SEATTLE – The devastating and tragic wildfires in Colorado and Arizona are a grim reminder for homeowners and business owners to take action now to protect your property and make sure you have adequate insurance.
Property and business owners in Eastern Washington and Idaho have good reason to be concerned about wildfires. Wildfire risk in 2013 is above normal for the region and last year wildfires torched nearly 260,000 acres in Washington and 1.7 million acres in Idaho, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). Firefighters are currently battling seven fires in Idaho, which have burned more than 20,000 acres.
To help save lives and property,
insurance companies are inspecting homes and recommending appropriate actions
customers can take to reduce fire risks. Some customers may face premium
increases or coverage cancelation if adequate measures
are not taken.
“Inspections paired with constructive safety recommendations are a huge benefit to property owners,” said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president. “Failure to take action could result in loss of life or completely destroyed homes and businesses. Insurance experts are taking time to warn their customers of serious risks to their properties so they can invest in safety ahead of time.”
Nationally, catastrophic wildfires scorched more than 9 million acres and caused $595 million in insured losses in 2012. Also, more than 4,400 structures burned in those wildfires, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
NW Insurance Council offers tips to help residents protect their families and businesses:
· Defensible Spacing– Clear brush 30 to 100 feet from your home. Keep your yard well groomed and watered and remove old stumps and weak or diseased trees from your property. Create a buffer zone by landscaping with fire-resistant plants. Contact your local utility company if you notice tree branches touching power lines.
· Review your insurance policy – Contact a representative from your insurance company or your insurance agent to be sure you have the right coverage to meet your needs. Make sure you have the appropriate amount of insurance, especially if you’ve recently made additions to your home.
· Fireproof your rooftop – The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home when it comes to fires. Replace wood-shake roofs with less flammable material, when possible. Keep roofs and gutters clear of needles and leaves.
· Home exterior precautions – Install screens on chimneys, stovepipes and attic openings. Trim trees that overhang the home to prevent fire in trees from easily spreading to the roof of the house. Keep flammable materials like fuel tanks at least 30 feet away from the home.
· Be accessible and visible – Make sure your house number is visible from the street. If firefighters can’t find you, they can’t help you.
· Home interior precautions – Consider installing a home sprinkler system. Replace batteries in smoke detectors in every room of your home at least twice each year.
· Develop an emergency preparedness plan – Gather and store a three-day supply of food and water, First Aid supplies, flashlights and a portable radio.
· Maintain a complete home inventory – Keep copies of contracts and receipts of your personal possessions in a safe place outside of your home. Take pictures or video of your belongings. Your home inventory can help you and your adjuster settle your claim if your home is damaged or destroyed by wildfire. Free, downloadable Home Inventory Software is available on the Insurance Information Institute’s website.
To learn more about safeguarding your home and business from wildfire, The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) offers a free Wildfire Retrofit Guide for the Pacific Northwest. Also, order a free copy of NW Insurance Council’s brochure, Firestorm – Northwest Wildfires: Protect Yourself by calling (800) 664-4942 or email firstname.lastname@example.org