Key tips to protect your property in the event of a wildfire.
The 2015 wildfire season in Washington State brought unbelievable devastation and loss across the Pacific Northwest. All told from June – September of 2015, over a million acres across the state burned. The season was the largest in state history calling in over 3000 firefighters including those from international departments as well as 800 Washington State National Guard troops. Aside from significant loss and damage to property, tragically 3 U.S. Forest Service firefighters, Tom Zbyszewski, Andrew Zajac and Richard Wheeler lost their lives with four additional firefighters being injured.
Over 170 homes were lost and property losses were estimated to the tune of more than $10 million. Okanogan County alone lost over 90 single family residences, 86 cabins and well over 100 out buildings.
You may be asking yourself what can you do to prepare for an event like this? Here are a few tips from the Washington State Insurance Commissioner’s office that you can do to help prepare and protect your home from fire exposure-
- Use fire-resistant roofing or building materials.
- Installing a water pump or having access to a nearby water source.
- Clear a natural firebreak between your home and outbuildings, trees, bushes and uncut fields.
- Review your policy – Check your coverage regularly to make sure it includes adequate replacement coverage, in the event you suffer a loss.
- Buy special coverage to protect specific valuables, such as jewelry, fine art, and other items that may have limited coverage under your homeowner policy.
- Prepare a Household Inventory.
In addition, don’t rely on Federal Emergency Disaster Assistance. FEMA denied assistance for private wildfire losses in Washington State in three Eastern Washington counties who suffered uninsured losses during the 2015 season.
The good news in all of this is at least 2 carriers contract with Wildfire Defense Systems, Inc. (“WDS”) to help mitigate potential wildfire losses for their customers with homeowners policies. Both Safeco Insurance Company and Mutual of Enumclaw have Wildfire Defense Programs in place to monitor and contact policyholders who have homes in wildfire prone areas. The WDS programs through each carrier typically provide wildfire response services that may include;
- Pre-Suppression Services: This is not a first responder service; rather, work is performed in support of local, state and federal responders. Pre-suppression defensive measures may include emergency fuel mitigation, zone sprinkler system setup, fuel break preparation and fire blocking gel application.
- Threat Notification: Recurrent monitoring of wildfire activity.
- Coordination with Incident Command: The site incident command established by municipal fire departments, state or federal wildfire agencies. Radio communication capabilities include radio cloning to meet IC communications needs.
- Policyholder Assistance: Service to policyholders can extend to on-the-ground site visits for pre-mitigation work, evacuation assistance, home inspections and reporting while policyholder is evacuated as well as assistance with re-entry following evacuation.
- Government Affairs Support: WDS provides government affairs services to integrate the insurer response program with local, state, and federal wildfire agencies
These services are at no additional premium cost for homeowners policyholders with those carriers however, additional enrollment and waivers for the services may be required. If you have questions about your home, auto or business insurance, or to see if your current policy is applicable to any Wildfire Defense Program call the insurance agents at Pollock Insurance Agency in Burien, WA. Because we’re a Seattle insurance agency, we live where you do so we understand the unique options we have in the Northwest. With years of insurance experience we can easily help you insure everything from your home to your auto or business Insurance. Because we’re an independent insurance agent, we can help you find the right company to fit your needs. You can also check out our website, 24/7.