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I.I.I. Offers Tips on Disaster Preparation Including Obtaining the Right Type and Amount of Insurance Coverage
NEW YORK, Sept. 3, 2009 -- While California leads the list of eight of the 10 most costly wildfires in the U.S. over the last 30 years, drought conditions and increased building in woodland areas intensify the risk for wildfires in many other parts of the country, too, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi and Arizona are among the top 10 states outside of California with the largest number of fires in 2008. With the average cost of wildfire losses at $215 million annually from 1964 to 2008, an A.M. Best study reports, everyone needs to be better prepared for this kind of disaster.
“If your community is threatened by a wildfire, your first concern is to protect yourself and your family,” says Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I. “This means creating an evacuation plan and purchasing enough insurance to rebuild your home and replace all of your belongings in the event that they are completely destroyed.”
Damage caused by fire and smoke are covered under standard homeowners, renters and business owners insurance polices and under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy, notes the I.I.I. Water or other damage incurred by fire fighters to extinguish the fire is also covered under these policies.
To prepare for a wildfire or other disaster, the I.I.I. recommends the following steps:
- Review your insurance coverage. Possess enough insurance to rebuild your home and replace your personal belongings. If you have made a major alteration or improvement to your home or have made significant purchases, notify your insurance agent or company representative so that the increased value is reflected in your policy.
- Create a home inventory. This will help ensure that you have purchased enough insurance to replace your personal possessions. It can also speed the claims process and substantiate losses for income tax purposes. A detailed home inventory is helpful should you need to apply for disaster aid, too.
To make creating a home inventory easier, the I.I.I. provides free Web-based software located at KnowYourStuff.org. The Know Your Stuff software allows you to easily organize and list your possessions, as well as add digital photographs of your valuables and save scanned receipts. The program provides free, secure inventory storage on Amazon Web Services. Storing your inventory online gives you the ability to access it from any computer in the event your own computer is damaged or destroyed.
- Protect your property against wildfires. The Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) suggests that “minimizing your home’s exposure begins with creating and maintaining a survivable space and then incorporating fire-resistant building materials and construction techniques when replacing or upgrading your home’s exterior features.” The IBHS offers detailed wildfire mitigation tips.
- Plan your evacuation and what you will need to take. Create a family disaster preparedness plan by identifying escape routes from your home, work and neighborhood. You should also designate an emergency meeting place if you become separated from each other.
Heed any warning to evacuate to a designated shelter immediately. Take emergency supplies such as medicines, prescriptions and first aid supplies, drinking water, non-perishable food, clothing and bedding (sleeping bags, blankets, pillows), computer hard drive or laptop, a portable radio, flashlight, extra batteries, special items for infants (car seats) or disabled family members (wheel chairs, oxygen tanks), baby items, extra eyeglasses and cash. Don’t forget pet food and other items for pets such as litter boxes and leashes. Keep important documents nearby to take with you including insurance policies, your home inventory, passports, drivers licenses, wills and deeds, birth, adoption and marriage certificates, recent tax returns, stocks, bonds and other negotiable certificates.
- Find out if you are ready to evacuate by doing a real-time test. Give yourself just 10 minutes to get your family and belongings into the car and on the road to safety. By planning ahead and practicing, you should be able to gather your family members and pets, along with the most important items you will need, calmly and efficiently, and with a minimum level of stress and confusion. For related videos, go to the Ten-Minute Challenge.
For more information on disaster-proofing your home or business against fire, access the Institute for Business & Home Safety’s Web site
To learn more about how to protect your community from wildfires go to the FireWise Communities Web site
For more information on insurance coverage or how to file an insurance claim, go to I.I.I.'s Web site
The I.I.I. is a nonprofit, communications organization supported by the insurance industry.