“I received a letter of crazy requests from my home insurance company, what does this mean?”
Yesterday I woke up and my house smelled like a campfire. Not because of my favorite Bath and Body Works candle, which is Marshmellow Fireside BTW…but because we slept with our windows open. There is yet again another fire, somewhere in the near vicinity of my home. I took this picture from the top of my driveway. If you live in California and see this outside your home accompanied by the smell of smoke you’re bound to be nervous. I saw this the other day when I came home from work and was hit with a wave of worry. This plume of smoke turned out to be a fire at a recycling center but still, it’s a fire. It could have spread. What would I do if this was a wildfire or if the fire got out of control and raced through my neighborhood? What is my plan of action? Where would I go? What would I do next?
Over the years as I watched the fires on the news I had thought briefly about what I would do. I should make an emergency plan of action but always brushed it aside. I thought, “Na, I live in a neighborhood and the firefighters would be able to tackle the fire no problem before it reached my house.” Or “This isn’t something that would happen to me, I don’t live in a high fire hazard area!” All of those doubtable questions are becoming all too real. A fire could burn my house down, and my neighborhood. My home is flammable and even though I do not live in a heavily wooded area that doesn’t mean the grass, trees, plants, and shrubbery in my yard won’t burn around my home and that the flames won’t climb up trees or bushes and jump onto my roof and burn it down.
So what can we do to protect ourselves? First off, take a look at your property and your yard. Look at your roof and ask yourself several questions. Do you have shingles or tiles missing or the shingles curling? How much debris from trees has piled onto your roof and gutters? Do you have trees or shrubs overhanging your roof? What does your exterior siding look like? Does it need new paint because it is peeling or crumbling? Do you have landscaping that more looks like the inside of the Jumanji house with too much overgrowth?….for example.
Insurance Carriers are cracking down on homeowner maintenance and brush eligibility more than ever before. Some of the properties that are in areas of concern for wildfire have been given some pretty big lists of clean up in order to offer a renewal. These lists of Insurance Company “Honey-dos” are called Mitigation. The company is wanting to make sure that you as the homeowner have done your part in helping to keep your home maintained to avoid a loss as much as possible. They want you to create Defensible Space around your home so that in the event of a fire there is a possibility of the home not being touched by the flames, or if they are the fire won’t spread as quickly.
If you have received a Honey-do list from your Home Insurance Company your requests may look something like this:
- Remove or trim away all plants, bushes, shrubs, and trees within 5 feet of the home on the front, sides or rear of the dwelling and other structures.
- All vegetation within 5 feet needs to be removed which includes potted plants on the deck and around the home.
- For trees over 5 feet and up to 30 feet from the home and other structures, branches must be limbed up to 6 feet from the ground.
- Remove all dead or dry plants, grass, weeds, needles, pinecones, and leaves at least 100 feet away from your dwelling and other structures.
- To reduce embers that could pass through vents, a 1/8 inch metal mesh screening on attic vents, foundation vents, and vents in the eaves.
Every carrier is different and may require other requests, that are specific to YOU, not your neighbor or your buddy, but the gist is the same. Do your part to try and make your home as safe as possible. The caveat to these letters is that most likely if you do not do these requests the company will not offer a renewal. You have the choice to not do the mitigation requirements and look for other carriers, but chances are if you are getting a mitigation letter other carriers will require the same thing or they may not be able to write your home altogether in which your other options will be expensive.
Keeping your home maintained is just the first step of action, well and an active homeowner’s policy….this I shouldn’t have to explain since I’m always discussing insurance 🙂 But in case you missed the tiny reference in the blog name about insurance you want to make sure your home insurance policy is paid and current.
For more information on Defensible Space, you can check out the website below about how to get ready for a wildfire.
But what about an Evacuation Plan?
The next step is to make sure you have a plan if an evacuation happens and also the inevitable, a loss. Since we live in a digital world I would suggest making copies of all your important documents and photos and making a digital file for them. Create a list or a mental list of the items most precious to you which can be grabbed quickly if you have time such as photos or keepsake items. Maybe put all of those items in one spot where you can grab and go if needed and if there is time. If you have the time in your evacuation pack a bag and don’t forget chargers, food for pets, flashlights, blankets…think survival items. Do your animals need animal carriers? Do you have a way to evacuate them?
Sit down and talk with your family and have a plan of action together and make sure each person understands what to do, or where to meet if you get separated or are not all together at the time of the evacuation. Of course, if an evacuation happens you probably will not remain as calm to remember what you should do, however, the more you talk about it and plan for it the more you will remember in the time of crisis.
Fire can happen to me and you, and let’s hope it doesn’t! The best thing you can do is be pro-active to protect your home, your belongings and your loved ones. If you have any questions regarding your home or your policies contact your agent and discuss your questions. If you have received a letter with mitigation requests or a non-renewal contact your agent as soon as possible to discuss your options. Again, every carrier is different and every policy is different! Make sure you are protected and if you really want your home to smell like campfire you can head on down to Bath and Body Works for that candle! But maybe get the wall plugin instead of something that uses fire…right?
For more information on how to set up an Evacuation Plan check out the website below from Cal Fire!
A: 201 Natoma St Folsom, CA 95630
P: (916)985-7500 F: (916)985-7302 T: (916)970-9349