Often, wildfires start unnoticed and spread rapidly. If you live in the vicinity of an urban development near wildlands, or on a remote hillside, in a valley, prairie, forest or brushland where flammable vegetation is abundant, your home or property could be vulnerable to wildfires. Take the necessary precautions to ready you and your family, and prepare your property for an incoming wildfire.

Learn how to protect what matters most, evacuate safely and stay healthy post-wildfire. Gallagher is here to help you understand and mitigate risks, as well as help you prepare your home and property for wildfires and forest fires.

Before a Wildfire Occurs: Review your Policies and Coverages

Planning and preparation can make a huge difference in staying safe during and rebounding after a wildfire. Recovering quickly from such a wildfire requires advanced planning, knowledge of what to do in the event of a wildfire, and how to report losses.

In anticipation of a wildfire, it is never too early to start talking to your Gallagher advisor to be sure you secure appropriate coverage, update your current property information, and understand what is covered with your current policy. It’s critical you secure the appropriate insurance coverage.

Pre-Planning: Preparing your Home & Property before a Wildfire

Awareness and preparation are key factors in minimizing risks during a wildfire. By understanding your vulnerabilities and proper planning, you can reduce the detrimental effects to your home and personal property, and ensure the safety of your family and loved ones.

Create a Wildfire Emergency Plan and Kit

If you live in an area prone to wildfires, we recommend creating a personal emergency wildfire evacuation plan to ensure you and your family are prepared. You must also have an action strategy plan if you receive a wildfire evacuation alert. We recommend the following as essential emergency items to create and review on an annual basis:

  1. Create an Emergency Kit. Maintain an emergency supply kit that will sustain you and your family for a 72-hour period. The American Red Cross has guidelines on how to build a survival kit.
  2. Practice moving quickly to your protective location. Plan with other family members how to move to a second location, including how much time to reach your destination.
  3. Communicate with family members. In case you are not together when a wildfire evacuation alert is issued, have a plan on how to reach each other. Texts are faster than phone calls and keeping important numbers stored in your wallet is essential.
  4. Develop an Emergency Contact List. Develop a contact list and evacuation location for all family members. Include contact procedures post-wildfire.
  5. Practice first aid skills and emergency response actions. Attend training classes and practice response skills so you know how to administer first aid to any injured parties before professional help arrives.
  6. Secure important documents. Keep all important documents, such as legal papers, birth certificates, marriage license, financial papers and insurance policy information in a safety deposit box or fireproof and waterproof box.

Prepare your Home & Property for a Wildfire

Wildfires have the power to destroy almost everything in their path. Flying embers can also destroy items. Here are ways you can help safeguard your home from a wildfire.

  • Replace exterior siding with fire-resistant material, such as stucco, brick or concrete masonry and extend materials from the foundation to the roof.
  • Seal the open edges of a barrel tile roof with grout to keep embers from blowing up under the roof.
  • Use 1/8 inch or smaller metal mesh or ember-proof vents to cover attic and subfloor vents.
  • When possible, construct decks and fences from fire-resistant materials.
  • Treat existing wood decks and siding with fire retardant coating.
  • Avoid landscaping with bark or wood chip mulch.
  • Keep your grass short.
  • Maintain at least 100 feet of adequately watered space on level ground and 200 feet on sloped terrain around your home.
  • Position wood piles at least 30 feet from any structure, and cover with a heavy canvas tarp.
  • Install dual-pane windows to reduce risk of extreme heat.
  • Replace wood shake with a Class A fire-resistant roof, such as concrete, tile, metal or composition shingle.
  • Remove all flammable window shades and lightweight curtains.
  • Shut off gas at meter and turn off pilot lights.
  • Shut off air conditioning.
  • Leave your lights on so firefighters can see your house under smoky conditions.
  • Shut all windows and doors, and leave them unlocked.

Evacuation Steps during a Wildfire

When a wildfire evacuation is anticipated, follow these steps below to give you and your family the best chance of surviving a wildfire.

  • Heed evacuation warnings. It may seem like you have time, but conditions can change in an instant, making evacuation more difficult. In addition, leaving when ordered by local officials clears the roads so firefighters can get necessary equipment in place to fight the fire.
  • If you have time, remove flammable materials, such as portable propane tanks, outdoor furniture and vehicles, from around your home.
  • Close all windows and doors to prevent embers from entering the home.
  • Post a sign outside your home for firefighters with your name and contact numbers. Include when you evacuated, if there are animals on the property, and where to turn on fire suppression systems or hydrant locations, etc.
  • When evacuating, prepare yourself for exposure to heat and embers. If possible, wear long pants made from 100% cotton, a long-sleeved shirt, heavy boots or shoes, a dry bandanna for face cover, and goggles or glasses to protect your eyes.
  • Locate your pets and take them with you, along with a supply of food and water.
  • Shut off the gas to the home to prevent an ignition source.
  • Turn on a light in each room to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.

Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim after a Wildfire

You may have suffered home and property damage as a result of the wildfire. The best way to notify your claims handler of a home insurance claim is to immediately and directly report it. It is important that your claims handler receive this information as quickly as possible so they can begin the claims resolution process. If you need assistance reporting your home insurance claim, please contact your Gallagher advisor.

Claims Contacts for Home & Property

Starting a Homeowners Insurance Claim after a Wildfire

In order for a claim to be initiated and investigation to begin, the claim handler must have as much detail as possible. The following is recommended:

  • Photographs and/or video of the damage are extremely helpful.
  • A preliminary list of damages.
  • Secure your location(s) to prevent further loss and begin to sort damaged items from the undamaged items.

Claims Process due to Wildfire Damage: What to Expect

Throughout the claim investigation process, you may have various coverage-related questions. Please reach out to your Gallagher advisor with specific policy and claim questions. During this high-volume claim reporting period, you should anticipate the following:

  • Initial contact may take some time. Some insurers may use adjusters under contract, so the adjuster’s contact information may appear different than expected.
  • Limited access to affected areas.
  • Competition for labor and materials will be high, which may impact the timeframe and costs associated with repair and remediation.
  • Working closely with your claims adjuster. If you have questions regarding the resolution process, Gallagher is here to assist and ensure you are in control of the claim progress.

Your insurance company website will contain important information about how to handle claims and manage losses. We have listed many insurance companies in the event you do not have the contact information readily available.

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