By Christina Whipple
July 13, 2018 (San Diego's East County) - Sorry to disappoint folks; you don't need to be a zombie-killing-doomsday-prepper to be prepared. (Although some of those paracord bracelets look pretty cool...) Since there is so much information available, it can be overwhelming to start any type of preparedness plan. I'll make it easy for you. First, read the article: Peace-of-Mind 3-10 Minute Evacuation Plan for Wildfires - Part 1. Second, implement the suggestions in that article.
Once you've completed the Family Disaster Plan and Personal Survival Guide, you are way ahead of most folks! Well done. The next part of preparation before a disaster, will take a little more time because dealing with insurance issues is never quick. However, apart from the safety of your loved ones, the single biggest thing to provide peace-of-mind after a disaster is the knowledge that you have adequate insurance.
Many people, my father and I included, were vastly under-insured following the 2003 and 2007 wildfires. If you choose the backcountry lifestyle, insurance is now a huge part of your life whether you like it or not. "But", you say, "I've been a loyal customer with XYZ Insurance for 30 years! They promised me that I'd be in good hands!" Guess what, folks, there is no "loyalty" in the insurance industry; they are a business, not a member of your family. Insurers left California in droves after the 2003 and 2007 wildfires and it is still happening. Channel 10 recently ran a story about AAA opting not to renew homeowner policies in fire-prone areas.
Pay attention to the insurance on your home and vehicles just as you do for your medical insurance. Review the policies every year about a month before the final annual payment is due. Many insurers will offer an automatic inflation guard endorsement to keep up with the current cost of reconstruction and increase in property values. Even though this means your premium may increase, it will protect you in the event of a loss due to a disaster.
Here are some key points to discuss with your current insurance carrier.
IF YOU ARE A RENTER: Get Renter's Insurance. Start comparing prices for coverage with the company that currently insures your car.
IF YOU OWN YOUR HOME: Buy the best homeowners insurance possible, and make sure you have these two very important coverages: "Replacement Coverage AND Extended Replacement Cost":
Replacement Coverage. Replacement Cost Coverage provides you with a payment sufficient to replace lost items at today's cost.
Extended Replacement Cost. An extended replacement cost policy usually provides around 20% of extra coverage to provide protection against such things as a sudden increase in construction costs due to newer building codes. (Following the 2003 wildfires, construction costs to rebuild homes more than doubled because of supply and demand. Additionally, San Diego County began implementing mandated upgrades necessary for rebuilt homes for increased fire resistance such as closed eaves, fire resistant doors and windows, etc.)
Ask if your policy has an "Allowable Living Expense” (ALE) if you have to live elsewhere until repair or replacement is made after an emergency. Ask if it is a one or two-year term and what is the maximum dollar cap.
IF YOU ARE A LANDLORD: Get the maximum possible Landlord Insurance. Send a written notice once a year to your renter and tell them they must have renter's insurance. Include a statement similar to this: "Landlord insurance policies cover only the building itself where you live. My policies do NOT cover any of your belongings against damage or disappearance, nor do they cover you for negligence should you, for example, leave a burner going under a pan and start a fire which damages the kitchen."
You probably need a break after all that insurance stuff, so here are some other tasks to do with your family. Have "fire drills" just like they do in school. Make a list and assign different jobs to different family members. Example: Make your 12-year-old responsible for getting the dog crate and putting it in the car with the pet inside. Make sure each family member knows "their job". If you have younger children, practice with questions like these:
"What happens if you smell smoke?"
"Where do you gather for a fire drill at home?"
"Do you come back into the house for ANY reason once you've gone to the safe place outside? (Answer: NO!)
"What if your cat or dog or an adult family member is still in the house? (Answer: NO!)
Give a prize for who can yell "FIRE FIRE FIRE" the loudest as they exit the home. Keep it fun; make the rewards special and make sure each child gets a chance to "win".
If you've done everything suggested in both articles, then you are ready to evacuate in just minutes with peace-of-mind. You will have a PRE-ESTABLISHED plan to "grab" the most essential items and meet up with loved ones even if you are unable to reach others by phone or text.
You are AWESOME!