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SACRAMENTO, Calif., Jan. 3 -- The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America issued the following news release:
While the East Coast and Midwest deal with extreme cold and snow, California is experiencing record warm weather and dry conditions. Lack of rain has lakes and reservoirs so depleted that visitors are flocking to Folsom Lake to view remains of the flooded Gold Rush town, Mormon Island. In addition, local governments are enforcing water rationing restrictions. These conditions are the prime ingredients for wildfires. Californians must heed the warnings and take simple steps to prepare family finances and property against damage from a wildfire, says the Association of California Insurance Companies (ACIC).
"California grapples with a year-round fire season under normal conditions, but the lack of rain makes 2014 even more precarious," said Armand Feliciano, ACIC vice president. "Now is the time to prepare both your finances and property. Financial preparedness is just as important as preparing property. Take a few minutes to talk with your agent or insurer to update your homeowners insurance policy, make sure to change your coverage if you made home improvements. Walk around your home with your smart phone or video camera and talk about what is in each room this will create a home inventory of personal possessions. Remember to itemize any major holiday gifts received or add that new engagement ring to your insurance policy."
California experienced wildfires throughout 2013. The recent fire in Big Sur charred 917 acres and over 30 homes. The August Rim Fire in Yosemite burned a record 257,314 acres. Nationally, 45,061 fires broke out and burned 4,157,061 acres in 2013.
"In 2013, fire fighters saw firsthand how homes that had 100 feet of debris clearance avoided damage as wildfire approached," says Feliciano. "As we enter 2014, water levels and dry conditions make physical wildfire preparedness more important than ever. Fire officials recommend Californians clear 100 feet of defensible space, remove dead plants, grass and weeds within 30 feet of a home, trim trees 6 feet from the ground, clear leaves and pine needles from the roof and rain gutters and always create a family evacuation plan. Taking these simple steps now can make all the difference if a wildfire breaks out."
Wildfire Financial Preparedness Tips:
* Review Your Policy Regularly - Review your property insurance policy with your insurance company or agent. If you have recently remodeled or built a new addition onto your property, be sure to increase the amount of protection to cover the changes to the property. If your home is paid off, be sure to maintain coverage.
* Keep an Inventory - To speed claims processing, keep an inventory of your possessions and photograph or videotape them for documentation purposes. After a fire, you will be asked to list the items that were destroyed or damaged along with a brief description that includes receipts, appraisals, and the age, current value, make, model and serial number of items. Click here: Know Your Stuff Home Inventory and Know Your Coverage Apps
* Understand Your Policy - Homeowners need to understand the type of policy they have. There are two kinds of policies: A replacement cost policy will generally repair or replace covered personal property damaged by an insured peril. While an actual cash value policy only provides reimbursement for the depreciated value of covered personal property. Coverage for earthquake damage is typically available as an optional endorsement to your homeowners insurance policy. California residents can purchase earthquake coverage from the California Earthquake Authority (CEA). Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
Physical Preparedness Tips - For more physical preparedness tips check out www.Readyforwildfire.org
* Create Defensive Space - The best protection is defensive space. Clear the land around dwellings of all vegetation. Experts recommend that the cleared area extend at least 30 to 100 feet from the dwelling in all directions.
* Remove dead leaves and debris from roof or rain gutters.
* Remove wood piles or prune flammable plants and shrubs near windows.
* Trim trees so branches are a minimum of 10 feet from other threes. Embers are a major cause of spreading fires. Remove vegetation and items that can catch fire under decks.
Fire Prevention Tips -
* Don't toss burning cigarettes out into dry brush areas.
* Be sure campfires are completely put out and doused with water and cannot relight.
* Be careful with controlled burns, severe weather can cause a normal burn to become out of control.
* Be cautious with mowing equipment on dry brush - one spark can ignite a wildfire.
The Association of California Insurance Companies (ACIC) is part of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). ACIC is PCI's California Voice representing 363 property casualty insurance companies doing business in California. These members write $20.2 billion in premium in California insuring 36 percent of the property casualty insurance sold in the state. California members write 44 percent of personal auto insurance, 29 percent of homeowners insurance, 33 percent of commercial lines business insurance and 40 percent of private workers compensation insurance sold in California.
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