Fire Insurance is Imperative in Our Changing Climate
Most people aren’t ready for a wildfire, but there are steps you can take to reduce the risk.
- Maintain an adequate defensible space around your home and protect your home using fire resistant building materials. “Defensible space” is a buffer around your home that you can create by removing dead plants, grass and weeds. Your buffer will help keep the fire away from your home. “Hardening” your home means starting with construction materials that help your home withstand flying embers, which can result in your house catching fire. A combination of both defensible space and the hardening of your home can give your house the best chance of making it through a wildfire.
- Keep your property lean and green to help protect your family and home.Creating defensible space is essential to improve your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire. It’s the buffer you create between a building on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wild area that surrounds you. This space slows or stops the spread of wildfire and protects your home from catching fire—either from direct flame contact or radiant heat. Defensible space is also important for the protection of the firefighters defending your home.
- How to harden your home.Flying embers can destroy homes up to a mile away from a wildfire. “Harden” your home before a fire starts by using ember-resistant building materials. Here are some things you can do to harden your home and make it more fire resistant:
The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home. Homes with wood or shingle roofs are at high risk of burning and being destroyed during a wildfire. Build your roof or re-roof with materials such as composition, metal or tile. Block any spaces between roof decking and covering to prevent embers from catching.
Vents on homes create openings for flying embers. Cover all vent openings with 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch metal mesh. Do not use fiberglass or plastic mesh because they can melt and burn. Protect vents in eaves or cornices with baffles to block embers (mesh is not enough).
Eaves and Soffits
Protect eaves and soffits with ignition-resistant* or non-combustible materials.
Heat from a wildfire can cause windows to break even before the home ignites. Once windows are broken, burning embers can enter and start fires inside. Single-paned and large windows are particularly vulnerable. Install dual-paned windows with one pane of tempered glass to reduce the chance of breakage in a fire. Consider limiting the size and number of windows that face large areas of vegetation.
Wood products, such as boards, panels or shingles, are common siding materials. However, they are combustible and not good choices for fire-prone areas. Build or remodel your walls with ignition resistant* building materials, such as stucco, fiber cement, wall siding, fire retardant, treated wood, or other approved materials. Be sure to extend materials from the foundation to the roof.
Surfaces within 10 feet of the building should be built with ignition-resistant*, non-combustible, or other approved materials. Ensure that all combustible items are removed from underneath your deck.
Screen or enclose rain gutters to prevent accumulation of plant debris.
Use the same ignition-resistant* materials for patio coverings as a roof.
Cover your chimney and stovepipe outlets with a non-combustible screen. Use metal screen material with openings no smaller than 3/8-inch and no larger than 1/2-inch to prevent embers from escaping and igniting a fire.
Have a fire extinguisher and tools such as a shovel, rake, bucket, and hoe available for fire emergencies. Install weather stripping around and under the garage door to prevent embers from blowing in. Store all combustible and flammable liquids away from ignition sources.
Consider using ignition-resistant* or non-combustible fence materials to protect your home during a wildfire.
Driveways and Access Roads
Driveways should be built and maintained in accordance with state and local codes to allow fire and emergency vehicles to reach your home. Consider maintaining access roads with a minimum of 10 feet of clearance on either side, allowing for two-way traffic. Ensure that all gates open inward and are wide enough to accommodate emergency equipment. Trim trees and shrubs overhanging the road to allow emergency vehicles to pass.
Make sure your address is clearly visible from the road.
Consider having multiple garden hoses that are long enough to reach all areas of your home and other structures on your property. If you have a pool or well, consider getting a pump.
Ignition-resistant building materials are those that resist ignition or sustained burning when exposed to embers and small flames from wildfires. Examples of ignition-resistant materials include “non-combustible materials” that don’t burn, exterior grade fire-retardant-treated wood lumber, fire-retardant-treated wood shakes and shingles listed by the State Fire Marshal (SFM) and any material that has been tested in accordance with SFM Standard 12-7A-5.
A fire-resistant landscape isn’t necessarily the same thing as a well-maintained yard. This landscape uses fire-resistant plants that are strategically planted to resist the spread of fire to your home. Fire resistant plants are great in California because they are often drought tolerant, too. You don’t need a lot of money to make your landscape fire resistant. And you will find that a fire-resistant landscape can increase your property value and conserve water while beautifying your home.
Choose Fire-Resistant Plants and Materials
- Create fire-resistant zones with stone walls, patios, decks and roadways.
- Use rock, mulch, flower beds and gardens as ground cover for bare spaces and as effective firebreaks.
- There are no “fire-proof” plants. Select high-moisture plants that grow close to the ground and have a low sap or resin content.
- Choose fire-retardant plant species that resist ignition such as rockrose, ice plant and aloe.
- Select fire-resistant shrubs such as hedging roses, bush honeysuckles, currant, cotoneaster, sumac and shrub apples.
- Plant hardwood, maple, poplar and cherry trees that are less flammable than pine, fir and other conifers.
- Check your local nursery, landscape contractor or county’s UC Cooperative Extension service for advice on fire-resistant plants that are suited for your area.
Before wildfire strikes, it is important that you get Set. Prepare yourself and your home for the possibility of having to evacuate. There are three main preparation actions that should be completed and familiar to all members of your household long in advance of a wildfire.
3 Steps to Getting Set:
- Create a Wildfire Action Plan that includes evacuation planning for your home, family and pets.
- Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit for each person in your household.
- Fill-out a Family Communication Plan that includes important evacuation and contact information.
How to Create a Wildfire Action Plan
Your Wildfire Action Plan must be prepared, and familiar to all members of your household well in advance of a wildfire. Use the checklist below to help create your plan. Each family’s plan will be different, depending on a variety of issues, needs, and situations.
Your Wildfire Action Plan Checklist
Create an evacuation plan that includes:
- A designated emergency meeting location outside the fire or hazard area. This is critical to determine who has safely evacuated from the affected area.
- Several different escape routes from your home and community. Practice these often so everyone in your family is familiar in case of emergency.
- Have an evacuation plan for pets and large animals such as horses and other livestock.
- A Family Communication Plan that designates an out-of-area friend or relative as a point of contact to act as a single source of communication among family members in case of separation. (It is easier to call or message one person and let them contact others than to try and call everyone when phone, cell, and internet systems can be overloaded or limited during a disaster.)
- Have fire extinguishers on hand and train your family how to use them (check expiration dates regularly).
- Ensure that your family knows where your gas, electric, and water main shut-off controls are located and how to safely shut them down in an emergency.
- Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit for each person, as recommended by the American Red Cross. (See next section for details.)
- Maintain a list of emergency contact numbers posted near your phone and in your emergency supply kit.
- Keep an extra Emergency Supply Kit in your car in case you cannot get to your home because of fire or other emergency.
- Have a portable radio or scanner so you can stay updated on the fire.
- Tell your neighbors about Ready, Set, Go! and your Wildfire Action Plan.
How to Prepare to Evacuate from a Wildfire
Evacuation plans for families with young children should include helping toddlers understand how to quickly respond in case of fire, and how adults can escape with babies. Prepare ahead of time by practicing your family’s fire escape plan, and what to do to be safe when there is a wildfire nearby.
It is important to talk to toddlers and small children at a level that they understand and that does not frighten. Here are a few resources that offer guides and tips for families with young children about fire safety and preparing for a disaster:
- A Parent’s Guide to Fire Safety for Babies and Toddlers : The U.S. Fire Administration’s information site for parents and caregivers to help prevent fire death of young children.
- Let’s Get Ready! Planning Together for Emergencies : Sesame Workshop campaign with tips, activities, and other easy tools to help the whole family prepare for emergencies.
- gov Kids : FEMA’s site for older kids to prepare and plan for a disaster. Includes safety steps, tips, and games to help children learn about and be ready for an emergency.
- Smokey Kids : U.S. Forest Service’s interactive Smokey Bear site with games, information and resources on how to prevent forest fires.
Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit
Put together your emergency supply kit long before a wildfire or other disaster occurs and keep it easily accessible so you can take it with you when you have to evacuate. Plan to be away from your home for an extended period of time. Each person should have a readily accessible emergency supply kit. Backpacks work great for storing these items (except food and water) and are quick to grab. Storing food and water in a tub or chest on wheels will make it easier to transport. Keep it light enough to be able to lift it into your car.
Emergency Supply Kit Checklist
- Three-day supply of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person.
- Map marked with at least two evacuation routes
- Prescriptions or special medications
- Change of clothing
- Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses
- An extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash or traveler’s checks
- First aid kit
- Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
- Sanitation supplies
- Copies of important documents (birth certificates, passports, etc.)
- Don’t forget pet food and water!
Items to take if time allows:
- Easily carried valuables
- Family photos and other irreplaceable items
- Personal computer information on hard drives and disks
- Chargers for cell phones, laptops, etc.
- Always keep a sturdy pair of shoes and a flashlight near your bed and handy in case of a sudden evacuation at night.
Are You Financially Prepared for a Wildfire?
Protect What Is Important To You—Get Your Finances and Property Ready For Wildfires
A home is generally your largest asset. Protect it. Insurance is the critical back-up plan enabling you to rebuild your home after a wildfire. Federal catastrophe grants are not enough to rebuild a home. Make sure your family’s financial safety net is in place, in case disaster strikes. Follow these TIPS as part of your Ready, Set, GO! wildfire preparedness plan:
TIP 1: Conduct an Annual Insurance Check Up
Call your agent or insurance company annually to discuss your policy limits and coverage. Make sure your policy reflects the correct square footage and features in your home. Consider purchasing building code upgrade coverage.
TIP 2: Know What Your Policy Covers
The details matter. Understand if you have a replacement cost policy that pays to replace all your items at current market price or an actual cash value policy that takes depreciation into account and pays less for aged items.
TIP 3: Update Your Policy to Cover Home Improvements
If you make home improvements, be sure to call your agent or company to update your coverage. Make sure your insurer knows about the changes, so the new countertops, floors or room are covered if you must rebuild.
TIP 4: Maintain Insurance
If your home is paid off, be sure to maintain homeowner insurance. Without insurance, do you have the money to rebuild your home? Check with loved ones whose homes are paid off to be sure they continue to carry homeowner insurance.
TIP 5: Get Renters Insurance
Renters can lose everything in a fire and be left to start over. Many insurers bundle renters insurance coverage with an auto insurance policy at affordable prices.
Make A Home Inventory
Recovery is easier if you have an accurate home inventory. Document the contents of your home before a fire occurs. Use your smartphone to video your belongings. Keep your inventory & photos outside home or in the cloud.
TIP 1: Video or photograph each room of your home.
Remember to document drawers and closets.
TIP 2: Describe your home’s contents in your video.
Mention the price you paid, where and when you bought the item.
TIP 3: Remember to note important or expensive items.
Video your electronics, appliances, sports equipment, TVs, computers, tablets.
TIP 4: Save receipts for major purchases.
Store key documents in the cloud or fireproof case. Keep home inventory offsite or in the cloud.
TIP 5: Video the Garage
Don’t forget to video or photograph what is inside your garage.
Wildfire is Coming. Are You Ready?
The geography, weather patterns and number of Wildland Urban Interface communities in California make it a state particularly threatened by devastating wildfire. To help educate property owners and residents in areas most at risk, CAL FIRE has developed a communications program called “Ready, Set, Go!” that breaks down the actions needed to be ready for wildfire.
Get prepared for wildfire before it strikes by following Ready, Set, Go!
- Be Ready: Create and maintain defensible space and harden your home against flying embers.
- Get Set: Prepare your family and home ahead of time for the possibility of having to evacuate.
- Be Ready to GO!: Take the evacuation steps necessary to give your family and home the best chance of surviving a wildfire.
Contact me for solutions
If you have any questions, or would like to explore fire insurance solutions with me, please call (530) 661-0666 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
REMEMBER THE SIX “P’S”
Keep These Six “P’s” Ready In Case Immediate Evacuation Is Required:
- People and pets
- Papers, phone numbers, and important documents
- Prescriptions, vitamins, and eyeglasses
- Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia
- Personal computer hard drive and disks
- “Plastic” (credit cards, ATM cards) and cash
Content provided by California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection