Summer brings with it so many opportunities for family fun; sun, travel, backyard barbecues — a time to build wonderful memories.

But like the proverbial fly-in-the-ointment, there’s a dark side that none of us in Southern Oregon likes to think about. The dreaded wildfires.

They’re like a prowler in the night; you never know when they’ll strike, or what you’ll lose if they find you.

And so, like a home security system that protects your family from prowlers, you purchase fire insurance to protect your home from losses due to fires.

Recent years have made it clear that the threat of losing one’s home to a wildfire is not only relevant to those in isolated rural areas, but also in urban towns where we can have a false sense of security. Think of what devastation happened just last year on the streets of Phoenix and Talent Oregon. In fact, my family and I needed to evacuate our own home. We thankfully didn’t lose our home, but I have to say it was a very sobering experience.

No one ever wants to go through such a tragic loss. And while we can’t always prevent this kind of loss from happening, there are certainly ways to help minimize the risk of it happening to you, as well as the amount of impact it would cause if it did happen.

The most important thing you can do is to maximize preventative and preparative measures; measures that many people don’t know or think about.

Here are some tips:

  1. Review your insurance. Speak with your insurance agent at least once a year to review your insurance coverage. Make sure you understand the policy limits, exclusions, and deductibles. For example, do you know how much coverage you have for your expenses if you’re displaced from your home? This is usually called ALE, for additional living expenses. What about the cost to rebuild your home; is it sufficient in light of rising materials costs?

Taking time to review your policies will help make sure you have the right coverage to meet your needs. Learning you may not have the coverage you thought you did during the stress of an actual claim is certainly not the best time to find out.

  1. Build a Home inventory. Trying to recall what was lost during a claim can be overwhelming. Take photos or videos of each room in your home. Pay close attention to what’s on walls, in closets, and don’t forget storage spaces, such as the attic, shed, and garage. Try to group similar items together when taking pictures. Write a brief description of each item. Make sure to keep any appraisals for high-valued possessions. Note the make, model, price, and other details that might help when filing a claim
  2. Create defensible space around your home. Remove dry leaves, dead brush, debris, and pine needles from yards and gutters. Trim trees away from homes, barns, and sheds, and place screens over open vents on homes. These tasks reduce the fuels that enable wildfires to spread and give firefighters more time to slow the blaze.
  3. Have an evacuation plan. Set a designated emergency meeting location outside the fire or hazard area. Plan several different escape routes from your home and community. Have an evacuation plan for pets and large animals such as horses and other livestock. Here’s the 5 P’s for your plan: people and pet supplies, prescriptions, papers, personal needs and priceless items. Check with your neighbors, family, friends and elders through video chats or phone calls to ensure they are ready as well.
  4. Be patient during the claim process. Remember that as long as you and your loved ones are safe you can ultimately adjust to dealing with the loss of property. After all, it’s for that very reason you carry help restore your home and life should something like this ever happen to you.

Bruce Caico is a Farmers Insurance Agency owner and broker with Oregon Insurance Solutions and can be reached at bruce@oregoninsurance and 541-672-0410.

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