Catastrophes come in all types and sizes, and each one brings specific challenges.
The widespread property damage caused by natural disasters requires foresight and planning by insurers and their policyholders. The planning should take place long before the event occurs, or the insurer will fail in its management of the claims arising out of the catastrophe and its duties to its clients. The failure will lead to:
- Additional emotional and financial stress to the policyholders who are already trying to endure extremely trying times.
- Inefficient work by adjusters and the insurer’s vendors that results in poor outcomes at unnecessarily high costs and further delays resolution.
The pre-event planning and preparation for catastrophes can be even more important than the claims services that occur after the event, since inadequate planning may make it virtually impossible to handle the resulting claims appropriately.
In terms of loss, wildfire claims for the homeowner is even more devastating. In many cases, they have lost everything they didn’t take with them when they evacuated. Frequently in floods, hurricanes and even tornadoes, there may be some contents left behind – pictures, stuffed animals, furniture and other mementos. In a wildfire, all that is left are ashes and memories.
In October 2017, the Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa experienced just that. An entire neighborhood burned. It’s like a hurricane or tornado because it’s that level of devastation. There can be nothing left but a foundation to look at.
Without an inventory, on top of the loss of the dwelling structure, the homeowner is left to try to recreate from memory a list of what they owned. Photos of what the loss looked like prior to the fire coming through will save time and speed up your recovery process. The insurer needs to be able to somewhat reconstruct the home in order to complete an estimate. Your inventory and photos saved to the cloud or some other offsite entity will help in reconstructing both the house and the contents for the insurance claim.
We provide two sets of inventory reports and photos when we conduct every inventory, save one in a fireproof box or safe deposit box at a bank, save one in your emergency kit. We also recommend uploading one copy to the cloud. We can quickly duplicate as many copies as you like to store in other multiple locations.
No one can be totally prepared for everything, but taking steps before a disaster strikes can minimize the impact for insurers and their policyholders.
Here are some recommendations to help prepare for a wide variety of catastrophes.
- Prepare a photo inventory of your home or office going room by room and taking digital photos of the contents. Pay particular attention to antiques, unique works of art, office equipment and any irreplaceable items. Memories become fuzzy and establishing the value of heavily damaged items becomes a challenge after the fact. Your inventory can and should include a copy of your insurance policy and other key documents for quick access in one place.
- Create an emergency disaster kit with items like batteries, bottled water, canned goods and a can opener, matches and flashlights in case a disaster hits with little notice. Most people have these items in their homes, but tracking them all down when the lights are out can be a challenge.
- Prepare a file with all insurance policies, the photo inventory, names of contractors — e.g., roofer, plumber, electrician, disaster restoration company, etc. and keep this in a safe but accessible location.
- Create a plan in case a disaster hits without warning.
- Convert paper files to electronic files when possible.
- Create a contact phone tree with cell phone numbers, distribute the emergency numbers and test the process before a disaster hits.
Summer is right around the corner and with the warmer temperatures comes more risk of fire. Even if you are diligent with protecting your property with proper landscaping and brush containment, your neighbors may not.
They don’t build homes and furniture like they used to. Now, they burn faster.
New technologies and product advancements are making us more efficient and more productive. But there is a cost, and that cost is risk. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), while the number of home fires that occur each year has fallen by nearly 50 percent since 1977, the total amount of resulting property damage (in dollars) is increasing.
Homes today burn an estimated eight times faster than in past decades. In fact, flashover, the point at which intense heat causes an entire room to become engulfed in flames, now occurs less than five minutes after a fire starts, whereas it used to take 30 minutes.
Newer homes are constructed and furnished differently than in the past. Specifically:
Building materials. Years ago, a 2×4 actually measured 2 inches by 4 inches. Today, due to the way lumber is mass-produced, it’s 1.5 inches by 3.5 inches. Though the change is slight, consider all of the 2×4’s that make up a home’s frame and the difference in materials becomes significant. Less material to burn means a faster collapse time.
Open layouts. Open-concept floor plans and vaulted ceilings prevalent in today’s designs allow fires to spread more quickly than the compartmentalized designs of older homes
Synthetic furnishings. Carpets, drapes, cushions, pillows and even mattresses are typically made of synthetic materials that contain plastic or polyurethane foam. These burn as quickly as gasoline and often produce a thick, black, toxic smoke making firefighting difficult.
Larger constructions. Homes are built larger today than they once were. Bigger homes often include more furnishings and personal contents, increasing the fuel load.
Window constructions. With increased fuel loads in houses, the amount of oxygen available to feed the fire has become the limiting factor, making windows an important component.