Burning Question: Are You Ready for Peak Wildfire Season?
Hazy orange skies and acrid air are grim reminders that wildfire season came early this year and California’s homeowners need to be ready.
As massive fires scorch more than 1.66 million acres across the state and fire experts are warning of a long tinder-dry season ahead, we have three crucial questions for you:
- Are you ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice?
- Is your home insured for fire?
- Do you know what to do if your home falls victim to fire?
We want you to be prepared if the dreaded day comes when flames roar toward your neighborhood and you have to get out fast. Here are some tips and checklists to help you get ready…
Download our free fire evacuation checklist
Is your grab-and-go bag packed?
If you had to evacuate, what would you take? What if you had only 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour’s notice? Print our fire evacuation checklist today and start prepping.
What goes in your emergency go bag:
Always keep a bag packed and easily accessible in case you have less than an hour to leave.
Include: First aid supplies, medications, glasses, copies of important documents (driver’s license, passport, prescriptions, proof of insurance, emergency contacts, etc.), cash, change of clothing for each member of the household, sturdy shoes, three-day food (non-perishable) and water supply (1 gallon per person per day), pet food for three days, area map, flashlight, radio, cell phone charger.
How to prepare your property before evacuating:
When officials order you to evacuate, listen to them. If you feel unsafe, don’t wait for the order. But if you have an hour or more to evacuate, you might have time to safeguard your home from smoke damage and make access easy for firefighters.
Take action: 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.
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. The moratorium is set to expire Dec. 5.
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.
What to do before you have to file a 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.
- 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.