Here’s a question that could cost you thousands of dollars and potentially bankrupt you: Do you have flood insurance – and do you understand your policy? A lot of people don’t – and are finding themselves underwater - literally and financially - after Hurricane Sandy.

So, here’s a crash course in the top things you need to know about flood insurance so you’re protected during a disaster:

  • Odds are, you don’t have flood insurance. Flood insurance – like earthquake insurance and hurricane coverage - is almost always a separate policy. And fewer than 1-in-5 people have flood insurance. But experts agree even though it’ll cost you a little more money every month, it’s a smart money move since statistics show that 80% of natural disasters involve flooding.

  • Grab your cell phone camera and take pictures of every item in your house. Everything from your computer, to your living room table. Upload the photos, and any receipts of big-ticket items, like iPads, onto your computer. Also, keep hard copies in a bank safe deposit box as a back up in case your house is destroyed in a disaster. You often need to prove what you had before insurance companies will pay up.

  • What happens if your car is damaged during a flood? If you have a comprehensive auto policy, you’re in the clear. But if you only have liability insurance, you’re on the hook for all of the repairs – or the remaining payments. And most water-damaged cars are totaled, so you’ll be paying off a car that’ll never be on the road again.

  • And if your house is flooded – don’t panic, instead file the claim immediately. Then, take photos of every damaged item in your home. And time is ticking - since most insurance companies require you to complete a Proof of Loss form within 60 days of the flood to get reimbursed.