Homeowner’s insurance in fire-prone areas is becoming more challenging to procure. We have seen an increase in the severity and spread of wildfires in recent years. The Western US is in the midst of the worst drought in 1,200 years, which leads to conditions that exacerbate wildfires. And wildfires are burning across much of the US and the world, putting lives and property at risk.
But there are things homeowners can do to make their homes more insurable in these fire-prone areas. Share these tips with your policyholders to help them keep their homes more insurable.
Learn About Your Wildfire Risk First
FEMA recommends homeowners in fire-prone areas first seek to understand their fire risk — then they can take action to mitigate their risk. Consider a two-pronged approach to learning more about your property’s fire risk:
- Research the history of wildfires in your area and on your specific property. Has your acreage burned recently? Is there a history of wildfires in the surrounding areas? How do the wildfires that burn in your area typically move? If there has not been a fire recently, your property could be at higher risk if there is a build-up of fuel materials, like downed trees, dried brush, or dead vegetation. Consider a professional risk assessment of your property. The federal government provides resources through its community wildfire risk site.
- Learn about your community’s wildfire response. Consider how accessible your property is to fire crews — and how that access may differ during an emergency. For example, will access routes remain open? Are the roads to your home evacuation routes? Are roads leading to your home clearly marked and accessible to fire trucks? Make sure your home number is well labeled and visible from the street. Look at the history of fires in your area and how the community managed these events. This can help you decide what risk management measures to implement.
Tips to Make Homes More Insurable in Fire-Prone Areas
Now that you better understand your fire risk, you can implement appropriate risk management techniques to help make your home more insurable.
Create a defensible zone around your home. The area immediately surrounding your home should be a defensible space. This means it is a safe space to fight fires. Removing dead vegetation and combustible material from the zone around your home is an excellent place to start.
Use fire-resistant, sustainable building materials. When making improvements to your home, consider how you can make your home more fire-resistant. That includes using fire-resistant building materials like stucco, metal, or concrete and installing a roof made of non-combustible materials. If you have wood siding you cannot replace, treat it regularly with fire-retardant chemicals. The protection from these chemicals is not permanent and needs regular reapplications. Shatter-resistant glass and non-combustible awnings can help protect windows.
Keep on top of maintenance and outside clean-up. Clear gutters of debris and keep your roof clear of plant material. Make sure to enclose any spaces under porches or eaves and keep them clean of leaves and other flammable waste. Clear your yard of dead brush regularly and keep firewood stored away from your home and other structures. Your propane tank and grill should be at least 15 feet from structures, and it’s a good idea to clear the area immediately around the grill of landscaping materials and debris.
In addition to protecting your home from fire risk, consider how you can reduce your likelihood of starting a wildfire.
- Install spark arrestors on top of chimneys and stovepipes. Embers from your chimney can escape and spark a fire. Use spark arrestors to cover chimney openings and reduce this risk.
- Don’t use fire in careless ways. Wildfires have started both by nature and people in recent years. Gender reveal parties, like the fatal El Dorado fire, have caused wildfires. And in July 2022, a man started a wildfire in Utah while attempting to exterminate a spider with a lighter.
- Teach children the importance of fire safety. Smokey the Bear has been educating kids and families about campfire safety and forest fire prevention for decades with free and engaging resources. If you camp, learn together how to protect yourselves and the environment.
Share these helpful tips with your policyholders in wildfire-prone areas.
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