What home owners should know when wildfire strikes: BCAA

July 14, 2010 – Images of this week’s Peachland wildfire and Armstrong sawmill fire offer vivid reminders of the devastation fire can have on homes, personal property and residents’ peace of mind. Both Okanagan fires quickly ballooned after erupting and forced evacuations of over sixty people from their homes in the Peachland area and nearly 250 people near Armstrong.

Spontaneous outdoor fires can be unpredictable and can take days to be contained. It took two days to contain the Armstrong blaze and one day to get the Seclusion Bay Resort fire to a manageable level.

BCAA recognizes major fires and evacuations are stressful and worrisome for nearby residents. To help homeowners and tenants get organized and protect their homes, vehicles and other belongings in the event of a large fire, BCAA offers the following tips and advice. BCAA also advises residents and vacation property owners in areas at high risk for wildfires to review their insurance policies to ensure they are accurate, current, and will provide adequate coverage in the event of a fire loss.

For those on evacuation:

  • Contact your insurance agent to learn precisely what your policy covers. Many people simply renew their insurance year after year without reviewing their coverage.
  • To make a claim or to obtain emergency funds, contact your insurance company right away. Most companies have a 24-hour emergency claims line. Your insurance provider will be able to explain the coverage you have available and the process for making a claim.

For those on evacuation alert:

  • Move valuables and irreplaceable items to a safe location.
  • Locate vital documents (e.g. passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, etc.) and other critical items such as prescription medication. Keep them handy and ready to move if evacuated.
  • Take photos or video recordings of items in the home that are not able to be moved (e.g. furniture, antiques, electronics). Do the same with any landscaping such as trees, shrubs and plants.
  • Move additional vehicles (such as RVs, boats, antique cars) to a safe location. Basic liability insurance may be obtained to move vehicles, but coverage for physical damage may not be currently available in fire-affected areas. Anyone with questions should contact their insurance agent.

For those not impacted by the fires, but concerned about their home insurance:

  • Contact your insurance agent to review coverages. Ensure any recent renovations and/or additions (e.g. decks, hardwood flooring) are reflected in the coverage.
  • Represent the true value of your property and its contents. As tempting as it may be to under-represent values to avoid paying a higher premium, you could be putting yourself at risk. Insurance agents rely on homeowners to provide correct square footages and complete details for contents, finishing and landscaping.
  • Keep a record of your belongings. Take photos or a video recording of the belongings in your home. When at all possible, keep receipts as well. Store copies in a safe, alternate location, such as your office or safe deposit box. Trying to remember and list all the items in your home after a claim can be very onerous without a record.
  • Know your policy. Don’t wait until the last minute to figure out if you’ve remembered to include everything in your policy.
  • Keep your home insurance policy current. Update it regularly, especially if you’ve done renovations or made additions to your home within the last year.

About BCAA

The British Columbia Automobile Association is an affiliate of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) and American Automobile Association (AAA), serving members in British Columbia and the Yukon. Visit www.bcaa.com.