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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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
A Household Inventory: A Must-Have
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
- 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
- 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.