Protecting Your Home from Wildfires

Friday, September 11, 2015

wildfire-burningYou may have noticed a thick blanket of smoke over your city last month. Perhaps you found it difficult to breathe, your allergies kicked in, or your asthma worsened. That smoke was from the raging wildfires in Western Canada and the United States. In Alberta alone, there were over 1,300 wildfires by mid-July, compared to just over 800 at the same time last year. In some areas, there are not enough resources to fight them.

Wildfires are powerful, and if they get out of control, they consume everything in their path including homes and private properties.

While it is an unfortunate reality that many people lose their homes and possessions in wildfires, it pays to be informed about your insurance coverage, how to protect your home and belongings in the event of fire, and what to do if you’re forced to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

Home insurance

  • Fire damage to your home and belongings is covered by most home insurance policies. You may want to double check what your policy entails, especially if you live in a rural area prone to wildfires.
  • If you are forced to leave your home by government order, your insurance company will most likely cover your living expenses up to the limit on your policy. Just be sure to keep your receipts as a record for your insurance company.
  • Your policy should also cover your home against smoke damage or damage caused by firefighters in an effort to put out the flames.
  • It’s always a good idea to keep a household inventory for insurance purposes in the event of an emergency.

Things to do to protect your home

While no one likes to think of the possibility of a wildfire reaching their home, there are some practical things you can do keep your property fire-smart and your family safe from fire:

  • Keep the 10 metres surrounding your house clear of debris, shrubs, wood, or any other fuel source.
  • Choose fire-resilient materials like tile, clay, metal, or slate for your house and roof.
  • Exterior materials on your house like stucco, concrete or brick are more fire-resistant than wood or vinyl.
  • Install smoke detectors in your house - be sure to check the batteries regularly, and have working fire extinguishers readily accessible.
  • Do not store propane or gas tanks under your deck.
  • Keep all doors clear in case of emergency evacuation.

What to do if a wildfire is threatening your home

If you live in a wildfire prone area, you know that a fire can roar to life very quickly. Should you be ordered to evacuate your home, you must do it right away without delay. Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice keeping these things in mind:

  • Have an emergency supply kit packed and ready with food, water, medications, important documents, spare sets of keys, and a first-aid kit that you can grab in a hurry if ordered to leave your home.
  • Keep fire extinguishers near and fill tubs and sinks with water to extinguish spot fires if they start.
  • Close all doors and windows to keep flying embers from igniting inside your home.
  • Dress in long-sleeved cotton shirts and long pants to prevent burns.
  • If there is smoke present, crawl on your hands and knees on the floor to avoid smoke inhalation.
  • Call 911 if you see a fire before the authorities do.

Wildfires can be terrifying events. By taking the necessary precautions, fire-proofing your home and understanding your insurance policy, you can help mitigate any damage to your home and keep your family safe.

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