Wildfire Insurance: Are you covered?
Karl Newman, President
Sandi Henke, Communications Director
NW Insurance Council
Phone: (206) 624-3330/(800) 664-4942
Fax: (206) 624-1975
Follow at Twitter/nwinsuranceinfo
SEATTLE – Drought conditions in the Pacific Northwest are expected to fuel more wildfires than normal during the 2015 Wildfire Season, putting lives and property at great risk. The NW Insurance Council encourages homeowners and business owners to take action now to protect your property and make sure you have adequate insurance.
“Wildfire damage is covered by standard home and business insurance policies,” said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president, “but claims take time and insurance coverage can’t restore irreplaceable family heirlooms and other one-of-a-kind items, so it’s important to do everything you can reduce the chances you'll be a victim.”
Wildfire risk in 2015 is expected to be above normal for Washington, Oregon and most of Idaho from July through September. Last year, 1.6 million acres burned in all three states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).
2014 also was one of the longest wildfire seasons in U.S. History, according to Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). Wildfires killed 34 Firefighters and torched more than 4.1 million acres nationally.
NW Insurance Council offers the following tips to help residents protect their homes, families and businesses:
- 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 remodeled or built new additions to your home.
- Renters Insurance – If you rent, you also need to protect your belongings from wildfire. Consider buying Renters Insurance.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 with your smartphone. Your home inventory can help you and your adjuster settle your claim quicker if your home is damaged or destroyed by wildfire. Free, downloadable Home Inventory Software is available on the Insurance Information Institute’s website.
- Develop an emergency preparedness plan – Gather and store a three-day supply of food and water, First Aid supplies, flashlights and a portable radio. Visit GetReadyNW.org for more disaster planning and insurance information.
- 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 if you live in a wildfire-prone area. Replace batteries in smoke detectors in every room of your home at least twice each year.
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. PCI offers an online brochure called PCI’s Quick Steps For Disaster Preparedness and Recovery. Also, order a free copy of NW Insurance Council’s brochure, Firestorm – Northwest Wildfires: Protect Yourself by clicking the link or by calling (800) 664-4942 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
NW Insurance Council is a nonprofit, public-education organization funded by member insurance companies serving Oregon, Washington and Idaho.