Why do we prepare for wildfire? A property insurance perspective

Blog Post created by mikehazell Employee on Nov 15, 2013

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Linda Masterson, Carole Walker, and NFPA's Michele Steinberg talk about the insurer's perspective on wildland fires.


Why do homeowners prepare for – or not prepare for – the possibility of wildfire destroying their home and property? During a panel session at NFPA’s Backyards & Beyond conference in Salt Lake City, moderated by NFPA’s Michele Steinberg, presenters talked about the insurer’s perspective and how homeowner loss mitigation actions actually matter when it comes to their overall ability to survive and recover from the impact of a wildfire.


Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association , said her key message to homeowners is to think about and plan for their insurance coverage before an incident occurs.

“It needs to be part of your overall fire protection planning process,” she said. “You need to make sure you are financially prepared if the unthinkable happens." She suggested reviewing your insurance policy on a yearly basis and determining what it would cost to replace or repair your home in today’s dollars.


* !http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef019b012789d0970b-150wi|src=http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef019b012789d0970b-150wi|alt=Surviving Wildfire|style=width: 150px; margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px; border: 1px solid #000000;|title=Surviving Wildfire|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef019b012789d0970b!Linda Masterson* and her husband learned the hard way. They lost their home and 72-acre tree farm during a Colorado wildfire in 2011. “We were more prepared than most, but nowhere near as prepared as we could or should have been,” she said. She details her story in a book, "Surviving a Wildfire: Get Prepared, Stay Alive, Rebuild Your Life".

“We started building our house in 1998 and moved into it in 2000. Outreach efforts to inform the public about wildfire risks were really just getting started. During the entire building process, no one – not the architect and not the builder – ever said anything about mitigation issues. Today, it’s different. There is so much available information, and the challenge is to find a way to funnel it down into something that’s actionable.”

“I saw a banner here at this conference that said ‘Your Home Doesn’t Have to Burn’, and I think that message is so powerful,” said Ms. Masterson. “In order to get through to people about the importance of mitigation and the value of understanding their home insurance policies, they have to first believe that what they do can make a difference.”

Ms. Walker agreed. “In order to make a difference, you need to get consumer buy-in. Homeowners have to understand why we ask them to review their insurance coverage, to invest in mitigation efforts, and to keep up with the latest building code upgrades.” She showed clips of a video public service campaign called “Wildfire Ready” that was designed to help educate Colorado citizens about steps they could take to be prepared for wildfire.


The panelists said one of the most valuable things homeowners can do is to conduct a comprehensive inventory of their home and their belongings. It can be as simple as doing a walk-through of your home with a video camera to capture details. “Technology can make it easy to conduct your inventory,” said Carole. “More and more insurance companies offer mobile apps to help with the process.” They also referenced a website knowyourstuff.org that walks homeowners through the inventory process and stores the information on a remote site.</p>