The wildfires burning out of control in Southern California should sound an alarm for homeowners to prepare for disasters before they strike. Homeowners need to have an evacuation plan in place and make sure they have insurance protection for their home and personal belongings, suggested the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.
“Images of people evacuating and returning to homes destroyed by fire are a stark reminder that insurance is one of the first things people will need to consider when fire, winter storms or any type of unthinkable event damages or destroys their property,” said Carole Walker, RMIIA executive director. “Now is the time to develop an evacuation plan, do an insurance check-up of your coverage and create a home inventory.”
RMIIA suggested agents encourage their policyholders to:
1. Develop an evacuation plan. In addition to an escape plan, an evacuation plan should include what you will need when forced to leave your home on a moment’s notice, RMIIA said. The association suggested making copies or scans of important financial and personal documents, including insurance policies. Out-of-state relatives or friends should have copies so the info doesn’t get left behind.
2. Create an inventory. The inventory should include lists, pictures or a videotape of the contents of the home or business. That will help get an insurance claim settled faster, verify losses for income tax returns and help to purchase the correct amount of insurance.
3. Do an annual insurance checkup. RMIIA said understanding what is and isn’t covered in an insurance policy can mean the difference of being able to rebuild and replace personal belongings. Homeowners need to do annual insurance policy “check ups” to make sure they keep up with local building costs and have adjusted their coverage to include home remodeling and additions. If they don’t have replacement coverage, policyholders should consider spending a few extra dollars for coverage that pays for the cost of replacing the damaged property without deduction for depreciation.
4. Know what is covered and what isn’t. The typical homeowner insurance policy covers damage resulting from fire, windstorm, hail, water damage (excluding flooding), riots and explosion as well as other causes of loss, such as theft and the extra cost of living elsewhere while the structure is being repaired or rebuilt.
The policy also covers legal liability (up to policy limits) if members of the family or even your pets hurt other people or their property, not just in your house, but away from it, as well. Business owners or homeowners with a lot of assets may want to consider an umbrella policy that offers increased protection against lawsuits.
The standard policy does not cover flooding, so people concerned that they’re at risk for rising floodwaters should consider extra flood insurance.
Log on to www.rmiia.org for more information.
An insurance/evacuation checklist and more wildfire information is available at: http://rmiia.org/Catastrophes_and_Statistics/Wildfire.htm.
RMIIA’s is offering a free Wildfire & Insurance Guide with homeowner disaster preparedness tips at: http://rmiia.org/Catastrophes_and_Statistics/Wildfire_and_insurance.html
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