Fire Evacuation Checklist: Are You Ready to Go If Wildfire Threatens Your Home?
Download Our Fire Evacuation Checklist + Get Tips About Homeowner Fire Insurance.
Hazy skies and acrid air are grim reminders that wildfire season came early this year and Californians who live in high-risk areas must be prepared to leave home at a moment’s notice.
Are you ready?
As of late August, more than 6,900 fires had scorched nearly 1.8 million acres across the state, and that number is growing. In recent days, we’ve seen the eerie evacuation of South Lake Tahoe and the decimation of Greenville, a small town two hours northeast of Paradise, which deadly wildfire leveled in 2018. Meanwhile, here in the East Bay, we are approaching the 30th anniversary of the Oakland Hills firestorm that killed 25 and destroyed 3,469 homes.
Fire experts warn of a long tinder-dry season ahead, which is why it’s crucial to pack a go-bag now, have a family evacuation plan in hand, and understand your homeowner insurance policy.
To help you, we included in this post important information about:
- How to prepare for emergency evacuation using our downloadable fire evacuation checklist
- What you need to know about fire insurance
- What to do before you have to file an insurance claim
- Additional resources
1. Download and print this fire evacuation checklist
If you had to evacuate, what would you take? What if you had only 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour’s notice? Download and print our fire evacuation checklist today so you can prep for each eventuality.
Highlights from the checklist include:
Pack a go-bag
Always keep a go-bag packed and easily accessible in case you have less than an hour to leave. Some people keep a duffle, backpack, or small suitcase by their bedside, front door, or in the car. Must-haves include:
- First-aid supplies
- Copies of important documents (driver’s license, passport, prescriptions, proof of insurance, emergency contacts, etc.)
- Change of clothing for each household member
- Sturdy shoes
- Three-day supply of non-perishable food and water (1 gallon per person per day)
- Pet food for three days
- Area map
- Cell phone charger
Depending on how much notice you’ve been given, you might have time to pack more, as demonstrated in our checklist.
Take steps to safeguard your property before leaving
If officials give you an hour or more to evacuate, you might have time to safeguard your home from smoke damage and make access easy for firefighters.
Actions you can take include:
- Close all windows and doors
- Move furniture to the center of each room
- Shut off HVAC
- Unplug electronics
- Prop open side gates
- Place a ladder at the corner of your structure for firefighters
Just keep in mind that if authorities order an immediate evacuation, follow their directions and go. Your safety is paramount. Homes can be rebuilt, and stuff can be replaced.
2. Fire insurance: Are you covered?
Fire insurance covers the loss or damage to a structure destroyed in a fire. Are you covered? Is your coverage up to date?
If you aren’t covered, get educated and shop around, because insurability and costs can vary widely. As wildfire frequency and destruction escalated in California during the last four years, mainstream insurance companies have grown increasingly picky and pricey when it comes to signing and renewing policies.
In fact, after wildfire devastated the Sierra foothills town of Paradise, the coverage crisis got so bad that California lawmakers issued a moratorium blocking all insurance companies from canceling or not renewing the policies of people living in fire-prone areas.
How much you will pay for fire insurance varies between providers and depends on everything from your roofing materials to whether your home is located in a zip code with a high fire risk score.
“It’s all over the place,” Daniel Lapicola, a broker with Goosehead Insurance in Walnut Creek, tells us. “For a home in the Berkeley Hills, I placed it with a standard insurance carrier for only $1,300. But there are other examples – especially in 94611 (Piedmont, Oakland Hills) – where it can cost $12,000 for a similar home.”
If you’re in the process of buying a home, remember to investigate fire insurance costs and availability so you can calculate that into your bottom line.
“I have so many potential home buyers who are referred to me because they are considering not going through with their offer because of how complicated it’s been to place the fire insurance or because it is so expensive that they don’t see the home as a worthwhile investment anymore,” Dan says.
Don’t give up if you find yourself in this situation. Connect with a qualified insurance broker for help. Also, your real estate agent might be able to negotiate a lower home sales price by citing the insurance premium costs.
3. What to do before you have to file a fire insurance claim
Whether or not the current wildfire evacuations directly impact you, you can take important actions now that will help you later if you have to file an insurance claim.
Take these steps while you’re safe and not under immediate evacuation orders:
- Photograph expensive possessions, including the serial numbers on electronics and receipts if you have them.
- Record a video diary of your home and belongings. A simple cell phone recording will do. Open closets, cabinets, and drawers as you walk through your home. Don’t forget the garage and storage areas.
- Download a home inventory guide from the California Department of Insurance website.
Keep important documents, photos, and videos off-site, like in a safe deposit box or cloud storage for digital content.
4. Additional resources
- Sign up to receive text messages from CalFire when there’s a wildfire near you.
- www.readyforwildfire.org is CalFire’s comprehensive website filled with info about preparing for a wildfire, preventing damage to your home, and what to do after a fire.
- Struggling with insurance coverage? Reach out to broker Daniel Lapicola of Goosehead Insurance in Walnut Creek. His expertise has helped many of our home buyers. Then, if you’re still stymied, look into the California FAIR Plan. FAIR sells coverage to people who can’t buy it through a carrier through no fault of their own. It provides insurance only after a diligent effort to obtain coverage in the voluntary market has been made.
Abio Properties is always here to answer your questions and tell it straight. Contact us at 888-400-ABIO (2246) or firstname.lastname@example.org.