Consumer Advisory: Preparing for the 2017 Wildfire Season
Mitigation information and insurance tips.
DENVER (June 7, 2017) – In April, Colorado’s Division of Fire Prevention and Control issued its 2017 wildfire outlook for the state. Models currently indicate that the state can expect an average or possibly even below average wildfire season. While that’s good news, such a forecast can still mean plenty of fires, because even though the weather looks to be more favorable this summer, there is still plenty of fuel in the mountains.
Because it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when” for wildfires, the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), wants consumers to understand the importance of mitigation, while understanding a couple of helpful tips about homeowners insurance.
Mitigation - Reducing the threat
Insurance is there to provide financial security for your family, but fire prevention and the prevention of damage to your home should be your top priority. Adding fire-resistant features can make your home safer, and thus could lead to discounts on your future homeowners insurance premiums. Because wildfires have become common, most insurance companies now require homeowners who live in wildfire areas to mitigate fire hazards on their property. Below is a list of mitigation steps you can take 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. Create a zone of at least 100 feet, but know that 200 to 500 feet is often recommended. Also remove overhanging tree branches near your home.
- Be sure propane or fuel tanks are at least 30 feet away from all structures.
- Keep the smoke detectors and fire extinguishers inside your home working properly.
- If you do not have access to a community water system or water hydrant, get a water storage tank. Make sure your garden hoses reach all areas of the property, and 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 - Know your policy / Create a home inventory
Most people in Colorado likely do not need special insurance for wildfires, as such disasters are typically 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 and/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 only cover what the property is worth at the time it is damaged, minus the deductible. Replacement cost policies initially pay the ACV, less 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 for iPhones and Androids. You can also use a downloadable paper inventory to get started.
- Give 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.
The Rocky Mountain Insurance & Information Association (RMIIA) offers good information on the importance of mitigation on their site for Wildfire and Insurance, as well as facts and figures regarding wildfires in Colorado. And the Colorado Association of Realtors’ Colorado Project Wildfire offers more resources and even a toolkit to help homeowners mitigate their property.
If you still have questions about your insurance and the insurance process, 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.
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.