Wildfire season has started. California has predictably caught fire, but they aren’t the only ones. Several states are experiencing wildfires across the country. Even here in Cache Valley, we’re seeing smoke from fires darken our skies on some days. Some fires are active in the state and more can be expected. Some start from people being careless, others start simply because the brush is dry and just waiting to go up. There’s not much you can do to stop it. What you can do is make sure your home is protected with good insurance and an evacuation plan.
I had the chance to talk to Alpine Cleaning and Restoration, a company that handles fire damage restoration (among many other services) in Northern Utah and was shocked to learn just how underinsured they’ve found many of their clients to be. While they do their best to work with insurance companies to get the most they can out of them, insurance companies aren’t so nice. If you don’t have good insurance, they simply won’t cover you.
What’s Causing Fires?
The causes of the fires here in Utah are pretty varied. Lightning is a common trigger for wildfires around here, which is completely outside of our control. At other times, dry grass goes up if a car with a hot exhaust pipe parks too near. Improperly used fireworks and poorly tended campfires are some easily avoidable causes. In the past, there’s even been one case of an eagle getting shocked by an electrical wire, catching fire, and then falling into a clump of dry weeds.
But wildfires aren’t the only fires to worry about. According to Alpine, some of the causes their clients have reported include a hoverboard exploding while it was charging, a Tesla battery catching fire, overloaded or cheaply installed circuits creating sparks, clutter around buildings blocking firefighter access in response to small flames, and a disturbing amount of arson. All of these were unpredictable, though many could have been prevented with some fire safety procedures. Many of these victims found out only afterward that they were underinsured.
Fire Insurance Matters
Temperatures are continuing to rise and fires are becoming increasingly common around the country. There’s no reason to believe that this trend is simply going to stop any time soon. That’s why it’s really important to make sure your fire insurance policy covers your needs.
1. Get The Right Package
There are many levels of coverage for fire insurance. You need to review your policy closely and press your agent for answers on anything you don’t understand. Never forget that an insurance company is a business first and foremost. If given a choice, they will always put their financial interests above your personal needs. Make sure you know exactly what coverage you’re getting and look into any plans the agent is pushing. It may not be right for you.
2. Know The Value Of Your Home
It’s important to know just how much your home and possessions are worth. This includes updating your records to show changes in its value – most homes will grow in value over time, especially if you take care of them, or expand them. Take time to get video documentation of your home and possessions so it’s all accounted for in estimates. Use this information to determine if your coverage will actually cover your needs.
3. Purchase Replacement Cost Instead of Cash Value
Cash value policies will take depreciation into account in determining how much money they owe you. So, if your home depreciates by 50 to 100 thousand dollars, they’ll take that out of the money you get from your policy when its time to cash in. Replacement cost policies instead go by how much money it would cost to replace your home and possessions. It will ensure that you get enough money to replace what you lose in a fire.
4. Ask About Guaranteed Replacement
Some insurance policies will offer a guaranteed replacement policy. This means that even if the amount needed to replace your home goes above your policy limit, it will still be covered. This does mean you have to insure 100% of your home, which can be expensive, but the option may be worth it.
5. Don’t Forget About Disaster Living Expenses
Even if your home is fully covered, you can still be left footing the bill for a fire in the form of hotel stays. For this, most insurance companies will offer additional coverage for these fees if your home is damaged to the point that it’s completely uninhabitable. Considering that it’s not unheard of for fires to keep people out of their homes for up to a year, this is a smart idea. While this coverage will usually have an upper limit (around 20% of the costs in most cases), it’s better than paying for it all by yourself.
While we always hope that we’ll never have to deal with a fire, there’s no way to guarantee it. Even if you take all the safety precautions, accidents happen. It may not even be an accident you cause. With wildfires and house fires becoming more of an issue for people all across the country, it’s important to be prepared. Check up on your insurance policy and make sure you’ve got the coverage you need!