Fire Escape Plan

As Fire Prevention Month comes to a close, I want to remind you about the theme for this year: “Stay Fire Smart! Don’t Get Burned” There are many places to go to find safety tips and ways to prevent fires. But sometimes, a fire may be caused by an external event that is out of your control. This can leave you “burned” financially if you’re not prepared. I have a friend that had lost everything in a structure fire a couple of years ago. He had been out of town when the fire happened and came home to ashes. He was devastated for days.

Many of the things we own is material that may be easy to part with because it’s just “stuff”. We can always get a new wardrobe, tv, computer, but it costs money. It’s also hard to recreate those objects that we are emotionally attached to, like mementos, photo albums, manuscripts, awards, etc. Once they’re gone you feel like your whole past has been wiped out. Now is the time to prepare for this worst case scenario.

1. Have an escape plan (in case something happens when you are in the home), and review it regularly with your family. Everyone should know when/how to stop, drop and roll, in case your clothes catch fire. If windows have bars on them, make sure there is a way to release the bars so that you are not trapped in the home.

2. Create a household inventory, and review it periodically. This will help immensely in an insurance claim. Write down the serial numbers, brand, make, model of valuable and expensive items. Take photos of each room so you remember what was in each room. Once everything is gone, it’s difficult to recall from memory exactly what furniture and fixtures were in each room. The Insurance Information Institute provides a secure home inventory online at http://www.knowyourstuff.org.

3. Create a disaster supplies kit. This should be kept in a safe place that’s easily accessible if you are evacuated from your home. Use this checklist to help you get started.

4. Digitally store your memories and other important documents: There are things that you may not be able to replace because of their intrinsic value. But you can hold on to the memories by creating a backup of photos, creating digital images of awards/certificates and manuscripts/award-winning essays, and uploading them to external storage. Sites like SugarSync, MyOtherDrive, and mozy are examples of online backup that allow you to access your backed up files from almost anywhere on the web. (By the way, I don’t endorse any of these products. I have read numerous reviews online, and these seem to be the most popular and reliable. I encourage you to thoroughly research these to determine which works for your needs.)

5. Know what your hazard insurance policy covers and what is excluded. If you want to replace personal items that are lost or destroyed, you may need Contents Replacement coverage if it’s not already included. Loss of Use coverage will provide or reimburse funds used for food, rent, etc., if you are displaced from your home. Any valuables may also be covered by a floater, which provides additional coverage for specific items. Review your policy annually, and if you make any home renovations, whether it’s changing the kitchen cabinets, replacing carpet with hardwood, or extending the living room, let your agent know so that you are adequately covered.

With the constantly changing weather patterns around the country, especially here in California, fire season is year-round. Be prepared now, so that you “don’t get burned” later!

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