Protect Your Property From Wildfires- Here’s How
Posted by: Joseph Kuo | July 30, 2021
As of July 21, 2021,13 western states are battling nearly 80 large fires that have burned across 1,346,736 acres – and the numbers continue to rise.1
Whether you’re currently residing in one of these impacted areas, own a vacation or rental property there, or are nervous about wildfires happening in your area, it’s important to understand how to protect yourself and what you’ll need to do if damage occurs.
Before the Fire
The key to protecting your home is insurance. Here are a few things you’ll want to be sure are covered:
- Buildings and structures
- Your property and belongings
- Cars and vehicles
- Loss of income or profits
- Temporary lodging & meals
Make sure that you not just have an insurance policy, but make sure you have enough coverage that the policy payout will cover the full cost of repairing or rebuilding your home. Also, be sure to update your policy as your home value changes.
As is the case when making any homeowners insurance claim, having a home inventory is crucial to making the process smooth and seamless. Your home inventory documents should be saved somewhere online (a cloud storage service such as Dropbox would be an excellent place) so you can access them from a hotel computer (or your phone), or they should be stored safely offsite. Another quick way to take inventory is to go through every room of your home with your phone camera, and then save that video offsite or to cloud storage.
If damage or destruction is caused by fire, the majority of your property should be covered under your homeowners or renters insurance policy. This includes your personal belongings and the physical structure of your home. In the event that you must stay in a hotel and eat meals out because your home has been damaged by a wildfire, your insurance policy should reimburse you for these additional living expenses (known as ALE).
Your insurance company will be responsible for covering the costs to repair or rebuild your home due to damage caused by both the fire itself and smoke.
You’ll want to check with your insurance provider, as the actual insurance payout you can expect to receive will differ depending on their specific terms and limits of your policy.
If you’ve chosen to include comprehensive coverage in your car insurance policy, your vehicle will be protected against damage caused by fire. It’s important to note that comprehensive coverage is typically not required, you shouldn’t assume you already have it. Check your policy and consider adding it on if you don’t have it already.
Typically, a business owner’s policy (BOP) will cover fire damage to the building itself, inventory and other property.
If you’re worried about a loss of profit or income, you’ll want to consider adding on business interruption insurance. This can help cover what profits you would have made if your business was operating as normal, as well as any overhead costs you may incur as you set up a temporary location for your business.
How to Make an Insurance Claim
If the worst has occurred and your property was damaged or devastated by a wildfire, there are a few next steps you should take in order to file a claim with your insurance provider.
Step #1: Contact Your Insurance Company ASAP
The sooner you let your insurance company know the damage has occurred, the sooner they can send out an insurance adjuster and begin the reimbursement or payment process. Some insurance companies may even place time limits on claims – meaning if you wait too long to file, they may not be required to pay out for the damage that has occurred. Also, if your property is in an area widely affected wildfires, contacting your insurer ASAP can help you get “in front of the line” to get your claim handled.
Step #2: Have Your Home Inventory Ready
It’s likely your insurance provider will ask you to complete a “Proof of Loss” form, in which you’ll need to provide descriptions of what’s been damaged or destroyed, how much they were worth and when they were purchased. If you have taken the precaution of documenting items of value in your home, providing this information will be easy.
If possible, do not throw anything away, no matter how destroyed or damaged it may be. You’ll want the insurance adjuster to be able to see the item and assess its damage for themselves.
Step #3: Ask What Is Needed
It’s likely this is your first time facing such devastation – meaning you may not know what the insurance company needs from you. Don’t be afraid to request clarification on what they require in order to process your claim, and ask what you can expect the next steps to look like.
Living in an area that’s prone to wildfires means you should be well-prepared for possible damage to occur. Review your current coverage to make sure you’re adequately protected should the worst happen. And if it comes time to file a claim, follow these steps to receive your payout in a timely and efficient manner.