Protecting Your Home

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In California, earth, wind and fire are more than the name of a vintage band. With earthquakes and wind-whipped wildfires posing danger to our homes, we must be particularly vigilant about preparing for natural disasters.

Help Prevent a Loss

A destructive storm, earthquake, fire or home burglary may make for a thrilling movie, but almost always makes for a nightmare in real life. Most disasters or calamities come without warning, but there are steps homeowners can take to lessen their blow.

Protection from storms:

  • Keep your home and property well-maintained and free of debris.
  • Secure heavy bookcases, appliances and artwork to walls.
  • Have a safe family gathering area on your lowest level, underneath a stairwell if possible and away from windows.

Fire safeguards:

  • Install and maintain smoke alarms throughout your home.
  • Put fire extinguishers in strategic locations such as the kitchen, utility room and garage.
  • Test your smoke alarms and fire extinguishers annually, choosing a date that is easy to remember, such as a birthday or annual holiday.
  • Consider installing a sprinkler system if you're remodeling or building a new home.

Theft prevention:

  • Install a security system.
  • Use timing devices to turn on lights when you’re away from home.
  • Consider joining or starting a neighborhood watch group. You can check with your local police department for assistance.
  • Install Grade 1 American National Standards Institute (ANSI) designation deadbolt type locks on exterior entryways including exterior doors, the doors between living spaces and attached garages, and garage entrance doors.
  • Don’t leave windows unlocked.

Earthquakes:

  • Make sure your homeowner's insurance includes earthquake coverage.
  • Secure bookcases, heavy appliances like refrigerators and other items to the wall.
  • Avoid displaying fragile valuables on shelves where they could be easily shaken off.
  • Strap your water heater properly.
  • Confirm your home is bolted to the foundation.
  • Put together a safety kit with water, non-perishable food items, radio and flashlight.
  • Consider that you could be without power or electricity for several days.
  • Be sure all family members know how to turn off the gas, electricity and water.
  • Develop a plan for reuniting after the earthquake in case family members are separated.
  • Web sites with useful information:

California Department of Insurance

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

California Office of Emergency Services

Wildfires:

Make the Claims Process Easier

Some disasters can’t be avoided. If facing a loss, a detailed household inventory is a valuable tool for filing an insurance claim easily and getting it settled quickly. An inventory is also helpful for filing a police report or verifying losses on your income tax return. Read more about home inventories below.

A Household Inventory: A Must-Have

A household inventory is a detailed list of the personal possessions in your home and on your property. It will make filing an insurance claim much less painful. Some tips for compiling your list:

  • Start by writing a list of your possessions, describing each item – where and when you bought it and its make and model. Attach sales receipts, purchase contracts and appraisals if you have them.
  • Add visual evidence of your possessions by taking photos of each room and making a videotape or audiotape.
  • Valuables such as jewelry, antiques, artwork and other collectibles often increase in value and should be covered by a personal property policy above and beyond your homeowners coverage. Insurance appraisals help estimate value and prove ownership.
  • Include items stored in your attic, basement, garage or outbuildings on your list. Tools, sports gear, lawn equipment and outdoor furniture are often overlooked, but expensive to replace.
  • Keep your inventory (including the written list, photos, videotape and/or audiotape) in a safe deposit box at your bank or credit union. You might also consider keeping a copy on-line or email to a family member.