CHICAGO — With Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah battling significant wildfires, the Property Casualty Insurers Association (PCI) is warning residents across the country and particularly in wildfire-prone states to be extra cautious with the use of fireworks this Fourth of July.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in a typical year, Independence Day fireworks account for two out of five of all reported U.S. fires, more than any other cause of fire. Engaging in fire safety, taking time to prevent and mitigate damage and becoming financially prepared by conducting an insurance checkup are critical this time of year.
“Active wildfires are currently charring thousands of acres of land in several Western states,” said Chris Hackett, senior director of personal lines policy for PCI. “It is critical that people follow state laws and take extra precautions to avoid causing preventable fires. One ember from a camp fire or firework can travel and ignite a fire a mile away.”
On average each year, fireworks start 18,500 fires, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 16,900 outside and other fires, reports the NFPA. These fires cause an annual average of three deaths, 40 civilian injuries, and $43 million in direct property damage.
“Let the Fourth be a reminder to not only prevent wildfires but also prepare our homes and family finances for catastrophes,” added Hackett. “Taking simple steps like preparing a home inventory, updating your insurance and clearing debris around the home can make a difference if a wildfire breaks out. Across the country insurers prepare year-round to tackle fire risks and remain prepared to assist homeowners and renters. If your home is damaged by a wildfire, the first step to recovery is contacting your agent or insurance company and starting the claims process. One phone call starts the road to rebuilding.”
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Wildfire Reality Check - Quick Tips on How to Prepare Finances:
·Read and understand insurance policy. The typical homeowners' policy covers damage caused by wind, fire and lightning. Comprehensive coverage under the auto insurance policy generally covers damage or destruction to a vehicle from a fire.
·Review insurance policy regularly with an insurance company or agent. If you have recently remodeled or built a new addition onto your property, be sure to increase the amount of protection to cover the upgraded materials or expanded square footage. Talk about types of insurance policies and learn the difference between a replacement cost policy, which generally provides for the repair or replacement of damaged covered personal property items, and an actual cash value policy, that will only provide reimbursement for the depreciated value of the covered personal property item. Decide which type of policy best fits your needs, and maintain adequate insurance, because once a wildfire turns into a fire storm there is little that can be done to halt its path of destruction. Make sure your policy reflects the right amount of square footage.
·Create and keep an inventory of personal items and photograph or videotape them for documentation and claims purposes. Be specific: document how many TVs, computers, sets of towels and sheets, and other items you have. The more details recorded, the easier recovery will be. Keep receipts for major purchases and keep records of the age, current value, make, model and serial number of personal property. Keep inventory and a copy of your insurance policy at another location.
Wildfire Reality Check - Quick Tips on How to Prepare and Protect Property
• Log onto www.readyforwildfire.org to learn how to prepare your finances and property.
• Create 100 feet of defensible space around your home by clearing dead brush, grass and shrubs. Defensible space can slow the spread of a fire and help keep firefighters safe.
• Clean out leaves, pine needles and dirt that may have collected in rain gutters or on roofs.
• Cut back tree branches that hang over the house or near the chimney, and create 6 feet of clearance between the ground and tree branches.
• Consider landscaping with fire-resistant trees and shrubs, such as deciduous trees and low- growing shrubs.
• Remove any wood piles or wooden play houses against homes or structures.
• Keep operational fire extinguishers in kitchens.
• Install new batteries in fire and smoke alarms.
• Comply with building codes and use fire resistant materials.
• Create a family plan and hold family evacuation drills. Make sure your family knows what actions to take if a fire breaks out. Include plans for pets.
• Identify family valuables and treasures you can gather in a short time span.
Fire Prevention Tips:
• Don’t toss burning cigarettes out into dry brush areas or out of a car.
• Don’t light fireworks near dry brush; keep buckets of water nearby.
• Supervise children closely near fireworks displays.
• Be sure campfires are completely put out and doused with water and cannot relight.
• Be careful with controlled burns, severe weather can cause a normal burn to become out of control.
• Be cautious with mowing equipment on dry brush – one spark can ignite a wildfire.
Additional tips for physical and financial preparation, as well as recovery and rebuilding guidance for anyone directly impacted by a wildfire can be found at www.pciaa.net. Keep the conversation going at: #Wildfireprep.