California Wildfire Risk Is Not Over: How to Get Finances & Property Wildfire Ready

Insurers and Fire Mitigation Experts Offer Advice on How to Reduce Risk and Prepare Now

CONTACT:

Nicole Ganley, APCIA
916-616-5855
nicole.ganley@apci.org

Janet Ruiz, I.I.I
707-490-9365
janetr@iii.org

Connie Bryant Breedlove, IBHS
(404) 786-5275
cbreedlove@ibhs.org

Lorraine Carli, NFPA
+1 617 984-7275 
publicafairs@nfpa.org

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Strategic and heroic work by firefighters prevented major damage to South Lake Tahoe homes and businesses from the Caldor Wildfire. Yet, CAL FIRE Chief Director Thom Porter has reminded all Californians that “Wildfire season is far from over and we’re right smack in the middle of wildfire peak season.” Wildfire risk from Diablo and Santa Ana winds will remain high through December.

As a reminder, September is National Preparedness Month, so now is the time to take some simple steps to mitigate homes and property to help prevent wildfire damage and update insurance to make sure rebuilding is possible, according to the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA), Insurance Information Institute (Triple I), Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), four organizations that focus on risk mitigation.

“California has experienced wildfires with the greatest loss of life and property in the fall months, so we need to stay vigilant and reduce risks before the next major fire,” said Michele Steinberg, Wildfire Division Director, NFPA. “We all have a role to play. We need to reduce risk of wildfire ignition at the parcel level and the community level, so working with your neighbors is as important as taking safety steps on your own property.”

NFPA administers the Firewise USA® recognition program, which is very active in California with nearly 450 communities across the state working to make homes more ember resistant. People can visit www.firewise.org to get started on this voluntary safety program.

Three critical steps to protect life and property from wildfire are: 1) create an ember-resistant home; 2) take a wildfire reality check and; 3) make a home inventory. These themes are promoted year-round by (IBHS), the (Triple-I), and APCIA, respectively.

“The vast majority of homes destroyed by wildfires are first ignited by embers, directly or indirectly, not the main wildland fire front,” said Dr. Faraz Hedayati, research engineer at IBHS. “Protecting the home is all about the embers and making sure they have nothing combustible to land on, smolder and ignite. With the wind-driven risk continuing, now is a good time to take the first step and create an ember-resistant, home ignition zone in the first five feet around the entire home.”

Every home is a system, making it important for homeowners to take multiple mitigation actions to give a home the best chance against wildfire. IBHS recommends homeowners start by maintaining the 0–5-foot home ignition zone, removing items beneath a deck, covering vents with 1/8-inch mesh, and ensuring the roof is Class A fire-rated.

“Insurers are on the ground assisting those in both northern and southern California that have lost homes in the 2021 wildfires,” stated Janet Ruiz, director, strategic communications, Triple-I. “For those that have not experienced a loss, this is a wakeup call to conduct a home inventory to document your home and possessions and update your insurance policy.”

A wildfire reality check involves making a home inventory and assessing each year whether you have the right type, and amount, of insurance coverage for your home’s structure and its contents, according to the Triple-I and APCIA.

“Supply chain imbalances caused by the pandemic could make recovery and rebuilding even more difficult in 2021, so now is the time to make sure your policy is up to date with a quick call to your insurance agent or company, “said Karen Collins, APCIA assistant vice president for personal lines.  “Material costs have increased, and material shortages are causing significant delays. The best step is to do what you can to reduce risk and prevent a loss by hardening your home before more wind-driven embers start to fly.” 

The APCIA white paper, “U.S. Property Insurance Market Struggles to Balance Supply & Demand,” explores how materials and the labor needed to reconstruct homes and businesses are being strained following elevated catastrophe losses. It also addresses the impacts from COVID-19 that shifted consumer demand to goods from services, which has drawn down inventories as manufacturing was cut. The imbalance between supply and demand has hit nearly every aspect of construction, including lumber markets leading to significant material shortages and cost increases. California’s ongoing wildfire risk is why policyholders are being encouraged to review their coverage and mitigate their property to prevent loss.

Wildfire Preparedness Tool Kit

IBHS Wildfire Ready guide, Wildfire Ready Virtual app and Wildfire-Resistant Landscaping guide
Video: How defensible space protected this home during the 2020 Glass Fire
Video: Why is Defensible Space Important (IBHS)
FPA and IBHS Wildfire Research Fact Sheets
NFPA overview of Outthink Wildfire ™ - A call to end the destruction of communities by wildfire
Interactive Tutorial: Learn how to assess your community’s wildfire risks (NFPA)
Video: Wildfire Reality Check: Insuring Your Home (APCIA and Triple-I)

Story Ideas for Media Outlets:

  • Use IBHS Wildfire Ready Virtual app to see what mitigation a property needs (we can help try to find agents to interview)
  • Home Inventory challenge – ask a homeowner or renter if they can remember everything in their home in an on-the-spot interview. 
  • On the street interviews – when was the last time you updated your insurance? Covid supply chain imbalances mean you should make that call now!

Interview Opportunities:

Firewise USA –                                              Michele Steinberg, NFPA
IBHS –                                                          Daniel Gorham and Faraz Hedayati, IBHS
Financial Update and Home Inventory:         Janet Ruiz, Triple I
                                                                   Nicole Ganley, APCIA

Learn more about these alliance members:

About the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) is the primary national trade association for home, auto, and business insurers. APCIA promotes and protects the viability of private competition for the benefit of consumers and insurers, with a legacy dating back 150 years. APCIA members represent all sizes, structures, and regions—protecting families, communities, and businesses in the U.S. and across the globe.

About Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) The Triple-I is a nonprofit communications organization supported by the insurance industry. With offices in New York City and Arlington, Va., the organization has been a trusted source of unique, data-driven insights on insurance for over 60 years.

About the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) The IBHS mission is to conduct objective, scientific research to identify and promote effective actions that strengthen homes, businesses and communities against natural disasters and other causes of loss. Learn more about IBHS at DisasterSafety.org.

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Founded in 1896, NFPA is a global self-funded nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. The association delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. For more information, visit www.nfpa.org. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed online for free at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.

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