with John Wiscaver
Tips given for avoiding losses
during wildfires in the future
Q: Gov. Mary Fallin has declared a state of emergency for all 77 Oklahoma counties following wildfires that burned more than 93,400 acres across the state. How can Oklahomans avoid incurring great losses in future wildfires?
A: To lessen your exposure to wildfires, clear dry brush away from your home and all structures. Keep plants, bushes, trees and lawns watered and maintain a safe distance between your home and vegetation. Clean guttering to keep it free of leaves and debris that can quickly ignite from flying embers.
Q: How can insurance protect people from the financial loss of wildfires?
A: Wildfires are considered the same as any fire loss and covered under most homeowners policies. Homeowners insurance covers the cost to repair or rebuild your home and also may cover the loss of the contents in your home. The cost to replace your home may be much higher than what you paid for it, so you should check your policy and update it accordingly. Most homeowners insurance policies provide supplementary coverage for additional living costs during the reconstruction of your home, such as hotel and restaurant bills. It's important to work with an insurance agent to ensure you have the right coverage to meet your needs.
Q: What preparation should be done before a loss such as wildfires to ensure you receive appropriate compensation for your claim?
A: It's very helpful for people to make a documented inventory of household possessions. Keeping a video or photos of your property, as well as receipts for your more valuable items, can help you during the settlement of your furnishings, electronics, appliances, personal items, etc. In case of a fire, these records should be kept in a secure, accessible location outside the home such as a safety deposit box.
Q: Are there fire-safety precautions that can lower insurance premiums?
A: If your home is made with fire-resistant materials or you live near a fire department, you may be eligible for a discount. It also can be beneficial to check with your agent if you have recently updated the electrical wiring in your home or installed a fire alarm that alerts an outside service. You also may get discounts by installing smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
Q: What can policyholders expect if their homes are lost by a wildfire or other covered loss?
A: Depending on your coverage, you will either receive money for the actual cash value of the home or the replacement cost of the home. If you have actual cash value coverage, you will receive the replacement cost amount minus the cost of depreciation or wear on the house at the time of the loss. If you have replacement cost coverage, the policy will pay the cost of replacing destroyed property that was covered in the policy, up to policy limits. With replacement cost coverage, you will receive the actual cash value amount at the time of the loss followed by the difference once the home has been replaced.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER