By Steve Jacobs
Wildfires have been in the news in recent years, with increasingly alarming images popping up on TV and social media. With all of that in mind, it feels like a good time to discuss protection from fires, ranging from small house fires all the way up to the ones that make headlines.
We want to help you have the knowledge to do everything in your power to hopefully stop fires before they start, to protect yourself against them and to ensure you have a swift recovery if one were to ever happen at your home.
The name of the game when it comes to fire safety is prevention. With a home fire, this means taking steps to keep a fire from starting or, at worst, spreading.
Clean up any clutter, especially if it’s highly flammable. If your garage is stacked with cardboard boxes from the last time you moved, it might be time to start assessing what you need to keep and what you can get rid of. This is especially true if your home is older or has outdated wiring.
Speaking of electrical concerns, don’t contribute to risks by having more appliances or other electronic devices than necessary plugged into a single socket.
That basic prevention aside, there’s only so much you can do to prevent a wildfire if you’re vulnerable to one. Again, you can make sure you aren’t exacerbating the problem.
Create a buffer zone around your home and clear it of any fire hazards like overhanging branches and dry brush or even clogged gutters. Then make note of any structures that could increase your fire danger, like wooden porches or decks, and just be aware of them if a fire happens and starts to spread.
And no matter what kind of fire you may be protecting against, it’s always a good idea to create an inventory of all of your personal property before anything happens. This can be as simple as going room to room with a smartphone camera and taking pictures of the big items while keeping a record of what you have and what would need to be replaced. Place this photo inventory in a safe, fireproof location – or in online cloud storage – along with any of your most important documents you keep in the home.
In case something does happen, you want to have appropriate coverage in place. For starters, you’ll want a plan that covers the items inside the home, also known as personal property insurance. These items usually aren’t covered under a homeowners policy.
“As a good rule of thumb, a starting amount for personal property coverage should be about half the value of your home,” says Sean Scaturro, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM practitioner and USAA advice director. “If you have collectibles or other valuable personal property, getting coverage for those specific things makes financial sense.”
Valuable personal property (VPP) insurance is relatively inexpensive, with USAA plans starting as low as $4 a month, and it should be considered just as essential as home insurance. Know exactly what’s covered and what isn’t under your policy. If you’re at risk for named perils like wildfires, make sure they’re included.
Ultimately, you want to do everything in your power to stop a fire from happening in your dwelling, whether it’s started inside or outside.
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