Wildfires and home insurance

After one harsh winter, the tough weather has continued to the edge of the spring and summer seasons, as many regions around the country are experiencing drought conditions and dangerous wildfires. As these fires blaze on, many homes and their occupants are at risk this year. It is difficult, if not impossible, to predict when a wildfire may appear, and in many cases it is caused by human error.

While homeowners insurance will cover the damage to a home and possessions inside, there are a few things that can be done to reduce the overall risk and improve safety. This wildfire season, here are a few things all homeowners should know:

Clear debris
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, keeping the area surrounding your home free from debris such as pine needles, leaves and wood piles can reduce the chance of fire spreading to your home. This includes getting rid of dry leaves and needles that are within five feet of your home, as well as sweeping debris off your porch. If you do have a wood pile, FEMA recommends keeping it at least 30 feet from your home. FEMA reported that 4.3 million acres were burned in 2013, with some homes surviving and some not.

Have an evacuation plan Sometimes, the only way to stay safe is to get out of the projected path of a wildfire. Putting together a plan for your family means you will need supplies, somewhere safe to go and a method of transportation. In some cases, you might only have a few hours to clear out, which means being prepared ahead of time is crucial. Before a wildfire happens, you should pack some emergency supplies including bottled water, a first aid kit, flashlights, batteries and protective clothing and shoes from ash or flying sparks.

Prep your home
Before you evacuate and leave your home, you should prepare it for the oncoming fire. Close all windows, doors and vents upon departing to prevent a draft from blowing in. You should also shut off any gas to the home, including propane or other fuel supplies. If you have anything that is combustible in your yard, such as a barbecue, you should move it far from your home. If you have a pool, tubs or garage cans, it can be helpful to fill them with water to slow down the fire or discourage it from growing.

If in a wildfire
If, during your evacuation, you find yourself caught in a wildfire, it's important that you don't try to outrun the fire. Your best bet is to find a body of water to crouch in, such as a pond or river. If there is no body of water nearby, try to find a low point in the ground and cover yourself with a wet blanket, clothing or soil. Breathe the air closest to the ground and try to protect your lungs by breathing through a wet cloth.

With drought conditions and a higher possibility of wildfires in regions across the U.S., it is important to ensure you have proper protection with a homeowners insurance policy. Without coverage, you could be left on your own to rebuild, repair or replace your home and belongings after fire damage.

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