Save Money / Consumer News

Checking your fire insurance, preparation

Monday, November 17, 2008

This week's wildfires are a wakeup call for all homeowners. Are you fully insured in case of a fire, and do you know the essential papers you need to take with you in case you're evacuated? Now is the time to make sure you're prepared.

The wildfires are an excellent reminder to ask ourselves how prepared we are. And this is also a very good time to review our fire insurance policies to make sure we're not underinsured and we know exactly what it covers.

You never think a fire is going to happen to you, but ask the thousands of folks who were evacuated over the weekend and many will tell you they wish they had been better prepared.

Disaster preparations are essential, such as a grab-and-go-bag near the door with emergency supplies and a computer disc or flash drive for storing your important papers.

And here's a short list of documents you should have ready to take with you:
  • Credit card numbers
  • Bank account numbers
  • Vehicle titles
  • List of medications
  • Birth certificates
  • Will
  • Homeowner's and auto insurance policies
Which brings up the next important point: fire insurance.

One thing you should know about your policy is if you have full replacement coverage or actual cash value coverage. Full replacement coverage costs a little more but it can be well worth it, because it does not depreciate the cost of your goods, no matter how old, and it takes into consideration rising construction costs.

And by the way, most fire insurance in California doesn't just cover fire damage. Something that is often missed by homeowners is coverage for smoke damage, even if your home is still standing.

Exactly how much coverage you need is best determined by talking to your agent and showing them photos of what you have in your home. The contents and the finishes in your home can make a big difference. If you have hand-carved doors or an expensive collection, you need to let your agent know to make sure it's all covered.

Any consumer with insurance related questions can call the state at (800) 927-HELP. That's (800) 927-4357.


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