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How to prepare financially for wildfires, insurance coverages, and rebuilding

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How to prepare financially for wildfires, insurance coverages, and rebuilding

Coming off consecutive years of the worst wildfire seasons in recorded U.S. history, at-risk states face high-stakes in the 2020 season.

As of late 2019, there were 775,654 residential properties at extreme risk of wildfire damage in the U.S. with a combined reconstruction cost value of over $221 billion, according to CoreLogic’s 2019 wildfire risk report.

State officials and insurance companies have urged at-risk residents to actively build more resilient communities and properties to defend against worsening wildfire risks and protect their assets with proper insurance coverage.

A recent webinar from the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) tackled wildfire insurance concerns and offered guidance on how to prepare financially for wildfires and related insurance coverages, including premium concerns from the shopping stage to the end of the claims process.

Presenters Nicole Mahrt-Ganley of the APCIA and Janet Ruiz of I.I.I. offered guidance on how to read a homeowners insurance policy, understand policy deductibles, and the factors to consider when determining how much insurance coverage to purchase.

Ruiz and Mahrt-Ganley discussed how insurers assess a home’s risk to wildfires through sophisticated technology and on-site inspections as well as the ways an insurer calculates homeowners insurance premiums based on the home’s loss history, location, age, size, and its construction type and quality. They also provided tips on how to develop an inventory of a household’s personal possessions, steps to take if a homeowners insurance policy is non-renewed, and how to navigate the insurance claims process.

Understand how much coverage you need

In the event of a claim, there are three main buckets where insurance payouts come from.

Coverage A covers the cost of rebuilding the structure of a home. Coverage B covers the cost of rebuilding detached structures like a garage. Coverage C covers all the contents or belongings inside the house, such as furniture, silverware, towels, and all that stuff.

To ensure coverage needs are met, Mahrt-Ganley urges homeowners to pick up the phone and talk to their agent or company every year and double-check that their policy is up to date.

There are a few other details to talk to an agent or company about each year, as well, Mahrt-Ganley added.

Make sure that the square footage is right on the policy, along with the type of roof and siding and the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, windows, doors and fireplaces. Talk to folks in the area to understand what the local construction costs are.

Another element to consider, Mahrt-Ganley advises, is that land is generally not covered in a policy: “If your home is lost, you can sell that.”

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