As if 2020 isn’t tough enough, right on cue, fire season is blazing its way through California. Enormous wildfires have already burned more than one million acres — and counting; it’s all too predictable for both Californians who have to live with the threat of wildfires year after year and for insurance agents like Allstate’s Octavio Pina of Santa Ana.
“In California, wildfires are no longer limited to one season; it’s become our new norm to last for longer periods of time and with more destruction. This is why it’s important for us to help communities be better prepared,” he says.
A 2019 poll funded by Allstate found that 70% of people are concerned about disasters, but only 40% have a disaster plan. In light of the current wildfires, Pina and Allstate recommend four preparedness tips to help families protect themselves and their loved ones from disaster.
“Planning for a wildfire may not be top of mind given the pandemic,” Pina says. “But there are simple steps everyone can take while social distancing to minimize losses and give them peace of mind.”
The first tip is for families to create an inventory of their home and personal belongings – especially the most precious and most important. Residents can use a checklist to document their belongings, take and label pictures of valuables, and record videos as further documentation. “We have an innovative home inventory tool, Digital Locker, in our Allstate app, which makes it easy to document belongings,” Pina says.
Second tip: Put together a disaster preparedness kit or an emergency go bag. “It’s important to be prepared to leave your house at a moment’s notice to get out of harm’s way,” Pina says. This bag should include necessities like water bottles (recommended one gallon per person, per day), ready-to-eat nonperishable food for both you and your pets, a first-aid kit, prescriptions, cell phone chargers, toiletries, a change of clothes, extra set of keys, tools, flashlights, whistles (to call for help), a radio and extra batteries, face masks, work gloves, and garbage bags.
The third disaster-preparedness tip is to create an emergency evacuation plan for the entire household. The plan should include important information, such as emergency contact names and phone numbers, a family meeting place in the neighborhood, an alternative meeting place in the area, basic personal details for each family member (such as date of birth, important medical information, or recent photos). You’ll also want addresses and phone numbers for your work or school, contact information for doctors, veterinarians, pharmacists, or other medical providers, and of course important medical and insurance information, including copies of medical insurance cards. Adding “In Case of Emergency” contacts in cell phones is helpful for first responders. “The good thing is, most of that info is stored right in everyone’s phone,” Pina says.
Lastly, Pina advises that people take precautions early, and create lines of defense around their property, which could limit the spread of fire. There are many ways to do this, like maintaining landscaping to create a barrier between their homes and anything that’s flammable, including firewood, dried leaves, or vegetation, and using fire-resistant materials when working on any remodeling projects. Pina suggests to use one-eighth inch metal screening to cover openings such as vents in the attic to prevent embers from entering the house. Homeowners need to take a good look at their property from the road and make sure that their address is clearly visible to provide easy access for firefighters. Keep a ladder nearby that’s long enough to reach the roof, as it may help firefighters gain access faster.
“Prepping for disasters and emergencies may not be on the top of your to-do list, but it may help you be more prepared at a time when you’ll truly need to be. Also, it’s important to speak with your insurance agent to review your policy once a year so that you have adequate coverage, especially after home renovations and big life events in your family,” Pina says. “As Californians, we need to remember that ‘disaster’ can mean many things. It’s fires, earthquakes, floods, and following these four tips can help everyone feel more prepared and give them peace of mind when the unexpected happens.”
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