Wildfires: Planning for Construction, Documentation & Evacuation

wildfireWildfires in Colorado have generated thousands of insurance claims. We’ve compiled a few notes to help prepare you for disasters and insurance claims. As always, we hope these are helpful:

1. Code-Plus Construction: Most homes are subject to a building code that’s intended to protect the inhabitants of the home. Homes that are in areas prone to wildfires should use some additional planning and design techniques. We typically call this construction “code plus” because it’s in addition to the requirements of the building code. The Wildland-Urban Interface Code by the International Code Council is an example of additional requirements that can help protect your home through planning and design.

If you’re building a house, you can ask what building codes will be used for the neighborhood planning and design of the home. Planning is important because you need enough space between the homes to prevent the spread of fire from one building to another. You also need space between your home and the closest source of fuel for the fires. The design of the home is important because you need to eliminate combustible materials where possible. We know a lot of people will be rebuilding so we hope you’ll consider designing to a higher standard.

If you’re buying or currently occupy a home, you can still use some of the techniques in the  code referenced in the previous paragraph though you might also consider working with a design professional to assess your current issues. Making a list of things that can be improved allows you to bid the work and only do as much as you can afford at any given time. At the very least, you’ve identified the weak points of your home.

If you make improvements to your property to reduce your risk, please be sure to let your insurance company know. Try to negotiate a lower premium because you’ve lowered your risk.

2. Document Your House and Its Contents: It’s good practice to document your home and its contents regularly, even if you don’t live in an area prone to disasters. You can take pictures or video as you walk through your home or find an app for your phone. In any case, you need to have that information available if you’re filing a claim. It’ll help you remember what you have.

Your insurance company may also have some guidance about documenting your stuff. Don’t forget to document the exterior of your home, storage areas and any amenities!

3. Have a Plan: If you don’t already have an emergency plan, please consider putting one together. This is especially important for families who are seperated during the day. It’s amazing how few people have a plan. Even fewer people can dial the phone numbers of family members by memory – we’ve come to reply on technology that can fail during a disaster.

In conclusion, you can use code-plus construction for any project, whether you’re worried about a disaster, weather events like hurricanes or just want a higher quality building. Building codes should always be considered the minimum standard so it’s good practice to weigh your options and see what you can accomplish in your budget.

Please let us know if you have any questions or comments. Thanks!

Photo by USDAgov used under a creative commons license.

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