A complete insurance guide for schools in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas
Updated - 7/12/2022
Many public and private schools have adjusted to the challenges of COVID-19 and are back in session after many long months. Returning to class is not without risk, as natural hazards, like flooding, threaten our learning institutions. We will look at the common issue of flooding and its impact on schools. There are ways to protect before, during, and after a flood.
What's in this article?
What is a Flood's Definition?
Although the question may seem elementary, both staff and students should have an understanding of a flood event. FEMA states, “Flooding is a temporary overflow of water onto land that is normally dry. It is the most common natural disaster in the United States” (www.ready.gov/flood). Some flooding characteristics include accumulating rain or snow, storms, storm surges, and overflow from dams or water systems. Flooding can result from a slow-forming event or quickly occur with flash flooding. Any of these scenarios can result in power outages, transportation, housing issues, and safety dangers to life and/or property. (www.ready.gov/flood).
Because flooding is unpredictable in scope and severity, the best course of preliminary preparedness is implementing a safety plan before a flooding event. Benjamin Franklin’s adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” could not be more true when dealing with natural disasters. As a school administrator, be sure you are diligent in preparation.
How to Prepare for a Flood
Regular Assessment – Locating and correcting drainage issues, sump pump performance, and sewer line backup is vital to protecting your school’s structures.
Offsite Record Retention – Install or purchase an off-site storage facility for all school electronic records. This is important for records retention and communications with parents and students after a flooding catastrophe.
Equipment – Address electrical concerns by ensuring any power equipment is appropriately elevated from flooding.
Emergency Protocols – Regularly provide evacuation plans and communication protocols with students and parents. For many students, fear of a catastrophic event may be diminished simply by talking about it (https://www.savethechildren.org/content/dam/usa/reports/emergency-prep/GRGS-FLOOD-SAFETY.PDF)
Flood Insurance – Most property or business package policies specifically exclude flooding as a covered peril on your policy. With 6,444 public schools nationwide that serve close to 4 million students in 100 counties with flood risk, the percentage of schools that purchase a flood insurance policy is relatively small, especially given that the flood risk is widespread across the U.S. Flood insurance is often considered a costly investment for school boards but when measured against the time, materials, labor, and restoration costs of just one flooding incident, a policy could very well mean the difference between closing a school or working to get students back into the classroom. The key is to secure coverage before a loss.
What to Do During a Flood
Be Alert to Weather Conditions – Designate specific school staff to stay current with weather events in your area. Many news organizations have weather apps that may be installed on your cell phone with alerts for severe weather. You may also want to consider purchasing a NOAA-approved weather radio to be housed in a central location for easy access.
Understanding Weather Alerts – Develop an understanding of the different levels of flooding-related weather threats with all school personnel. The National Weather Service may issue one or all of the following alerts for your area as an event unfolds.
Flood Watch and Flash Flood Watch – Flooding or flash flooding is possible
Flood Warning – Flooding is imminent or may be occurring. Immediate evacuation may be advised, and the school should follow instructions.
Flash Flood Warning – Flash Flooding is imminent or occurring. Seek higher ground on foot – DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH FLOOD WATERS. Remember, ‘TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN,” (www.weather.gov) (https://www.nibs.org/)
Transportation and Sheltering In Place Issues – Develop protocols for sheltering in place if transportation is not viable in severe weather. When my children were students at a rural school, they were taken to a local restaurant used as a drop-off location because many of our local roads became impassable during flash flooding. This was a plan developed by our school board and local businesses. It was a comfort to me as a parent to know that my children were not on rural roads in a school bus and were being put at risk of becoming stuck in a flood. This is just one example of how important the response plan is for administrators, teachers, students, and parents.
Dealing with Flood Clean-Up
Safe Return – After a flood, you will want to determine if safety hazards remain that may make returning to school too risky for staff, students, and faculty. Do not enter a building with standing flood waters as there is a risk of electrocution with charged water from electrical lines; do not enter if you hear a hissing sound as this may indicate an issue with natural gas lines; and do not enter if there is visible structural damage to the building making it unsafe.
Immediate Actions – Once the building is safe to return for cleanup, you should consider doing the following:
Turning off Gas Lines
Pumping Out Flooded Basements – This should be a gradual process to assess for structural instability.
Turning off Power to Office Equipment – Once the power has been turned off, the equipment should be removed for inspection.
Water/Sewer Safety – Inquire from local authorities if the water and sewer systems are safe for usage.
Cleaning – Disinfecting - All remaining mud from flooding should be cleaned and disinfected, as sewage and chemical particles may be left behind on all surfaces.(www.nibs.org)
Student Safety – Because of safety concerns, children should not be involved in the cleanup process (https://www.savethechildren.org/content/dam/usa/reports/emergency-prep/GRGS-FLOOD-SAFETY-PDF)
State-by-State Information on School Flood Insurance
Every state provides detailed flood maps to help you understand if your state is in a flood area. We collected the information below to help you quickly understand your school's flood risk and need for flood insurance in your school.
Kansas Flood Insurance Needs for Schools
Kansas has an excellent flood insurance map where you type in your school's address to get the current status of flood danger for your school. The FEMA flood map can be found here: https://msc.fema.gov/portal/search?AddressQuery=.
The following is an example of the Kansas flood map for a school in Lawrence, Kansas.
You can find additional flood-related information in publications like this one from the state of Kansas: https://agriculture.ks.gov/docs/default-source/dwr-floodplains/kansas-floodplain-quick-guide.pdf?sfvrsn=4.
Missouri Flood Insurance Needs for Schools
Like Kansas, Missouri has an excellent flood insurance map provided by FEMA, where you type in your school's address, and it tells you the current status of flood danger in a map format. The FEMA flood map can be found here: https://msc.fema.gov/portal/search?AddressQuery=.
FEMA also provides another interactive flood map that covers the state and can be found here: https://www.stlouisrealestatesearch.com/interactive-flood-map/
The Missouri Department of Insurance also provides an FAQ that may prove helpful for schools looking to insure against flooding: https://insurance.mo.gov/consumers/weather/floodresources.php.
Arkansas Flood Insurance Needs for Schools
The state of Arkansas provides a website to answer general consumer questions on flood insurance.
Arkansas also directly supports schools to help pay for insurance; however, private and charter schools may not be eligible. Please see the website for school flood insurance in Arkansas or contact the Loomis Insurance Agency for specific details about your school.
For national FEMA information, check if your school's community participates in the National Flood Program. While participation is optional, the program may provide better school insurance rates: https://www.fema.gov/cis/AR.html.
Oklahoma Food Insurance Needs for Schools
Purchasing flood insurance is a requirement of the Oklahoma Charter School Annual Review Framework, so schools in this state must insure against flooding. You can read the full law on the Oklahoma framework here.
As with other states, you can find detailed maps that show your school's current flood risk using FEMA's flood plane portal. Enter your address, and the website will show your school's current risk for flooding.
The National Flood Program is a voluntary program that supports participating communities. Click here to see if your community participates in this federal program.
Getting Help with Flood Insurance for Schools
As you can see, flood-related catastrophes are major concerns in our country, with billions of dollars spent on costly cleanup and repairs after a major flood event. Please take a moment to consider your school’s preparation plan and implement any necessary changes for safety. We hope that as you make this assessment, you will reach out and visit with an agent about what flood insurance protection can mean for you. Our agency staff is waiting to be of service.