Wildfires have increasingly been occurring throughout the US and Canada. Wildfire seasons once were a few months out of the year and are now almost considered year round. With temperatures rising and weather patterns becoming more unpredictable, it is important for everyone to be aware of the dangers that come with wildfires.
The best time to prepare for a wildfire is before it happens. As wildfire season has approached, there are a few things everyone should have on hand.
According to the latest information from FEMA, there are some basic steps to take before a wildfire:
Know your wildfire risk
Make a wildfire emergency plan
Build, or replenish your emergency kit and discuss evacuation routes.
Get familiar with local emergency plans
Stay tuned to local wireless emergency alerts, TV, or radio for updates, emergency instructions, or evacuation orders.
Be sure first responders can access your property
Make sure your property address is visible
Mark any water sources on your property
Inspect your alarms
Close HVAC vents
Wildfires and Insurance
Insurance is based on paying back some or all of the damage done to a home, vehicle, or business and its associated structures like sheds, and the property within those structures.
It is important to note two things right away:
1. Homeowner's insurance does not cover some expenses like maintenance and certain types of natural disasters like floods.
2. Location matters in influencing risk and therefore insurance cost.
To some extent, location can influence all of these covered items. With that in mind, we can more clearly outline how a high-risk location from an insurer's perspective can dampen overall home expenses and affordability.
If your home is damaged by a wildfire, your homeowner's insurance may not cover all the repairs. But there are options. According to Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, attorneys can help clients “maximize their insurance policy recoveries while also advising them on dealing with issues surrounding the process of rebuilding or relocating, depending upon their needs.”
It is important to check in with your insurance agent annually regarding wildfire preparedness. Every year, insurance companies change the zoning of areas they deem “too risky”. If you live, own property, or your business is in a high-risk area, there is a chance that you will see rate increases, or may have to switch to a new insurance carrier. Furthermore, checking in yearly will help ensure that your current policy limits match your needs if any type of natural disaster or accident occurs.
In addition to checking in with your insurance agent, it is also important to take proactive steps to protect your property from wildfires. This includes creating defensible space around your home or business, which involves removing any flammable materials within 30 feet of the structure. This can include dead vegetation, firewood, and even outdoor furniture. It is also important to ensure that your roof and gutters are clear of debris, as embers can easily ignite dry leaves and other materials.
Another crucial step is to have an evacuation plan in place. This should include identifying multiple escape routes and ensuring that all family members or employees know what to do in the event of a wildfire. It is also important to have a “go bag” packed with essential items such as medications, important documents, and a change of clothes.
By taking these steps and staying informed about changes in insurance policies and wildfire risk, you can help protect your property and ensure that you are prepared in the event of a wildfire. Remember, it is always better to be proactive and prepared than to be caught off guard in an emergency situation.