Now is the time: Home inventory assessments in case of fire |

Now is the time: Home inventory assessments in case of fire

Pat Person
Grand County Wildfire Council

Grand County can take a breather from the threat of wildfires while there is snow on the ground. Other than burning slash piles, there is not much that can be done outside the home to reduce fire hazards. Nevertheless, there are other inside projects that can be done during winter. Home Inventory Assessments can be time consuming, and they need to be done well before fire season is upon us.

Where are your important papers stored? The best place to keep original documents such as birth, death, marriage, or divorce certificates; your homeowner’s insurance policy; and passports, deeds, or vehicle titles is in a safety deposit box. If you have them stored in a fire resistant safe, be sure you have scanned copies stored on an external hard drive or mass storage device in another location outside the home.

Have you completed and updated your home inventory assessment? This is a never-ending task because it changes every time we add or remove something from our house. There are several software applications you can use as a guide, and some insurance companies offer their own programs. Or, if you are like me, I like to keep mine “off-line”. I also do not recommend storing any of this information “in the cloud”. I set up my own inventory in a customized Excel file. At the very least, take digital pictures of every room in your house and garage, and store a copy of the pictures away from the house.

If you have any collections, such as coins, stamps, pins, etc., be sure to have them evaluated by a certified appraiser. Keep the original written appraisal in a fire safe or safety deposit box, and keep a copy of the appraisal in another location. Go through closets and make note of clothing, shoes, boots, and coats; take photos if needed. If you have a leather or fur coat, list it separately and keep a scanned copy of the receipt.

Do not forget to inventory the garage. Does it contain valuable tools, power tools, sports equipment, snow thrower, ATV, or snowmobiles?

After you have completed your home inventory, review your homeowner’s insurance policy to be sure you have adequate limits to cover your house, garage, storage buildings, and their contents.

Some of the most poignant images and videos of the evacuees from the fires in California this past fall were of people sobbing because they lost all of their personal videos and pictures when their house burned down. If you have a lot of digital photos, do you have back-up copies somewhere besides your home? Make a copy of all your photos and videos and store them on an external hard drive, a flash drive, or both. Store one of these in a safety deposit box at the bank, or perhaps with a trusted friend or relative who does not live in the area.

If you have a lot of old family pictures made from film, old video tapes, 8mm or Super 8mm film, get them digitized. Pictures printed on paper can be scanned and saved on your computer. There are several companies specializing in digitizing film and video tapes; they usually charge per foot of film. If you want to do it yourself, there are reasonably priced scanners designed to handle film and video.

While going through a closet last year, I found an unfinished quilt that my great grandmother made by hand around 1885. Its monetary worth may not be much, but to me it is irreplaceable and priceless. We all have items like this, and surely do not want them lost in a fire or other disaster. What is in your closet?

More information is available on home inventories and insurance from: Colorado Division of Insurance,; and Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association,

Because we are way behind in snowpack so far, the 2018 fire season is looking pretty scary. Now is the time to get prepared.

Pat Person has been a member of the GCWC since its inception in 2013, and she is the current Chair of the Education and Outreach Committee. She has a Bachelor of Science in Range Forest Management and has been employed as a firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service, Range Technician, Range Ecologist, and state Park Ranger.

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