7951 E. Maplewood Avenue, Suite 110
Greenwood Village, Colorado 80111
Serving Colorado, New Mexico, Utah & Wyoming
Carole Walker, Executive Director
303-790-0216 or toll free 800-355-9524
Western Wildfires Rage Out of Control: Make Sure You Have a Plan & Are Insurance Ready
June 11, 2012 – It has been a terrifying week for many residents in the Rocky Mountain Region forced out of their homes as they fled from the flames of several large, out-of-control wildfires. The High Park Fire northwest of Fort Collins, Colorado, and a fire just outside of Ruidoso, New Mexico, have already claimed dozens of structures and left thousands evacuated. That should set off warning bells for homeowners. Now is the time to develop an evacuation plan and make sure you have insurance protection for your home and personal belongings.
"Thousands of homeowners found themselves in the path of dangerous wildfires this week," says Carole Walker, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. "Unfortunately, most people don't think about how they will escape and what insurance protection they have to rebuild and replace their belongings until something unthinkable occurs."
Western states are already experiencing an extremely active wildfire and severe weather season, so people should review what their insurance covers, policy dollar limits and protection for personal belongings. Most insurance policies also cover additional living expenses if you are unable to live in your house or apartment because of a fire or other covered peril. Most policies will reimburse you the difference between your additional living expenses and your normal living expenses, but do have set limits on the amount they will pay and may be subject to a deductible.
RMIIA offers this insurance checklist:
- DEVELOP AN EVACUATION PLAN
In addition to developing an escape plan, another key to a good evacuation plan is to consider what you will need most when you are forced to leave your home on a moment's notice. Make copies or scans of important financial and personal documents, including insurance policies. You should email or send these to relatives or friends out-of-state to ensure they aren't left behind.
- CREATE A HOME INVENTORY
Make a home inventory that includes lists, pictures or a videotape of the contents of your home or apartment. 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 get your insurance claim settled faster, verify losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the correct amount of insurance.
It's easy to get overwhelmed, but RMIIA now has free software that you can download to help simplify the process! You can even add digital photos and scan in receipts, along with your room-by-room online inventory. Log on to www.rmiia.org for free home inventory software or a sample home inventory.
- DO AN ANNUAL INSURANCE CHECK UP
Insurance is something most people don't even want to think about until they need it the most. But, understanding what is and isn't covered in your homeowners insurance policy can mean the difference of being able to rebuild your home and replace your personal belongings. Homeowners need to do annual insurance policy "check ups" to make sure they keep up with local building costs and have adjusted their coverage to include home remodeling and additions. If you don't have replacement coverage, consider spending a few extra dollars for coverage that pays for the cost of replacing the damaged property without deduction for depreciation.
- KNOW WHAT IS & ISN'T COVERED
The typical homeowners insurance policy covers damage resulting from fire, windstorm, hail, water damage (excluding flooding), riots and explosion as well as other causes of loss, such as theft and the extra cost of living elsewhere while the structure is being repaired or rebuilt. Ask about extra coverage endorsements to help pay for building code upgrades.
Your policy also covers your legal liability (up to policy limits) if you, members of your family or even your pets hurt other people or their property, not just in your house, but away from it, as well. If you have a lot of assets to protect, you may want to consider an umbrella policy that offers increased protection against lawsuits.
The standard policy does not cover flooding, so you may want to look into flood insurance coverage if you're concerned that you're at risk for rising floodwaters. Flood insurance must be purchased 30 days in advance of a flood claim.
For more consumer information on insurance topics, logon to www.rmiia.org.
Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association is a non-profit consumer information organization. Affiliated with the Insurance Information Institute, RMIIA has been serving consumers and the media since 1952.