7951 E. Maplewood Avenue, Suite 110
Greenwood Village, Colorado 80111
Serving Colorado, New Mexico, Utah & Wyoming
Contact: Carole Walker, Executive Director
303-790-0216 or toll free 800-355-9524
Insurance Advice for Residents in the Path of the Las Conchas Wildfire & A Warning for All New Mexico Residents to Be Prepared During Wildfire Season.
June 28, 2011 – As the massive Las Conchas fire continues to burn out of control this morning, residents evacuated as a result of the blaze need to contact their insurance agents or company representatives immediately to provide them with emergency contact information. For homeowners or renters who are under a mandatory evacuation order they may have insurance coverage for "additional living expenses" or "prohibited use" which provides them with a certain amount of out-of-pocket money under their insurance policy while they are forced out of their homes.
"Evacuated residents should contact their insurance agent or company representative immediately to let their company know how they can be reached and if they need additional living expenses while they are forced out of their home," says Carole Walker, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. "As residents are allowed to return to their homes, document any damage and take photographs to provide to your insurance adjuster."
In 2000, Los Alamos suffered the state's most costly wildfire as the result of the Cerro Grande Fire destroying more than 220 homes and causing $174 million in insured losses (adjusted for inflation in today's dollars). The federal government also paid out homeowner and business claims as it was determined that the fire ignited as the result of a controlled burn by the U.S. Park Service.
RMIIA has this insurance advice for homeowners affected by wildfire:
- 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.
- 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.
In case of possible evacuation – only if you have enough warning – consider packing the following items:
- 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
With New Mexico's dangerous wildfire conditions, RMIIA recommends this insurance checklist for residents not currently in the path of the Las Conchas Fire:
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.
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.
Log on to www.rmiia.org for more information.
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.