SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With five active wildfires burning across California, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) urges homeowners and renters evacuated by the Pawnee or any other fire to first follow all warnings from local government officials, then call, click or text to reach your insurer. For Californians not currently impacted by a wildfire, PCI says now is the time for a “Wildfire Reality Check” to make sure their properties and finances are ready this season.
The Wildfire Reality Check encourages people to not focus solely on the need to prepare their property for wildfires, but to also think about the financial implications. It asks, have you taken the time to financially prepare for wildfires.
“You never know what Mother Nature will bring, but there are a few simple steps that can be taken to make wildfire recovery an easier process,” said Christopher Hackett, PCI senior director for personal lines policy. “2017 brought historic wildfire losses and the recovery process is ongoing for many California communities. Homeowners and renters should take a few minutes now to get prepared for what 2018 may bring.”
Currently 53 wildfires are burning in 10 states and the National Interagency Fire Center reports that these fires have burned 437,433 acres. The National Preparedness Level is currently at Level 2.
“The first important step to financial preparedness is call your agent or insurance company and review your policy,” said Hackett. “Have a conversation with your insurer about rebuilding costs. Consider if you need extended replacement cost coverage that will increase your limit in the event of a major wildfire. If your home is older, investigate adding building code upgrade coverage. This one conversation can make a big difference if you have to rebuild.”
“Making a home inventory video with your smart phone is the best way to document your belongings in each room,” said Hackett. “If you lost everything in a wildfire could you remember everything you have? Don’t wait, take the time now to make a home inventory video.”
Take a Wildfire Reality Check
Tip 1: Conduct an Annual Insurance Check Up
Call your agent or insurance company to discuss your policy limits and coverage annually. Make sure your policy reflects the right square footage and materials of your home. Consider purchasing building code upgrade coverage.
Tip 2: Know What Your Policy Covers
The details matter. Understand if you have a replacement cost policy that pays to replace all your items at current market price or an actual cash value policy that takes depreciation into account and pays less for aged items.
Tip 3: Update Your Policy to Cover Home Improvements
If you make home improvements, be sure to call your agent or company to update your coverage. Make sure your insurer knows about the changes so the new tile or room is covered if you must rebuild.
Tip 4: Maintain Insurance
If your home is paid off, be sure to maintain homeowners insurance. Do not be caught after a fire with no way to rebuild your home. Check with loved ones with paid off homes to be sure they continue to carry homeowners insurance.
Tip 5: Get Renters Insurance
Renters can lose everything in a fire just like homeowners. Many auto insurers bundle renters’ insurance coverage with an auto insurance policy for very affordable prices.
Make a Home Inventory
Tip 1: Video or photograph each room of your home. Remember to document drawers and closets.
Tip 2: Describe your home’s contents, what you paid, where and when you bought items in your video.
Tip 3: Remember to note and video your electronics, appliances, sports equipment, TVs, computers, tablets.
Tip 4: Store key documents like a home inventory in the cloud or fireproof case.
Tip 5: Don’t forget to video or photograph what is inside your garage.