Wildfire - Know Your Risk
Though the right conditions for wildfires can occur anywhere and at any time, the West and the Southeast experience the greatest risk for widespread destruction. You can find wildfire risk maps for your area at the American Red Cross website.
During the Season
If wildfires are a concern for your area, landscape with them in mind. Use plants and materials that contain fire instead of fueling it; for example, hardwood trees are less flammable than pines or evergreens. Treat wood used in roofing, siding, or decks with approved fire-retardant chemicals. Create a safety zone around your home of at least 30 feet cleared from twigs, leaves, and dead tree limbs. Remove tree limbs within 15 feet of the ground, and clear any vines from the walls of the house. Also make sure that the grass is frequently mowed during wildfire season. To be extra prepared, consider purchasing protective shutters or fire resistant drapes. For more tips, click here.
When Fire Threatens
Homeowners typically know about developing wildfires before they advance. If a wildfire threatens, and you have time to prepare your house before you evacuate, close all windows, vents, and doors. Also move flammable furniture to the center of a room. Turn on the lights so that firefighters will be able to locate your home in the blaze. Turn off propane and bring patio furniture inside. If you can, place your lawn sprinklers on your roof and near your fuel tanks. Wet or remove shrubs within 15 feet of your home. Locate and shut off your utilities before you evacuate. For more info, click here.
It may be hard for you to think about leaving your home under evacuation. Evacuations, however, are for your safety, the safety of those around you, and the safety of rescue workers. Follow evacuation orders to stay safe. Remember to include your pets in your evacuation plan and to thoroughly lock your house before leaving.
When You Return
When returning to your house after a disaster, take extreme caution. Unexpected hazards, such as natural gas leaks, could await you. Upon your return, take a post-disaster inventory, including photos and a list of damages to possessions and your home's structure. Proceed with minor repairs to prevent further damage from the elements and theft from looters. Temporary repairs are covered under typical insurance, so keep all receipts. Watch out, however, for contractors who require an exorbitant deposit up front and encourage high spending on temporary repairs. They could attempt to cheat you.
File a Claim
You should file a home insurance claim immediately after a covered event. The sooner you get the claims process moving, the sooner you can rebuild and get your life back to normal. The visible difference between your pre- and post-disaster inventories can work as a tool to help relations run smoothly between you and your insurance adjuster.