Friday, May 16, 2008

Be Prepared for California Fire Season

Be Prepared for California Fire Season

Fire season has been declared to be upon us now. You may have cleared your brush or you feel you live “far” from a potential fire area. A few years ago, during a fire that hit the Los Angeles and Ventura county areas, I thought my office was fairly safe until I heard that the voluntary evacuation area had been extended to my nearest intersection. My office was in the “wrong” corner of that intersection. Thankfully, the fire departments did a stellar job, and there was a minimal amount of property loss.

Besides getting your brush cleared, what other pre-cautions and preparations should you consider? Below is a list of “10” items to consider. Remember: be prepared. It is not if, but when!

Important Disaster Information for Homeowners Before the Disaster Occurs
1. Maintain a copy of critical records offsite that you will need when a disaster occurs.

2. Cost records for home and contents. We recommend that you create a cost based ledger or journal for each room of your house and office. Make sure you include escrow statements and improvement costs.

3. Keep extensive photographs of home and contents – including any art work and other collectibles.

4. If possible, assemble the original documentation and store it in a water-tight, fire-safe offsite location, not a bank safe deposit box.

5. Scan or create PDF files of the documents including tax returns and store them on data CDs – make multiple copies.

6. If you have significant valuables that are subject to appraisal, have an appraisal prepared at least every three to four years – including your real estate. Copies of these should be part of your data CD.

7. The data CD should also include photo documentation.
8. Plan ahead for a disaster:
a. Prepare and properly maintain a disaster preparedness kit.
b. Prepare a family disaster plan, where will you meet, under what conditions – include alternatives that are clear to all members.
c. Keep some supplies, including comfortable, safe shoes in your car at all times.
d. Establish an out-of-state contact person to call and to call all of your family.
e. Be aware that Cell Phone 911 calls may go to the Highway Patrol first, not your local county 911 dispatcher.

9. Insurance
a. Have you read your insurance policies lately? If you end up in a dispute with an insurance company, a common question is “when did you last read your insurance policy?”
b. Is your coverage consistent with your present risks?
c. Do you know what is not covered?
d. Was your home built many years ago, under a building code that is now outdated and for which you now need additional coverage?
e. Do you know if your cost to replace your assets is adequately insured?
f. Do you know that the cost to replace your home in a major disaster event will rise significantly? The cost to replace a cost-effective, production-line built home in a tract of homes will rise significantly when you are trying to replace your single edition of one of those homes.

10. With the possibility of fire, mudslide, earthquake, tsunami, and severe winds, all of California is subject to some form of natural disaster – don’t ignore the possibility. Take action today.

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