California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner joined CAL FIRE Director Ruben Grijalva yesterday in signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to help prevent and mitigate fire losses in the Golden State. The state faces an abnormally dry fall fire season, they said, so MOU creates a partnership and joint commitment to protecting against fire losses.
California is in the midst of a dangerous fire season due to a harsh confluence of factors. Increased fuel, abnormally dry weather, greater urban interface and upcoming Santa Ana winds have created a particularly combustible mix for the 2007 fire season. Each year, hundreds of thousands of acres burn due to wildfires. Thousands of homes, businesses and other structures are damaged or destroyed every year, averaging more than $200 million in annual property damage.
Both groups pledged to mutually promote awareness and collaboration among fire officials, the insurance industry and the public to prevent and mitigate fire losses. As part of the MOU, they will:
*Launch a public awareness campaign. CDI and CAL FIRE will develop an outreach program targeted to residents and businesses located in the wildland-urban interface, and collaborate with additional fire mitigation groups like the California Fire Safe Council.
*Explore fire mitigation insurer educational programs. CDI and CAL FIRE will work towards developing a one-day educational course for insurance policy makers, underwriters and property inspectors to teach effective mitigation strategies. This course would be offered to all personal and commercial lines property insurers writing policies in California.
*Create a statewide emergency services database to merge the already defined and mapped hazardous areas with the risks associated with those areas after mitigation efforts have been performed.
*Reevaluate inspection procedures of the California FAIR Plan Association to ensure current procedures are appropriate for determining the risk of an individual property. CDI and CAL FIRE will additionally work to provide training and certification of the FAIR Plan inspection bureau staff to encourage consistent and fair application of inspection criteria.
*Develop strategies to share fire activity information and databases before, during and after wildfires to streamline efforts for faster deployment of agency resources to fire-ravaged communities.
*Increase incentives for homeowners, businesses and insurance companies to actively prevent and mitigate fire risks.
The entire text of the MOU can be found at www.insurance.ca.gov.
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