When wildfires or even house fires threaten, there isn’t a lot of time. Within minutes, winds can carry fires hundreds of feet and that gives you very little time to escape. Don’t believe me? Check out this video. These things move fast…3.5 miles in 15 minutes fast!
No, that video was not sped up. I checked. Even though you may think you are a safe enough distance from a wild fires, heat and wind within the fire are incredible unpredictable and the direction of a fire can quickly change without notice. In a matter of moments, you may be right in it’s path.
One minute you’re safe, the next you get a knock on the door by a fireman telling you to LEAVE. NOW. IMMEDIATELY. What would you do? Do you have a pack ready? What about your house papers? Bills? Social security cards, birth certificates? In a fire, all that would be destroyed.
These are questions you need to answer NOW—before a disaster comes calling. Know where you should go, who you should notify, and what to bring.
The I.I.I.’s “Know Your Plan” app for iPhone provides consumers with a library of preloaded checklists to learn about important property protection and preparedness steps. Customized lists can also be built from scratch. Each checklist gives users options to set task completion dates, chart their progress and make additional notes for individual tasks. Additional options include functions to share lists with family and friends. Also included are resources to help plan for an evacuation—including one for pets.
- If you have time before you evacuate your family and pets (your family has an evacuation plan in place, right?), back your car into the garage, leave the key in the ignition, and close the garage door. Close windows and doors to the house, and close all inside doors.
- Take down drapes and curtains.
- Place a ladder against the front of the house.
- If you have a combustible roof, wet it down or turn on roof sprinklers.
- Turn off the gas at the meter and the butane tank.
- Place fire fighting tools, such as 100 feet of pre-connected garden hose, a shovel, a rake, a bucket, and containers filled with water, in an accessible place.
In case of possible evacuation – only if you have enough warning – consider packing the following items. It is strongly encouraged to keep all these documents in one place so you can grab them and go, or in an underground, fireproof safe if you will have to leave them behind.
- Social Security cards
- Driver’s licenses
- Credit cards
- House deed
- Vehicle titles
- Marriage license
- Birth Certificates
- Insurance policies
- Home inventory list/photos
- Health insurance cards
- Prescription medications
- Important personal computer information downloaded to disk
- Valuable jewelry
- Home videos
- Items with sentimental value, such as wedding dress or baby keepsakes
- One week’s worth of clothing
- Pets with ID tags, carriers, and pet food
Create a Home Inventory
Before a catastrophe strikes and you’re faced with a loss, make a home inventory – lists, pictures or a videotape of the contents of your home. After all, would you be able to remember all the possessions you’ve accumulated over the years if they were destroyed by a fire? Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you get your insurance claim settled faster, verify losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the correct amount of insurance.
What Should I Do After a Disaster?
- Residents evacuated from their homes should contact their insurance agents or companies immediately and let them know where they can be reached. As adjusters are allowed into the burned-out areas they will want to go in with their policyholders to assess the damage. Many companies will set up 24-hour emergency hotlines.
- Company claims adjusters, many equipped with laptop computers and portable phones, will start writing checks over the next few days to pay the cost of temporary living expenses for people left homeless by the fires and to begin the rebuilding of damaged homes. Some companies will be opening special claims centers to assist their policyholders. Contact your agent or company if you need additional living expenses while you are out of your home.
- Keep receipts. Out of pocket expenses during a mandatory evacuation are reimbursable under most standard homeowner policies.
- Be prepared to give your agent or insurance representative a description of your damage. Your agent will report the loss immediately to your insurance company or a qualified adjuster who will contact you as soon as possible to inspect the damage. Again, be sure to give your agent a number where you can be reached.
- Take photos of the damaged areas. These will help with your claims process and will assist the adjuster in the investigation.
- Prepare a detailed inventory of all damaged or destroyed personal property. Be sure to make two copies-one for yourself and one for the adjuster. Your list should be as complete as possible, including a description of the items, dates of purchase or approximate age, cost at time of purchase and estimated replacement cost.
- Make whatever temporary repairs you can . Cover broken windows, damaged roofs and walls to prevent further destruction. Save receipts for supplies and materials you purchase. Your company will reimburse you for reasonable expenses in making temporary repairs.
- Secure a detailed estimate for permanent repairs to your home from a reliable contractor and give it to the adjuster. The estimate should contain the proposed repairs, repair costs and replacement prices.
- Serious losses will be given priority . If your home has been destroyed or seriously damaged, your agent will do everything possible to assure that you are given priority.