Preparing for Wildfire Evacuation
Last week we talked about some things you can do long before the danger of wildfire hits your area. This week we have some tips for preparing for a potential evacuation and what to do after a wildfire. It is very important to make sure your insurance is at the correct coverage amounts before a wildfire hits your area. Once an area has an active wildfire you can not make any changes to your coverages or issue a new policy.
Being evacuated from your home is scary and is often comes with little notice. The best thing you can do, is prepare for fire season, which will help an evacuation go as smooth as possible.
Start by preparing an evacuation bag
In the bag you want to include:
- Irreplaceable items, such as family heirlooms, one of a kind items, and family pictures. An alternative to packing up framed pictures is to keep digital copies of all your pictures on a flash drive and packing the flash drive (don’t forget to update the flash drive every year).
- ID’s, licenses, passports, social security cards and other valuable documents.
- Keep a backup sets of keys in the bag so you aren’t floundering to find them.
- Have a list of important phone numbers, such as your bank, insurance company, doctor and emergency contacts. Some people prefer to pack copies of their insurance or other policies but having the policy numbers would be enough information.
- Important logins and passwords will allow you to access any accounts on the fly.
Prepare a list of items you use on a daily basis
Having a list of items that can’t be prepacked will help you grab these important items faster and reduce the number of forgotten items. The list should include things like:
- Laptop or tablet and phone or computer chargers
- Medicine, glasses/contact and toiletries
- A few days of clothes
- Water and snacks
- Money and credit cards
- Keep the evacuation bag in a secure, but easily accessible area of your home
Have a plan for your pets.
There are window stickers you can purchase that will notify firefighters of how many animals you have in your home if you are not able to take them with you, or if you are not home at the time of the fire.
- Place crates and carriers where they are easy to grab, and practice loading your pets into the carriers, so they are comfortable with the process.
- Know how much room you have in your vehicle for your evacuation bag and pet carriers and plan accordingly.
- If you have livestock and horses, you may not have time to load them in trailers and evacuate them with you. Have a plan for these animals. There are organizations that help with animal evacuation, contact them and see how they can help.
Other things you can do to prepare include:
- Make your home accessible to firefighters. Clear extra cars, ATVs, boats, campers and any other large objects from your driveway and around your house so that fire trucks can get close and turn around.
- Move flammable objects like paint cans and ammunition to a shed or detached garage.
- Take the extra measure of moving high value jewelry, paintings, heirlooms or other irreplaceable items to off site storage units or safety deposit boxes during fire season so you don’t have to worry about these investments.
- Speak with neighbors, good friends and family members about your evacuation plans. Where do you plan to go if evacuated for a few days? What if it turns into a few weeks? Do they have your phone numbers to contact you if needed?
- Sign up for your county’s Code Red program so that you will be contacted in the case of an evacuation, and make sure you have other county services phone numbers for emergencies.
It is a great idea to practice an evacuation, especially if you have children and pets. Set a time to pretend that the call comes in and that you have 15 minutes to vacate the premises. Grab your evacuation bag, children and pets. Set a rendezvous point if you have multiple drivers and vehicles. This is a great exercise to realize how fast an evacuation can happen and to see what areas you may need additional preparation for.
After the Danger has Passed
The fire danger is gone, and because of your preparation your family was safe. You can now return to your home. Upon returning home it is important to walk around your property. Depending on how close the fire came to your home, there may be areas that smolder for days. Be diligent and watch for any signs of fire. Check your home inside and out for signs of fire or smoke damage. You should also check for signs of theft or missing items from the home. If you have any doubts about damage or theft, call your insurance agent to discuss a course of action.
After a wildfire, there is an increased chance of mud slides, earth movement and water damage. Because the vegetation has burned off, the ground becomes unstable. Most insurance policies exclude coverage for flood and earth movement. It is important to be aware of these restrictions and mitigate the possibility of damage to your property.
Written by: Centennial State Insurance Agency, Bailey
Many across the state of Colorado are concerned with fire danger, and with good cause. This year’s fire season is already in full swing with several fires across the state. Being prepared for these life changing events can help make the process smoother.
Prepare your property
There are many measures you can take before a fire. Mitigating trees on your property can reduce the risk of your home being a total loss. Remove trees close to the home, and thin trees on the property. Make sure that trees are trimmed and remove dead trees. Widen your driveway and create a turnaround area for fire trucks. The best steps you can take is to contact a mitigation company or your local fire department and have them come out to the home to make suggestions.
You need to also clear brush 30 feet around your home. Rake pine needles, keep grass and weeds cut short to lower their fuel potential, remove any dead brush from under decks and take steps to close of the holes that allow dead brush to get under decks. Move any other fuel sources (gas cans, propane tanks, etc) away from the home. If you have a wood pile, make sure the pile is stored a safe distance from your home. Keep your gutters, chimney and roof clear of needles and leaves.
There are steps to make your home more fire resistant. Metal, clay or a non-combustible roofing material lowers your risk of the home catching fire from wind-blown embers, or crowning tree fires. You can also look into a less combustible siding material like brick, masonry, stone or hardboard. Next time you replace your deck, look into trek or composite decking material. Upgrade your windows to double or triple pane, limit the number of windows and size of the windows that open to your largest area of vegetation.
Update your insurance
It is a great idea to contact your insurance agent to talk about your individual risks and if you are insured adequately. Our lives change over time, and we don’t always remember to tell our insurance agents about the new floor we put in the home. It is best to do this before a fire starts. Once there is an active wildfire you can not change or issue an insurance policy, until the fire is over.
The first thing you want to go over with your insurance agent will be your dwelling value. Make sure that your agent knows about any upgrades you have made to the home. Have you added an addition, or renovated the kitchen? Did you replace the roof or siding on the home? The details of your home may have changed since you originally bought the house. You need to make sure your insurance policy reflects these changes, and that your dwelling coverage will adequately replace the current condition of the home. Most insurance agents will use a replacement cost guide to input the information about your home and get an estimate of the cost to rebuild. Also, make sure you have enough coverage for detached structures such as sheds, barns or garages. Most policies have some coverage for detached structures built into the policy, but it is important to ensure that you have enough.
With today’s technology it is a great idea to use your smart phone and take photos or videos of your personal property. Walk around your house, shed and garage. Document what is on your shelves, dressers, safes, drawers, closets and jewelry boxes. This not only helps to prove the type of item you had, but will also help you remember what you had in the junk drawer.
Most insurance companies have a built in limit for jewelry, fine arts, guns and collectibles. Consider the value of these items and talk to your agent about the built in limits and is scheduling these items would benefit you. When you schedule these items they are covered for the appraised value.
Many people are not aware that motorized vehicles are not covered on a homeowners policy. If you have a classic car, motorcycle, ATV, snowmobile, trailer, or motorized boat in your garage or barn, they will not be covered by the homeowners policy. Make sure that you have them covered under their own policy with at least comprehensive coverage on them.
Next week, we will have some tips on preparation for evacuation, and what to do during and after a fire.
Written by: Centennial State Insurance Agency, Bailey