Friday, August 14, 2009

Fire season is well under way. Are you ready?

In California and many other parts of the country, fire is a real threat. We have the terrain, the fuel and sometimes the wind that takes a small brush fire and turns it into a full blown disaster.

There are a few things you can do to prepare for a brush fire.

First, keep your property clear of any leaves, evergreen needles, trash and other flammable materials.

Second, make and maintain a defensible area around your property. This area should be as wide as you can get it far enough from your home and other structures to give your fire department or forestry service room to get in and put the fire out before it can get too close to your property. Many cities and counties have requirements for brush clearance, so check with your city and don't be afraid to do a little more than they require.

Third, if you are remodeling or building a home in a brush area, talk to your builder about fire resistant building materials and techniques. There are coatings that can be applied to walls, roofs, etc. that can help with fire resistance.

Fourth, know your insurance coverage. Many people are trying to save money on insurance by lowering their coverage limits. This can be a pretty bad idea, especially if you live in an area where fire is a big concern. Check your policy dwelling limits and talk to your agent or insurance carrier about them. If you have remodeled, let your agent know about any upgrades. One of my friends put in a pool this summer and renovated his kitchen putting in some really nice flooring and high end appliances. He should get out the receipts and talk to his carrier about his coverage.

Fifth, if a fire has started in your area, listen to the news for any evacuation orders. You may want to keep an emergency kit and a suitcase or duffel bag with a change of clothes, heavy duty gloves, water and a radio packed and ready to go. Also, plan for your pets. Where can you take them in the event of a fire? Call local shelters and talk to your city, county and other emergency personnel in advance. Plan on what you will take with you and have some empty containers stored in the garage or extra closet so you can grab and go if the order to evacuate is given.

Last, try to stay calm and comply with all authorities during any emergency. I hear on the news where someone, desperate to save their home, belonging's, etc. ignored the evacuation order and went back and did not get out or had to be rescued. Pulling emergency resources away from the blaze to rescue you is not right. firefighters, police, medics, forestry crews and others are trying to protect your community and your home. Pulling them away from that duty lets the fire gain ground.

Your things can be replaced. Your life can't.

Check your policy and look at your loss of use coverage. This coverage can help you pay for a hotel and also can help you rent a home or apartment for a time while your claim is settled or your home is being repaired.