Consumer Advisory: Wildfire mitigation & insurance tips

Even for the average wildfire season projected, being prepared is key.

DENVER (April 28, 2016) – Recently, Governor John Hickenlooper and the Division of Fire Prevention and Control provided the 2016 wildfire outlook for the state, noting that we could expect an average year for wildfires.  However, that can still mean up to 3,000 wildfires. 
With this information in mind, the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), offers some tips on wildfire mitigation and homeowners insurance. 
 
Mitigation is the key to reducing the threat.
While insurance can provide some financial security for your family, fire prevention should be your top priority.  In addition to making your home safer, adding fire-resistant features could lead to discounts on your future homeowners insurance premiums that may help offset your costs.  With the large number of wildfires in the last few years in Colorado, insurance companies will often require homeowners who live in wildfire areas to mitigate fire hazards on their property.  Below are some mitigation steps you can take now in preparation for the dry summer months ahead.  Local fire officials, as well as your homeowners insurance company, can also provide tips and resources for a mitigation plan.
  • Use fire-resistant materials in the structure of your home, especially the roof, which is most vulnerable. 
  • Clear a safety zone around your home and remove trees, leaves, brush and pine needles.  Clear at least 100 feet, but 200 – 500 feet is recommended.  Also remove overhanging tree branches near your home.
  • Be sure propane or fuel tanks are at least 30 feet away from all structures. 
  • Inside your home, keep smoke detectors and fire extinguishers working properly. 
  • Acquire a water storage tank if you do not have access to a community water system or water hydrant.  Have garden hoses that reach all areas of the property.  Keep them visible and in accessible areas. 
  • Be sure your entrance road is accessible.  Inaccessible roads can prevent fire-fighting equipment from reaching your home quickly.  The street address should be easily visible from the entrance to the property so emergency responders are not delayed.
Insurance - Review your policy and create a home inventory.
Many Coloradans may not need special insurance for wildfires because this type of disaster is covered under the fire damage provisions of a basic homeowners policy.  However, the insurance coverage you need depends upon many factors, including the type of home or building you own, its contents, and whether you have a home-based business.  Along with wildfire mitigation, insurance companies also consider other factors such as the type of construction and materials of your home, and the distance to a fire hydrant or fire station.  Read your policy and talk to your agent to make sure you have the proper coverage for your property before a fire hits.
  • Know what type of policy you have.  Actual cash value (ACV) policies cover only what the property is worth at the time it is damaged, less the deductible.  Replacement cost policies initially pay the ACV, minus the deductible, but once the property is replaced, will pay the difference between the actual cash value and the replacement cost.  Your policy should also take into account the cost of cleanup, especially after a wildfire. 
  • Review your policy and coverage limits annually to make sure it keeps pace with construction costs.
  • You should have a home inventory, as only an owner knows what’s been lost as a result of a fire, theft or other damages.  The DOI is a member of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which offers a home inventory app – MyHome Scr.APP.book.  It helps in identifying losses after a disaster, but can also help you determine how much homeowners insurance you need.  The app is available from iTunes and Android.   You can also find a downloadable home inventory checklist on the Division’s website, dora.colorado.gov/insurance – click on “Brochures and Reports.”    
  • Provide enough information to your agent or insurance company to make sure you purchase the right coverage.  Be sure that you fully understand the contract you sign.  Keep your insurance agent or company updated on any changes that will impact the coverage. 
If you still have questions about your insurance, the Division of Insurance has experts to help.  Contact us at 303-894-7490 / 1-800-930-3745 (outside of the Denver metro area) / DORA_insurance@state.co.us.  For more information, visit AskDORA.colorado.gov.
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The Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) regulates the insurance industry and assists consumers and other stakeholders with insurance issues.  Visit dora.colorado.gov/insurance for more information or call 303-894-7499 / toll free 800-930-3745. DORA is dedicated to preserving the integrity of the marketplace and is committed to promoting a fair and competitive business environment in Colorado. Consumer protection is our mission. Visit dora.colorado.gov for more information or call 303-894-7855 / toll free 1-800-886-7675
 

Media Contact:
Vincent Plymell
Division of Insurance
p: 303-894-2261 | c: 303-910-9614