Northern California residents urged to prepare for wildfire season
News: 2014 Press Release
SACRAMENTO, Cailf. - As dry conditions persist and fires are beginning in Southern California, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and the Association of California Insurance Companies (ACIC) remind Northern California residents to not let their guard down as California enters a third year of drought. The 2014 wildfire season is potentially devastating. Commissioner Jones and ACIC urge homeowners and renters to create home inventories, update their insurance and use home hardening products to protect their home.
"It is essential that California residents get prepared before disaster strikes," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "Be proactive and take steps to develop a family evacuation plan and talk with your insurance company to make sure you have enough insurance to rebuild and replace your belongings."
The National Interagency Fire Center predicts an above normal fire potential for most of California from May until August. California fire officials are deploying more resources and are reporting above average fire activity for this time of year.
"There are simple steps homeowners and renters can take now to be financially prepared for wildfires," said Mark Sektnan, ACIC president. "Now is the time to make a home inventory. After a fire it is difficult to remember all your possessions. Take your smart phone or video camera and walk through your house recording each room. Don't forget to open drawers and closets or record what is in the garage. Then send that video to a friend or store it in the cloud. This simple step can make the recovery process easier."
Simple Steps to Financially Prepare for Wildfires:
- Conduct a yearly insurance review of your insurance policy and limits: This will help to ensure you are adequately insured and better able to weather a catastrophic loss. To help you determine how much coverage you may want, check with local builders for the current costs associated with building new homes, and then add at least 10-20 percent. Also, ask your agent or insurer about deductibles and discounts that may be available for smoke alarms, sprinklers and security systems. If you are evacuated by a fire, insurers may be able to assist policyholders with paying for expenses such as temporary housing and eating in restaurants if their property is determined to be uninhabitable due to the fire. Additional living expenses coverage can help homeowners and renters with the increase over normal living expenses.
- Talk with your insurance company or agent about additional coverages such as flood or earthquake insurance. The standard homeowners policy does not cover losses that result from floods or earthquakes.
- Consider things you can do to reduce damage to your property: Clear debris in rain gutters, trim trees ten feet from home. Create 100 feet of defensible space around your home.
- Inventory your household items, and photograph or record them: An inventory lists your home's contents so you can quickly and easily account for all of your belongings and report the loss to your insurance company. Without it you may have to rely on your memory to determine what you lost. The home inventory will help speed up the claims process and ensure you are compensated fully for your loss. Use your smartphone to document contents of each room and garage. Keep the inventory and your insurance policies in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box or online.
- Harden your home. Roof: Homes with wood or shingle roofs are at high risk of being destroyed during a wildfire. Build your roof or re-roof with materials such as composition, metal or tile. Block any spaces between roof decking and covering to prevent embers from catching. Vents: Eaves and soffits should be protected with ignition-resistant or non-combustible materials. Mesh may not be enough to stop flying embers. Windows: Install dual-paned windows with one pane of tempered glass to reduce chance of breakage in a fire.
- Update your insurance after home improvements. If you do home improvements or construction remember to update your policy. If you replace tile or countertops or add a room to your home, be sure to call you agent or insurance company to update your insurance. Make sure your policy has the correct square footage for your home.
The Association of California Insurance Companies (ACIC) is part of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). ACIC is PCI's California Voice representing 363 property casualty insurance companies doing business in California. These members write $20.2 billion in premium in California insuring 36 percent of the property casualty insurance sold in the state. California members write 44 percent of personal auto insurance, 29 percent of homeowners insurance, 33 percent of commercial lines business insurance and 40 percent of private workers compensation insurance sold in California.
The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $289 billion in premiums annually in California. Since 2011 the California Department of Insurance received more than 1,000,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $469 million in claims and premiums. 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 or 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.