. It enhances waterfowl, fish, and other wildlife habitats and provide feeding/breeding grounds. And lastly, the floodplain provides natural erosion control and open space so further flooding damage does not occur.

Flood Warning… Flooding in SFHA’s can be predicted in advance of it occurring, giving reasonable warning for preparation and evacuation.  The National Weather Service (NWS) accesses weather and river data to determine when flood warnings will be necessary.  Typically, an official warning from NWS is issued 24 hours in advance of the Tittabawassee River reaching official flood stage.  When a flood watch or warning is issued, you can tune in to local radio stations 790 AM WSGW, 96.1 FM WHNN or local television station WNEM channel 5 CBS or www.weather.com online for the latest flood levels and road closures.

Keep Yourself and Family Safe… There are a few roads and low-lying areas in Saginaw Township that are quickly covered by water during yearly flooding events.  If you come upon a “Road Closed” barricade while driving, please locate an alternate route.  Most injuries and deaths in flooding events occur when unsuspecting citizens drive into flooded roadways.  In as little as two feet of water, your vehicle can become buoyant.  This could cause the vehicle to be swept downstream into a deeper water hazard or river.

If flooding occurs, shut off the gas and electric utilities, so as to not cause additional hazards, once your home is inundated with floodwater.  If you have to evacuate your property due to rising floodwater, remember not to walk through flowing waters because currents can be deceptive.  Keep away from floodwaters, ditches, culverts and storm drains. 

Keep children away from the flood waters, ditches, culverts and storm drains. Flood waters can carry unimaginable items that have dislodged themselves. Culverts may suck smaller people into them rendering them helpless.

Clean everything that has been wet. Flood water will be contaminated with sewage and other chemicals which pose severe health threats.

Look out for animals, especially snakes. Small animals that have been flooded out of their home may seek shelter in yours.

Do not use gas engines, such as generators or charcoal fires, indoors during power outages. Carbon monoxide exhaust can pose serious health hazards.

Property Protection Measures...If your property is susceptible to flooding, there are many flood damage reduction measures you can employ.

Watertight seals can be applied to brick and block walls to protect against low-level flooding.

Utilities, such as heating and air conditioning systems, water heaters and other major appliances, can be elevated to higher floors in the structure or on raised platforms.

Temporary measures, such as moving furniture and other valuables to higher floors or sandbagging exterior openings, will also help.

Elevating or relocating the entire structure may also be a feasible option.

Maintain Drain Systems… As simple as it sounds, keeping smaller drains and ditches free of debris can dramatically improve the outflow of water run-off from low-lying areas.  It is illegal to dump materials into these waterways.  There are many Saginaw County drains in Saginaw Township that receive maintenance to ensure that man-made debris and naturally occurring vegetation are removed. If you observe any waterways adjacent to your property that are filled with sediment, vegetation or debris, or if you see illegal dumping, please contact the Saginaw County Department of Public Works @ 989-790-5258 or the Saginaw County Road Commission @ 989-752-6140 to report any concerns with drains.  

Flood Hazard Maps & Floodplain Determinations… The Community Development Department maintains copies of Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) for SFHA's in Saginaw Township. You Can view the most recent FIRM’s at Saginaw Township Hall in the Community Development Department at 4980 Shattuck Rd.  In addition, new FIRM’s are scheduled to become effective by the fall of 2010, at which time you may obtain electronic copies from FEMA by calling 1-877-FEMA-MAP.  FIRM’s can be purchased from FEMA directly at www.fema.gov or you can download a map here. When purchasing or downloading maps, please reference Saginaw Township’s community number 260190 D.

Saginaw Area Geographic Information System (GIS) also has information regarding floodplains. Once at the GIS homepage, search for your property and open the property information by clicking on it. Once at the property, use the menu to the right to click on "interactive map." The options and layers available for the interactive map are on the right side of the screen. Check the box next to the "Fema 100 Year floodzone" and the flood zone information available will overlay the existing map.

Saginaw Township cannot make an official determination that your property is either within or outside of the SFHA.  An official determination can only be made through an elevation survey and an elevation certificate, typically obtained by hiring a licensed land surveyor. Elevation certificates received are available to the public for review.

Substantial Improvement/Damage...The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requires that if the cost of improvements to a building or the cost to repair damages (from any cause) to a building exceeds 50% of the market value of the building (excluding land value), the entire building must be brought up to current floodplain management standards. Building improvement projects include exterior and interior remodeling, rehabilitation, additions and repair and reconstruction projects. Additionally the cost of currently planned improvements will be added to the cost of previously made improvements and compared to the existing market value to determine if the improvements exceed 50% of the structure's value.

Insure Your Property From Flood Hazards… According to the NFIP a home located within the SFHA has a 26% greater chance of being damaged by a flood over the life of a 30-year mortgage than by fire or other loss.  Your homeowner’s insurance will typically not cover flood damage.  This is why flood insurance is mandatory for all federal backed mortgages.  Keep in mind your home does not have to be in the SFHA to get flooded.

Because Saginaw Township participates in the NFIP’s Community Rating System (CRS), anyone who owns or rents property within Saginaw Township can purchase flood insurance through a licensed local insurance agent at a 10% rate reduction.  There is a 30-day waiting period for flood insurance coverage to begin.

Be sure to check your policy to ensure you have adequate coverage. Usually these policies cover the building structure, but not the contents. Contents coverage can also be obtained by asking. Plan ahead - do not wait until a flood is predicted before purchasing flood insurance.

Build Responsibly… If you are considering grading, filling, building construction or building renovations there are special regulations that will apply to your project.  These regulations have been put in place in an effort to keep homes and business reasonably safe from flooding.  Start by applying for a building permit.  The Building Department staff is available to meet on site to discuss your flooding and drainage concerns.

Additional Resources...

FloodSmart Community Resources

Red Cross Disaster Safety Checklist

How to Protect Your Home From Flood Damage

Emergency Planning - Protect Your Pet

How to Avoid Flood Damaged Cars

STEM Challenge for Kids - Building Flood Resistant Homes


Ray Hausbeck, Building Inspector - 989-791-9865 - rhausbeck@saginawtownship.net