If you live in California, chances are you’re perfectly aware of dramatic increases in wildfires. Droughts and record-breaking temperatures have everyone wondering if their neighborhood could be the next to go up in flames. In fact, wildfire losses are expected to triple in the next 30 years– and that danger is always changing, depending on the weather.
There are some regions that the state has already designated as high wildfire risk, such as Chico, Sacramento/Roseville, and Riverside/San Bernardino. You can see a map of all the regions here. These communities receive extra fire prevention services, such as brush clearance and property inspections. However, the way that these zones are officially identified doesn’t necessarily keep up with reality on the ground. What if you don’t live in these areas, but the wildfire risk increases in your community? What happens in the potentially several years of lag time before the state provides those special precautions?
You can take action now. First, you can harden your home so that it’s much less likely to be destroyed in a wildfire. And second, you can be proactive about your homeowners insurance, so that you’re protected from a tragically common financial shock that’s easy to avoid.
Some aspects of your home could potentially determine whether it’s left standing. The way most homes ignite in wildfires is from embers and small flames, so keep roofs and gutters clear of leaves and debris, and cover all vent openings and chimneys with metal mesh. Wildfire heat can cause windows to break and allow embers in, so install dual-paned windows with one pane of tempered glass.
Creating a “defensible space” can also dramatically change your odds. The perimeter of your home out to 5 feet is the most important– keep it clear of vegetation that could ignite and send flames up the sides of your house. For at least 30 feet on all sides, plants and lawns should be kept trimmed and low. Prune any branches that overhang or touch the house, to at least 10 feet. Clear dead vegetation from under decks. Patio furniture should be fire-resistant. Firewood and propane tanks should be placed more than 30 feet away. See more details are at Cal Fire’s website.
But even if you harden your home, the worst could still happen. Here’s a shocking statistic: 60% of homeowners are underinsured. And wildfire loss is total, including possessions inside the home. Disasters often leave many unprepared families financially crippled because their policies were out of date. Are you one of those underinsured homeowners?
If you’re in an area that has any chance of a disaster, it’s worth the effort to keep your homeowners insurance as up-to-date as possible. This means reassessing your replacement cost coverage limits every 2-5 years, and regularly documenting the contents of your home.
At Delos, we’re building tools to help homeowners protect themselves from the ever-increasing risks of disaster. We offer individually customized reports to explain your home’s disaster risk exposure, along with prevention tips and professional insurance advice specific to your needs. And soon we’ll be launching our own brand of technology-powered property insurance. We’re leveraging vast amounts of data to so that our customers are always protected. We’re working to bring the peace of mind back to insurance.