News: 2010 Press Release
For Release: September 29, 2010
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Commissioner Poizner Warns Santa Barbara Homeowners to Prepare for Wildfires
Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner today advised all local homeowners to proactively prepare for fires and other potential disasters by conducting a home inventory and updating their insurance policies. Joining Poizner at the event were Candysse Miller of the Insurance Information Network of California (IINC), Santa Barbara City Fire Chief Andrew DiMizio and Santa Barbara City Firefighter/Wildlands Specialist Ann Marx and Ted Adams of the Santa Barbara County Firesafe Council. Together they encouraged Santa Barbara area homeowners to prepare their assets for the possibility of a disaster.
"We've watched it happen too many times right here in Southern California - wildfires strike, destroying homes and lives in the blink of an eye," said Commissioner Poizner. "I want to urge all Santa Barbara homeowners to prepare themselves today for potential wildfires. Waiting for a fire to erupt before conducting a home inventory and reviewing your insurance policy means you could get burned twice - first by the fire then by trying to recover your losses. These are concrete steps all Californians can take today to protect their homes and belongings."
"When buying insurance, take the time to describe your home in detail and answer the insurers' questions so they have a clear picture of what you have and what you need. Raise your deductible to keep your premium down without sacrificing coverage," said Amy Bach, Executive Director of United Policyholders. "Ask the insurer point blank: If my home is destroyed, will I have enough insurance to replace it?"
Commissioner Poizner urges all homeowners to prepare themselves, and conduct a home inventory to maintain detailed records of their belongings.
Commissioner Poizner offered the following tips for conducting a home inventory:
- Using a household digital camera and a Home Inventory Guide from the California Department of Insurance, catalogue your possessions and document their values. Photographs of household goods are especially helpful when an item is difficult to describe on paper, or if a purchase receipt cannot be obtained.
- Label photographs with information about each item.
- If a video recorder is used, commentary about each item should be included.
- A copy of the inventory and supporting documentation, such as receipts and model numbers, should be stored in a safe place, such as a safe-deposit box, work office, or a relative's house.
- These records should also include financial documents such as insurance policies and mortgage information.
- A free Home Inventory Guide is available at www.insurance.ca.gov.
- Contact CDI at 800-927-HELP to obtain consumer information guides about additional insurance products, or for any insurance-related questions.
Commissioner Poizner also announced an update to a voluntary agreement he helped broker in 2007 with insurance companies following wildfires in Southern California. After gathering feedback firsthand from fire survivors at a series of Insurance Recovery Forums, the Commissioner personally called upon insurance companies to comply with his proposed reforms to the claims handling process. With the top insurers voluntarily adopting the reforms, wildfire survivors benefited from claims handling practices that are more responsive to their needs. Commissioner Poizner confirmed today that he has received notification from the original group of participating insurers which represent 72.1% of the market share for homeowners' multi-peril insurance, involved that they still consider this voluntary agreement to be in full effect.
American International Group, Inc., Allied Insurance /Nationwide, Allstate Insurance Company, Automobile Club of Southern California, Balboa Insurance Group, Chubb Group, Farmers Insurance Group, Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, Liberty Mutual Group/Safeco, State Farm Insurance Company, and Travelers all complied with the Commissioner's suggested voluntary claims-handling practices from three years ago and will continue to do so under the voluntary agreement they signed on to at that time.
Included in the Commissioner's recommended claims-handling practices are: Expediting the processing of Additional Living Expense payments, automobile and debris removal claims in the event of a total loss; billing leniency for fire victims in disaster areas; inventory process simplification. Commissioner Poizner continues to applaud insurance companies which have and continue to exceed these minimum standards, and encourages all companies to do so.
Please visit the Department of Insurance Web site at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.HELP. Callers from out of state, please dial 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.
If you are a member of the public wishing information, please visit our Consumer Services.