Fully involved: Take steps now to recover from disaster
March 5, 2015
No one likes to think about disastrous events that could damage or destroy one's home, but we see daily reports in the news of devastating incidents. While we probably need not worry about lava flows, earthquakes, tornados, or plagues of locusts here in Grand County, no part of the world is without risk.
Here, where we have come to live amongst the trees, we are at risk of wildfire. Throw in burglary, vandalism, an electrical malfunction, a simple accident in the kitchen, or a forgotten candle and you have an arguably very small, but nevertheless real chance, of a catastrophic loss. Six people won the Colorado lottery jackpot in 2012. More than 850 homes were destroyed by fire.
You should do all that you can to reduce your risk of damage from wildfire. A group of trained professionals from throughout the county meet regularly as the Mitigation Subcommittee of the Grand County Wildfire Council to discuss and get involved in projects that reduce the risk of loss to wildfire county-wide. They are willing to meet with you and/or your homeowners association to provide advice and resources. These men and women will fight a fire but they'd rather prevent it. It's less smoky and not as messy.
Because we live in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), our efforts as homeowners and the efforts of professionals will not be enough to prevent every wildfire whether it be of natural or manmade cause. You could lose your home. It's an awful thought. I designed and built my home. I have great memories of fun times here. How would I recover? It would be hard, but I have a plan to help reduce the work and distress.
“Six people won the Colorado lottery jackpot in 2012. More than 850 homes were destroyed by fire.”
The point of this article and the next few to follow is to help you to prepare to recover from the tragic loss of your home. It's done in small steps. Which steps you take is up to you based on your assessment of your risk, your unique circumstances, the time you want to spend, and the peace of mind you'll gain by taking them. The winter is the perfect time to start. You can take a few simple steps and develop a plan that will be in place for you in time for the more risky summer wildfire season.
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The state of Colorado now ranks among the top 10 for the highest share of homeowners claims paid out due to catastrophes right alongside traditional disaster headliners like Texas and Louisiana. They get wind and water; we get fires. So, make an appointment to see your agent or call your insurance company and ask them a few questions.
Do you have adequate overall coverage? Does your policy cover temporary living expenses and the cost to live elsewhere while your home is being rebuilt? Are contents covered with a "replacement cost" or do you have an "actual value" policy? What about outbuildings, the foundation, guns, computers, and jewelry which are not always covered in the standard policy? And you should always ask "What can I do to REDUCE my premium?" There are ways. It can't hurt to ask.
I asked my insurance agent, "When a client makes a claim, what do you wish they had done in advance?" "… Kept accurate records," was his reply. He said that accurate records of the items being claimed makes it much easier to recover fully. The next installment of Fully Involved will address what records to keep, how, and where to store them.
Visit bewildfireready.org for more ideas and information or email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments. If you are interested in joining the Grand County Wildfire Council, call Schelly Olson at 970-887-3380.
Guy Kirouac is a volunteer with the Grand County Wildfire Council. He is a retired physics teacher who operates a small woodworking business from his home shop.